The Moroccan costume

The Muslim’s dress, although having crossed the centuries and the ages, has always kept a well defined code, dictated by the habits and customs of the countries. The fabrics evolve according to the times and tastes, as varied as the countries are, the Muslim costume is also.  In Morocco where the Djellaba has defied time and left its mark on people’s minds! But this is not the only moroccan traditional clothes

Even if Morocco is not totally spared by this murderous globalization, this standardization of fashion that tends to erase our origins, it resists as well as possible to this Western invasion. Whether it is for a ceremony or for everyday wear, you will always come across a Moroccan dressed in his most beautiful jellaba. Traditional Moroccan clothing does not reflect a specific fashion, it varies according to local traditions and especially according to the regions, the variations are in the appearance, the accessories and according to the local customs. In general, the costumes are born at the same time to protect themselves from physical aggressions related to the environment, sometimes to represent an entity, and finally, they are for some, born of the modesty of those who wear them “to stop the gaze of others, failing to please”, a very humble definition.

traditional moroccan clothing

Origin of the Moroccan costume

A little bit of history is necessary to better understand the evolution of the Moroccan traditional clothing. One cannot build its cultural heritage, its history, by living in autarky, cut off from all relations, external openings.  Many ignore it and yet, it is difficult not to evoke the Persian, Andalusian, Roman and even Turkish influence on the Moroccan dress code. Open to the Maghreb and Africa, galvanized by an Islamic heritage, marked by centuries of presence in Spain, inspired by Arab and Berber cultures, the Moroccan costume is as eclectic as it is rich.   The Moroccan djellaba that everyone knows, just like the caftan, has its roots in neighboring cultures, especially that of the Ottoman Empire. If at the beginning the caftan was a typically male garment, originally Turkish, even Persian, today it is completely feminine! That is to say the evolution… We can say that the Moroccan costume is deeply inspired by its neighbors. Morocco has certainly resisted the domination of the Ottoman Empire, but its promiscuity with the latter has not prevented its opacity. One always rubs off on the other, whether one likes it or not… The djellaba clothing of dignitaries

Although the wearing of the djellaba has been popularized, at the beginning, it was indeed the garment of dignitaries. Class, elegance, presence, it subtly dressed the most highly placed people. In Morocco, the djellaba of Bzou is very appreciated by the high dignitaries. The complexity of its manufacture, the hand weaving, the finishes, are all factors influencing the price of the djellaba. Moreover, many are torn off. But the djellaba “bzouia” is not for everyone!

The Moroccan djellaba

If there is a garment that has not taken any dust in Morocco, it is the djellaba! Drawing its origin from the Arabic language and more precisely from the word “jilbab”, the djellaba designates a long loose dress decorated with a hood that is worn in the Maghreb. If at the beginning the djellaba was simple, of white or black color, it knew to evolve with time. Now trimmings, sfifas, embroideries have invested the djellaba making this garment as beautiful as graceful. From the North to the South of Morocco, the djellaba is worn differently although they are similar in the background.

Among these costumes the “djellaba”, adopted by both women and men is a common, long garment, with loose sleeves, equipped with a hood, a kind of “cover-all”. Men often wear it over a wool shirt or their suit and often fold the hood over the “tarbouche” (small Moroccan hat) they usually wear the “babouches” of white or yellow color.


The gandoura and the sarouel

The djellaba is worn like a coat, Moroccans have the custom to curl up in it in addition to their daily clothes. Other part of the traditional moroccan clothing are the gandoura and the sarouel are the customary accoutrement of the latter. They wear them under their famous djellaba. The gandoura is a tunic, generally with short sleeves, going up to the ankles and covering the shoulders, that Moroccans wear at home to be comfortable, but also outside. In summer, it will be worn alone, without djellaba. The sarouel as its name indicates it is a trouser, most often broad, decorated with a crotch or not.  The gandoura as well as the sarouel are made of cotton or linen, plain, two-tone or with palettes as diverse as varied. Provided they please and reflect the art of the Cherifian Kingdom.

Women wear a jellaba for different reasons. First of all, it is a very comfortable and aesthetic garment. Secondly, it is a modest garment to wear in a Muslim country. Some women accompany it by wearing a scarf around their neck or head. Men only wear a djellaba for special occasions, sometimes topped with the famous red Moroccan headdress, called a fez or tarbouche and yellow leather slippers, known as babouches or belgha. The women’s djellaba is more colorful compared to the men’s and nowadays djellabas have become shorter and thinner. There are verses in the Quran that mention the jellaba as a garment that should be worn by Muslim women. A djellaba is mostly worn outside the house and there are djellabas for every day as well as for special occasions.caftan refers to the Moroccan garment that looks like the djellaba but without the hood.


Contrary to what one might think, and to what even some Moroccan media have been able to assert lately, it is not the Moroccans who have adopted the famous “Tarbouche” from the Ottomans, but the opposite. The tarbouche, or “Fez” as it is known worldwide, was once a traditional headdress found in Mediterranean countries of Muslim culture, from Morocco to the Balkans.

