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Alcohol in Morocco
Moroccan Culture Series

Although alcohol is forbidden in Islam, it is widely available in Casablanca and other Moroccan cities. In fact, Morocco itself produces two brands of beer and at least half a dozen different wines, and imports just about every kind of alcohol that exists: whisky, vodka, tequila, etc.

There are 3 small stores that sell alcohol within one block of our apartment and it is sold in most grocery stores. Cafés cannot serve it, but restaurants, particularly (but not only) those run by and/or for foreigners usually have some. There are also clubs and bars scattered around the city which do a great trade in overpriced liquor.

Stores that do sell alcohol keep it in a gated area or locking cases. The liquor section is apparently required by law to close up to an hour before the rest of the store, so the storekeepers simply lock the gate or cases when that time comes. (As foreigners, we've been known to ask them to unlock the case for us, which the smaller stores will do, but they hide our purchases in opaque black bags.) I'm not sure what would happen if the stores were caught selling alcohol after hours - I assume there would be a fine. Up to a week before and all through certain holidays like Ramadan, all of the stores that sell liquor lock up their liquor sections or empty the cases. Only foreigners and non-Muslim Moroccans may purchase alcohol until the end of the holiday, and even then only in large grocery stores. We have to show the guard our passports, and after carefully adding the pertinent information to his log book, we are allowed into the liquor section. So although alcohol is always forbidden to Muslims, it is only during holidays that this rule is enforced in Morocco. Update: This year, even the large grocery stores have locked up their liquor sections - to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We can only buy it from small stores, but I get the impression that this is not legal, because the cashier is very secretive about it.

I can't say for sure what percentage of Moroccans actually drink alcohol, but my impression is that it is quite high, particularly among the under-30 crowd. I'd estimate that drinking among Moroccan teenagers is comparable to that  in non-Muslim countries.

Our femme de ménage, Fatima, told us recently that she is not allowed to purchase alcohol. Her views on alcohol consumption are very strong (it is evil and anyone who takes a sip is immediately dangerous), so it was somewhat difficult to follow her story, but the gist of what I understood is this. Somehow, Fatima believes that she is forbidden from buying alcohol*; however, when she worked for French ex-patriates, they wrote her a note which effectively gave her permission to purchase wine for them. Fatima said, however, that during this time (about 10 years ago), other Moroccans would see that she had permission and would force her to buy it for them as well, so she requested that her employers stop giving her permission.

* I asked her about this, because I see Moroccans buying liquor all the time, so I know it's not illegal. It turns out that she is referring to Islamic law, so Moroccans who buy it are breaking that law. In other words, she could physically buy it (i.e., she wouldn't get arrested) but she doesn't in keeping with her religion's law. Thus, the permission from her employers is essentially a note to the shopkeeper: "This alcohol isn't for me, so don't go thinking I'm a bad Muslim!" I suppose that these Moroccans that wanted Fatima to buy it for them preferred harassing her to having the storekeepers thinking that they were bad Muslims....

Index to Moroccan Culture Series

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Cocktails     Alcoholism


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