Morocco - Much Mor
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences. Marrakesh’s medina, a mazelike medieval quarter, offers entertainment in its Djemaa el-Fna square and souks (marketplaces) selling ceramics, jewellery and metal lanterns. The capital Rabat’s Kasbah of the Udayas is a 12th-century royal fort overlooking the water.
History of Morocco
Morocco is located at the intersection of Europe and Africa make Morocco a real crossroads bordered by the waters of the Mediterranean and open to the vast stretches of the Atlantic Ocean. This “farthest land of the setting sun” is rich in contrasts, a destination that beckons you to discover two millennia of history.
Here where influences converge, you will find vestiges of the great Mediterranean civilizations, such as the Roman ruins at Volubilis in the north and architectural works attesting to the old French presence in Rabat. Your curiosity will be piqued by the treasures of Muslim civilizations scattered throughout the rest of the country, including the Kasbah of the Udayas, the green expanses of the Menara gardens and many other examples of the myriad dynasties that succeeded one another.
The landscapes themselves are magnificent. Morocco features both sea and mountain and is home to the full range of Mediterranean climates, which surrender to the sands of the Sahara. The country serves up marvelous vistas that you will enjoy soaking in and discovering for yourself. With its mix of diverse, captivating panoramas and a rich kaleidoscope of culture, Morocco is an unbeatable destination.
A modern society focused on the future
Through rooted in its traditions, Morocco offers all the conveniences of modern times
Morocco is a firmly future-focused country that has succeeded in preserving its traditions and promoting its cultural heritage by harnessing them to drive development. The city of Marrakesh is a perfect example: the Medina district and its souks have an unmatched old-fashioned charm, while Guéliz and Hivernage are decked out with the most modern infrastructure and facilities. Far from being in conflict, modernity and tradition together are what makes Morocco strong.
As a visitor, you will enjoy every modern convenience and pleasure. For your accommodations, Morocco is full of hotels in every price range from the major international chains. Plus it also has the biggest international ready-to-wear shops, which are taking advantage of the ideal opportunity for positioning in a fast developing country.
Morocco is striving to avoid the pitfalls of modern life, especially when it comes to the environment, by favoring tourism practices that are respectful of the Earth and local communities. As the author of a sustainable tourism charter and host of COP22, Morocco is on the front lines to preserve our planet.
Art of living and cultural traditions in Morocco
Tradition is alive and well
Morocco has been around for thousands of years and has inherited centuries of tradition. And yet this kingdom is not the least bit frozen in time. It has a vibrant culture that is expressed each day in the little details that make up daily routines and habits, as well as in celebrations and rituals. Spend some time here and soak up Morocco’s irresistible lifestyle.
The best approach is to walk through her cities and villages and experience the narrow alleys of ancient neighborhoods. This brings you close to the people: talk to them! They are certain to invite you to have a cup of Moroccan tea, a time-honored ritual of hospitality and ceremony.
You should also experience day-to-day life. Morocco and its inhabitants espouse an enviable Mediterranean lifestyle that has been recognized by UNESCO. This lifestyle comprises practices, foods and symbols that bring pleasure to every day and are sure to captivate you as well.
The kingdom loves its celebrations, which punctuate the calendar. One of the types of events that bring Moroccans together are its famous moussems, festive religious events. Do not miss the Tan-Tan moussem, which is especially well known and has been listed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage register since 2008. The Essaouira Gnaouas festival is also highly recommended. These gatherings are opportunities for you to interact with and immerse yourself in the different cultures that make Morocco such a rich, diverse country.
This is but a glimpse of the myriad cultures that still thrive in Morocco. Work your way across the country and get to know these treasures of Morocco’s intangible cultural heritage.
Eco-friendly, fair and sustainable tourism in Morocco
Morocco offers up a vast variety of landscapes, ranging from beaches to mountains to desert to urban jungle. It is also a country where this diversity is matched by a real commitment to environmental principles.
Since the creation of the Moroccan Responsible Tourism Charter and the Moroccan Sustainable Tourism Awards, the country has been committed to ensuring its tourism industry is eco-friendly and sustainable with a series of standards. Each year, a growing number of businesses and tourist destinations in the country are recognized for their environmental responsibility.
To date, 13 Moroccan beaches have been awarded the Pavillon Bleu distinction. There are also many hotel and lodging facilities throughout the country that have earned the Green Key. All these eco-labels aim to highlight the environmental efforts of their owners.
When it comes to Energy, Morocco is also a stand-out with its high-profile Noor Power Station, the world’s seventh thermodynamic solar power plant. This is a major public works project—though it is first and foremost Moroccan, it is also a world effort in terms of expanding the use of renewable energy.
