Culture of Morocco

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Morocco is a country with a multiethnic society and a rich culture, civilization, and etiquette. Throughout Moroccan history, Morocco has hosted many peoples, in addition to the indigenous Berbers, coming from the East (Phoenicians, Arabs), South (Sub-Saharan African), and North (Romans, Vandals, Andalusians both Muslims and Jewish). All of these have left an impact on the social structure of Morocco. It has also hosted many forms of beliefs, from Paganism, Judaism, Christianity to Islam. Each region possesses its own uniqueness, contributing to the national culture. Morocco has set among its top priorities, the protection of its diversity, and the preservation of its cultural heritage.

In the political world, Morocco is referred to as an African state. The majority of Morocco's population is Arab by identity. At least a third of the population speaks the Amazigh language. During the Islamic expansion, some Arabs came to Morocco and settled in the flat regions, such as Tadla and Doukkala. For example, there are groups called Charkawa and Arbawa who settled in Morocco from Arabia. The Charkawa claimed to be descended from Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam.

Facts and figures[edit]

Moroccan-born singer Hindi Zahra, who writes songs and sings in French, English and Berber.
Inside a ceramics workshop in the city of Fes.

The following figures are taken from the CIA Factbook.

Literature[edit]

The history of Moroccan literature started in the early Middle Ages. In the era of the Berber dynasties, coinciding with the flowering of Al-Andalus, there were several important Moroccan writers, especially in the fields of religion and

Ethnic groups and languages[edit]

Jewish Wedding in Morocco by Eugène Delacroix, Louvre, Paris

Morocco is considered by some as an Arab-Berber country. Others insist on the Berber-African identity of Morocco.

Classical Arabic is an official language of Morocco, rather than a mother tongue, and is used in a limited and formal socio-economic and cultural range of activities (like newspapers and official documents), in competition with French, and until recently, Berber. The most common spoken languages of Morocco are Berber and Moroccan Arabic.

Linguistically, Berber belongs to the Afro-Asiatic group, and has many variants. The three main varieties used in Morocco are Shilha, Central Atlas Tamazight, and Riff (also called Tamazight by its speakers). Collectively, they are known as Shelha in Moroccan Arabic, and as Barbaria in the Classical Arabic used in the Middle East. The terms Barbar and Shelha are considered offensive by most Berber activists, who prefer the term Amazigh.

Shilha (also known locally as Soussia) is spoken in southwest Morocco, in an area between Sidi Ifni in the south, Agadir in the north, and Marrakesh and the Draa/Sous valleys in the east. Central Atlas Tamazight is spoken in the Middle Atlas, between Taza, Khemisset, Azilal, and Errachidia. Riff is spoken in the Rif area of northern Morocco in towns like Nador, Al Hoceima, Ajdir, Tétouan, Taourirt, and Taza.

Most Berbers embraced Islam quickly, though their non-Arab ethnic and linguistic distinction has resisted the Arab-Islamic influence. Hundreds of Amazigh (Berber) associations have been created to defend their culture and identity in the last few decades in Morocco and Algeria. Newsstands and bookstores in all the major cities are filled with new Berber publications that provide articles and essays about the Amazigh culture and art. In 1994, the state-owned TV station RTM (now TVM) started broadcasting a daily, 10 minute long news bulletin in the 3 Berber dialects. Berber activists are repeatedly demanding a 50% share of broadcasting time in standardized Berber (Tamazight) on all state-owned TV channels. There is also a national Tamazight channel in Morocco, called Tamazight TV. It opened in 2010, and broadcasts for over 6 hours a day, with an extended broadcast on weekends.

Traditional clothing[edit]

A Moroccan kaftan

The traditional dress for men and women is called djellaba; a long, loose, hooded garment with full sleeves. For special occasions, men also wear a red cap called a bernousse, more commonly referred to as a Fez. Women wear kaftans decorated with ornaments. Nearly all men, and most women, wear balgha (بلغه) —- soft leather slippers with no heel, often dyed yellow. Women also wear high-heeled sandals, often with silver or gold tinsel.

The distinction between a djellaba and a kaftan is that the djellaba has a hood, while a kaftan does not. Most women’s djellabas are brightly colored and have ornate patterns, stitching, or beading, while men's djellabas are usually plainer and colored neutrally.

Cinema[edit]

Movies in Morocco[edit]

Many foreign directors have been inspired by Morocco or filmed there. In 1952 Orson Welles chose Essaouira as the setting for several scenes in his adaptation of Shakespeare's "Othello", which had won the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film at that year's Cannes Film Festival. In 1955, Alfred Hitchcock directed The Man Who Knew Too Much and in 1962, David Lean shot the Tafas Massacre scene of Lawrence of Arabia in the city of "Ouarzazate", which houses Atlas Studios. Aït Benhaddou has been the setting of many films. The film Hideous Kinky was filmed in Marrakech. .

