An ethnically diverse country, Morocco is rich in culture and civilisation. Many people throughout Morocco’s history have come from the East (Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Jews, Arabs), the South (Sub-Saharan Africans) and the North (Romans, Andalusians). All these civilisations have influenced the social structure of Morocco. It hosts various forms of faith, from paganism, Judaism and Christianity to Islam.
Since independence, there has been a real flowering in painting and sculpture, folk music, amateur theatre and film-making. The Moroccan National Theatre (founded in 1956) regularly stages productions of Moroccan and French plays. Art and music festivals are held throughout the country in the summer months, including the World Sacred Music Festival in Fez.
Each region has its own particularities, contributing to the national culture and heritage of civilisation. Morocco has made the protection of its diverse heritage and the preservation of its cultural heritage one of its top priorities.
In terms of culture, Morocco has always been a combination of Berber, Jewish and Arab cultural heritage and influences from outside, such as French, Spanish and, most recently, Anglo-American lifestyles.
Women are often sexually harassed when walking through the streets. One woman walking through the streets of Casablanca, filmed by the Moroccan Times, was harassed about 300 times.
Architecture in Morocco
Influences from the indigenous Berbers, many foreign invaders, as well as religious and cultural influences, have shaped Moroccan architectural styles. The architecture ranges from the ornate, with bold colours, to the simple, clean lines of earth tones.
Influences from the Arab world, Spain, Portugal and France can be seen in Moroccan architecture, both on their own and mixed with Berber and Islamic styles. Among the buildings and old kasbah walls are French-style buildings left behind by colonisation, intersecting with elaborate mosques and riad-style houses. In cities like Rabat and Casablanca, sleek modern designs are built that pay no particular homage to any of Morocco’s past architectural styles.
Literature in Morocco
The literature of Morocco has been written in Arabic, Berber and French. Under the Almohad dynasty, Morocco experienced a period of prosperity and brilliance of scholarship. The Almohads built the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, which housed no less than 25,000 people, but was also famous for its books, manuscripts, libraries and bookshops, which gave it its name; the first book bazaar in history. Almohad Caliph Abu Yaqub had an enormous passion in collecting books. He founded a large library which was eventually carried into the Kasbah and turned into a public library.
Modern Moroccan literature began in the 1930s. Two main factors gave Morocco the impetus to witness the birth of a modern literature. As a protectorate of France and Spain, Morocco gave Moroccan intellectuals the opportunity to interact, to produce literary works freely and to enjoy contact with other Arab literatures and with Europe. Three generations of writers had a particular impact on Moroccan literature in the 20th century. The first generation, of which Mohammed Ben Brahim (1897-1955) was the most important representative, lived and wrote during the Protectorate (1912-56).
It was the second generation of writers who played an important role in the transition to independence, including Abdelkrim Ghajarab (1919-2006), Alal al-Fassi (1910-1974) and Mohammed al-Mokhtar Susi (1900-1963). The third generation is that of the writers of the sixties. The literature of Morocco has thrived with a number of writers, including Mohammed Shoukry, Doris Chaibi, Mohammed Zafzaf, and Doris El Khouri.
Music in Morocco
Moroccan music has Amazigh, Arab and sub-Saharan origins. Rock-influenced chaabi bands are common, as is trance music with historical origins in Muslim music.
Morocco is the home of Andalusian classical music, which can be found throughout North Africa. It probably developed under the Moors in Cordoba, and the Persian-born musician Ziryab is usually credited with its invention. A genre known as contemporary Andalusian music and art is the brainchild of Moroccan visual artist/composer/speaker Tarik Banzi, founder of the Al-Andalus Ensemble.
Chaabi (“folk”) is a music that consists of numerous variants derived from the diverse forms of Moroccan folk music. Chaabi was originally played at markets, but can now be found at any celebration or gathering.
Aita is a Bedouin style of music sung in the countryside.
Popular western music forms are becoming increasingly popular in Morocco, such as fusion, rock, country, metal and especially hip-hop.
Morocco took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980, where it finished second to last.
Cinema in Morocco
Cinema in Morocco has a long history dating back over a century to the filming of Le chevrier Marocain (“The Moroccan Goatherd”) by Louis Lumière in 1897. Between that time and 1944, many foreign films were shot in the country, especially in the Ouarzazate area.
In 1944, the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre (CCM), the national film regulator, was founded. Studios were also opened in Rabat.
In 1952, Othello by Orson Welles won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival under the Moroccan flag. However, the musicians at the festival did not play the Moroccan national anthem because no one present knew what it was.
Six years later, Mohammed Ousfour was to direct the first Moroccan film, Le fils maudit (“The Damned Son”).
In 1968, the first Mediterranean Film Festival was held in Tangier. In its current form, the event takes place in Tetouan.
This was followed by the first national cinema festival in 1982, which took place in Rabat.
In 2001, the first Marrakech International Film Festival (FIFM) was also held in Marrakech.
Cuisine in Morocco
Moroccan cuisine has long been considered one of the most varied cuisines in the world. This is a result of Morocco’s centuries of interaction with the outside world. The cuisine of Morocco is essentially Berber-Moorish, European and Mediterranean. The cuisine of Morocco is essentially a Berber cuisine (sometimes called Moorish cuisine). It is also influenced by Sephardic cuisine and by the Moriscos when they found refuge in Morocco after the Spanish Reconquista.
Spices are used extensively in Moroccan cuisine. While spices have been imported into Morocco for thousands of years, many ingredients such as saffron from Tiliouine, mint and olives from Meknes and oranges and lemons from Fez are local products. Chicken is the most commonly eaten meat in Morocco. The most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco is beef; lamb is preferred but is relatively expensive. The main Moroccan dish with which most people are familiar is couscous, the ancient national delicacy.
Beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco, usually eaten in a tagine with vegetables or pulses. Chicken is also very common in tagines, as one of the most famous tagines is the tagine with chicken, potatoes and olives. Lamb is also eaten, but because North African breeds of sheep store most of the fat in their tails, Moroccan lamb does not have the pungent taste that Western lamb and mutton have. Poultry is also very common, and the use of seafood is increasing in Moroccan cuisine. In addition, there are dried cured meats and salted preserved meats such as kliia/khlia and “g’did”, which are used to flavour tagines or in “el ghraif”, a folded savoury Moroccan pancake.
The best-known Moroccan dishes include couscous, pastilla (also spelled bsteeya or bestilla), tajine, tanjia and harira. Although the latter is a soup, it is considered a dish in its own right and is served as such or with dates, especially during the month of Ramadan. Eating pork is forbidden according to Sharia, the religious laws of Islam.
A large part of the daily meal is bread. Bread in Morocco is mainly made from durum wheat semolina known as khobz. Bakeries are very common throughout Morocco and fresh bread is a staple in every town and village. The most common is wholemeal bread made from coarse or white flour. There is also a range of flat breads and pulled, unleavened pan breads.
The most popular drink is “atai”, green tea with mint leaves and other ingredients. Tea occupies a very important place in Moroccan culture and is considered an art form. It is not only served with meals, but throughout the day, and it is above all a drink of hospitality, served whenever guests are present. It is served to guests and it is rude to refuse it.