In popular culture, it is probably the most clichéd headdress when it comes to representing Muslim populations in the Mediterranean. From OSS117, to Wonderwoman, to the video game “Fez”, so many characters have appeared wearing the famous red hat. In the West, it was certainly popularized by the Turks. It was certainly a popular accessory, used by the Ottoman elites and soldiers, which became the symbol of a common Ottoman identity in the 19th century, but its origin goes back to well before the arrival of Islam in Morocco, ancient coins minted in Lixus (now Larache) show a character wearing a Fez. This headdress, which takes its name from the Moroccan city of Fez, which is also the name given to Morocco by the Turks, is perhaps a variant of the Phrygian cap of ancient Greece, except that unlike the latter, the Fez is not conical.

The historiographer Al Arabi Al Maqdissi reported in the tenth century that the inhabitants of Fez covered their heads with a “red headdress”, Leon the African in the 16th century reported that the inhabitants of Fez covered their heads with a red felt hat.

The Merinid historiographer, Ibn Marzouk, reported that among the gifts sent by the Merinid sultan, Abu Al Hassan, to the Mamluk sultan of Egypt were “burnous, capes, felt tarbouches; saddles and other gifts”.

The academician, Abdelhadi Tazi, reports in The Diplomatic History of Morocco a French document of the 18th century, the memoirs of the French diplomat Louis Chénier, dated November 10, 1775, saying that when the French give the tarbouch the name of Fez, they do this by imitation of the Ottomans who give it the name of the capital of Morocco, given that they import the headgear from the same city, and that even if the Tunisians tried to open factories for the manufacture of hats, they did not have the same know-how of the fassi factories. For the historian it was the proof that the origin of the tarbouch is deeply rooted in the history of Morocco.

The Fez became popular in the Ottoman Empire only in the 19th century. So since then, it has been worn by sultans and officials of the empire, then by the army and navy. The fever of the Fez spread to Europe, for a while the Fez became an item of high fashion among elegant European men and photographs of male models wearing a Fez were published in fashion magazines. Young gentlemen and even older people fell in love with the Fez, calling it “Turk Blue”. Sad cultural appropriation.


The “babouches” are worn by men as well as women, the models are numerous and the names also vary according to the regions, “Idoukane” “Cherbil”…

The babouche is a traditional shoe made of leather originating from the Arab-Muslim world.

Men leather babouches
Men leather babouches

The babouche is a traditional shoe made of leather originating from the Arab-Muslim world.
The etymology of the word babouche is of Persian origin: papusch is composed of Pa (foot) and Pushidan (to carry-cover).
For Marcel Devic, orientalist writer and lexicographer, the change of the P into B comes from the Arabic language which did not have a P and replaced it by a B.

The “gandoura” is a long tunic with an officer’s collar, generally white, cream or slightly gray worn by men. The “jabador” is a tunic and pants which exists in model man and model woman…

There are generally two types of babouches, those with square ends, of Berber inspiration, and the city babouches thinner, with angular end, and of more refined aspect. Generally, the babouches worn by men are yellow and without decoration. The women’s babouches are available today in all colors, and are sometimes decorated with gold or silver thread.


The “caftan”, traditional toilet of the city girls, is decorated with a broad belt, of forms, fabrics, and varied embroideries, it is regarded as a very refined dress. The “caftan” has entered the world of fashion in recent years. Indeed, high fashion shows of “caftan” were born and are discovered nowadays as far as Europe. If you are planning a trip to Marrakech in May and you are a fan of fashion, you can’t help but appreciate the Caftan Fashion Show that is held annually at the Palais des Congrès in Marrakech. From the souks to the stores of the new city, buying this outfit is a must for shopping in Marrakech as elsewhere in Morocco.

The origins of the caftan go back to the Ottoman Empire. Indeed it was one of the finest Ottoman garments worn by the elite. In Morocco, women wear it for special occasions like weddings. The caftan is the basic garment of the bride on her wedding day. It is also worn under a takchita, which is another beautiful dress decorated on the front with traditional handmade buttons, wide sleeves and a thick belt worn around the waist. As opposed to the djellaba, a caftan is not worn outside of the home

Other existing clothes are less known, like the “Takchita” which is a dress derived from the “caftan” but which is older; the “Karakou“, a jacket and pants of velvet; the “Keswa el Kebira“, an outfit composed of a breastplate (ktef), a corselet (ghonbaj), skirts (sayates), a velvet skirt embroidered with gold (jeltita), a belt (hzam), a scarf (sebnia) and worn by the “Moriscos” of the regions of Tetouan and Tangier.

As a foreigner in Morocco, you can wear any type of traditional Moroccan clothing. It is perfectly permissible and even very popular. In winter, a man can wear a woolen djellaba over his clothes to keep warm. And, if a woman has invited people to celebrate a holiday, she can put on a caftan to receive her guests.


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