Domestic architecture[edit]

Dar, the name given to one of the most common types of domestic structures in Morocco, is a home found in a medina, or walled urban area of a city. Most Moroccan homes traditionally adhere to the Dar al-Islam, a series of tenets on Islamic domestic life.[1] Dar exteriors are typically devoid of ornamentation and windows, except occasional small openings in secondary quarters, such as stairways and service areas. These piercings provide light and ventilation.[2] Dars are typically composed of thick, high walls that protect inhabitants from thievery, animals, and other such hazards; however, they have a much more symbolic value from an Arabic perspective. In this culture the exterior represents a place of work, while the interior represents a place of refuge.[3] Thus, Moroccan interiors are often very lavish in decoration and craft.

Consistent with most Islamic architecture, dars are based around small open-air patios, surrounded by very tall thick walls, to block direct light and minimize heat.[2] Intermediary triple-arched porticos lead to usually two to four symmetrically located rooms. These rooms have to be long and narrow, creating very vertical spaces, because the regional resources and construction technology typically only allow for joists that are usually less than thirteen feet.[2]

Upon entering a dar, guests move through a zigzagging passageway that hides the central courtyard. The passageway opens to a staircase leading to an upstairs reception area called a dormiria, which often is the most lavish room in the home adorned with decorative tilework, painted furniture, and piles of embroidered pillows and Moroccan rugs. More affluent families also have greenhouses and a second dormiria, accessible from a street-level staircase. Service quarters and stairways were always at the corners of the structures.[2]

Contemporary Art[edit]

Contemporary Art in Morocco is still in the making yet with a great potential for growth. Since the 1990-2000s Moroccan cities have welcomed institutions contributing to the diffusion of contemporary art and visual arts: L'appartement 22 and Radioapartment22 in Rabat, the Cinémathèque de Tanger in Tangier, La Source du Lion in Casablanca, Dar Al-Ma’mûn residency and center, the Marrakech Art Fair, and the Marrakech Biennale all in Marrakech.

Local art galleries such as Galerie Villa Delaporte, Atelier 21, Galerie Matisse and Galerie FJ are also platforms showing, to a certain extent, contemporary artwork and contributing to its development.[4]

Global art market also participates in developing and giving visibility to contemporary art in Morocco. International exhibitions such as “Africa Remix” (2004) and “Uneven Geographies” (2010) featured contemporary artists from North Africa, including Moroccan ones. Regional events such as the Dakar Biennale (or Dak'Art – Biennale de l'Art Africain Contemporain), which is a major contemporary African art exhibition and gives greater visibility to artists from this continent.

Moroccan Artists and their Initiatives[edit]

Despite being little represented in the global contemporary market, there are a growing number of very diverse Moroccan contemporary artists both based in Morocco and abroad. Artists born in Morocco or with Moroccan origins such as Mounir Fatmi, who is among the most well-known Moroccan artists in the contemporary art market. Other artists include Latifa Echackhch, Mohamed El Baz, Bouchra Khalili, Majida Khattari, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou, and the young Younes Baba-Ali.

There are several initiatives from Moroccan artists to help developing a contemporary art market in the country. For example, artists such as Hassan Darsi created La Source du Lion in 1995, an art studio who welcomes artists-in-residence, and Yto Barrada founded the Cinémathèque de Tanger in 2006, which is dedicated to promote Moroccan cinematographic culture. A group of Moroccan artists called Collectif 212 features Moroccan artists such as Amina Benbouchta, Hassan Echair, Jamila Lamrani, Safâa Erruas and Younès Rahmoun. This group is committed to develop more artistic experiences and collaborates with other promising artists such Hicham Benohoud.

There are also promising local artists such as Batoul Shim and Karim Rafi, who both participated in the project “Working for Change”, a project trying to act within the fabric of Moroccan society, during the 2011 Venice Biennale.[5]

Cuisine[edit]

A couscous dish.

Moroccan cuisine is home to Berber, Moorish, and Arab influences. It is known for dishes like couscous, pastilla, and others. Spices such as cinnamon are used in Moroccan cooking.

Sweets like halwa are popular, as well as other sweets. Cuisines from neighbouring countries also influence the country's culinary traditions.

Music[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Verner, p. 9
  2. ^ a b c d Verner, pp. 41–42
  3. ^ Verner, pp. 9–10
  4. ^ Bérénice Saliou. Contemporary Art in Morocco. Contemporary Art Magazine, Issue 6
  5. ^ Alice Planel. Traveling Back to Ourselves: The Maghreb as an Art Destination, p. 4, higheratlas.org.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]