Whilst some 80+% of the population is genetically of Berber descent, the various Berber
dialects are spoken by about 30-40% of the population, mainly in the upland mountainous areas. The official language in Morocco is Fusha
which is also referred to as classical/media/literary Arabic, but Fusha is only used in the media (TV/newspapers) and on legal/government documents.
The Arabic spoken in the street in Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia is Darija
. So the classical Arabic book referred to in the post above wouldn't help you much in Morocco, it would be rather like using Shakespearean English in the UK.
Lonely Planet has a Moroccan Arabic phrasebook
which also includes sections with Berber expressions.
Darija is contextual with many words/phrases meaning different things in different circumstances. For example, 'yalla' can equally mean, 'let's go'.
Darija is also formulaic, with set phrases and responses. In Europe if we want directions we just stop next to a policeman and ask 'which way to...?' This is quite rude in Morocco. You should always initiate a conversation with 'ssalaa malaykom' which is 'peace to you'. You'll normally see this written as 'ssalaamu alaykom' but I've used a different transliteration which better expresses how the words run into each other.
As an aside 'alaykom' is plural as you are talking to the person and his two angels--one on each shoulder, the first recording all his good acts, the second recording his bad acts.
The formulaic response to this is 'wa alaykom ssalaam' which means 'and peace unto you'. Then you might ask 'la bess?' which literally means 'no harm' but is used very much as the French 'Ca va?' The response might be 'bikhiir, l'Hamdu llah' which is effectively 'fine, praise to god'.
Rather than using the Arabian Arabic 'shukran' for 'thank you' there is more credibility in using the Moroccan 'baarak llahu fiik' which means 'god bless you' but is used effectively as 'thank you.'
Time for someone else to take over...
"For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
and enlarges the world in which you live,"
Irving Mather (1892-1966)
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Last edited by Tim Cullis; 10 Oct 2009 at 01:14.