All these environmentally conscious efforts earned the city of Marrakesh the privilege of being chosen to host COP 22 in November 2016, another major challenge for the planet’s environment.
People of Morocco
Morocco is typically referred to as an Arab nation, but this is far from the truth. While it is accurate to state that there are primarily Muslims living in Morocco, Morocco is best described as a nation of both Arabs and Berbers. The Berbers were Morocco’s original inhabitants. The Arabs arrived at the end of the seventh century, after sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East in the name of their new revolutionary ideology, Islam. Eventually nearly all of the Berbers converted to the new religion and were immediately accepted as fellow Muslims by the Arabs. When Muslim armies invaded the Iberian peninsula from Morocco, the bulk of the troops were Berbers, and the two ethnic groups assimilated.
Today, most Moroccan can claim both Arab and Berber ancestors, though a few (especially Shereefs, who trade their ancestry back to the Prophet Mohammed, and have the title “Moulay”) claim to be pure Arabs. But in the Rif and Atlas Mountains and in the Souss Valley, groups of pure Berbers remain, and retain their ancient languages (Tarfit, spoken by 1.5 million people in the Rif; Tamazight, spoken by over 3 million people in the Atlas; and Teshalhit, spoken by 3-4 million people in the Souss Valley region). Recently there has been a resurgence in Berber pride. TV programs are now broadcast in Berber languages, and they are taught in schools, but the country’s majority language remains Arabic.
Berbers, whose origins remain uncertain, are suggested to have originated in Yemen or present day Syria. Any traveler visiting Morocco should not be surprised to encounter many green or blue eyed fair skinned individuals as over the centuries the Berber and Arab populations have participated in many interracial marriages.
It is uncertain as to when the Berbers first arrived to Morocco because the Berber language never developed a writing system. Before the Arabs arrived in the 7th century, the Berbers were influenced by three groups: the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and the Romans. While none of these groups made a significant impact on the Berbers, the Romans were the ones with whom the Berbers quarreled the most. One rebellion between them took three years and 20,000 troops to subdue.
Unlike the previous groups, the Arabs who arrived in 680 B.C were more determined to make their presence felt and succeeded in transforming the country into an Arab and Muslim society. Upon a visit to Morocco, you will be certain to feel the success of their mission. Today, ninety-nine percent of Moroccans are Muslim- Berbers.
During the 12th century, Islam spread throughout Northern Africa, ultimately pushing the Berbers into the mountains. Berbers, which literally mean “those who are not Arab”, did not fit in with the fast paced and busy lifestyles of their new neighbors. Resultantly, they sought solace and tranquility in the mountains to live an agrarian and nomadic lifestyle.
Even with the successful conversion of Morocco to a Muslim country, the new leaders faced centuries of challenges of civil war, rebellion, outdated forms of government, and overall discontent. As a result, Europeans, particularly the Spanish and Portuguese, began to appear in Morocco.
At the end of the 19th century, as Morocco declared bankruptcy, Spain and France tried to stay active in alleviating Morocco’s economic strife. In the Treaty of Fes (1912), Morocco agreed to Spanish and French protection. The treaty lasted for forty years and played a role in why Morocco eventually became a French colony. Only in 1956 did Morocco win back it’s independence from France.
Language tells a lot about a country’s history and people. When visiting Morocco, it will become clear how the Europeans affected Moroccan’s way of life and institutions. Today French is recognized as the official language of businesses, government, and international relations in Morocco. In the northern part of the country, Spanish is also common. Contrastingly, seventy percent of the population speaks Arabic, the national language, and thirty percent communicate in one of the three hundred Berber dialects.
Today, the rural Berber communities, identified as the Amaziah, account for about thirty-three of the population and can still be found living in the countryside and mountains. However, in the past few decades western style education has attracted more Berbers to move into urban areas in search of a better life.
During your travels in Morocco, you will witness all three Berber groups (the Ruffians in the north, the Chleuhs in the Middle and High Atlas, and the Soussi in the southwest) mixing peacefully among the Arab and small Jewish population who have been living in Morocco since the 15th century.
Morocco is a wonderful example of how people of all different backgrounds and ideologies can live in harmony. Besides the mingling of the Arabs, Berbers, and Jews, the South hosts a myriad of British, French, and American expatriates working for the government as teachers, technicians, and business managers.
Morocco’s years of foreign influence and rule have taught it to have the best communication skills and tolerance towards visitors. Undoubtedly, your journey will be an unforgettable experience that will make you want to return.
Art & Culture of Morocco
Moroccan culture & arts emerged through a wide set of influences including not only North African, Mediterranean, and French colonial sources but also pan-African, Indian, contemporary Italian, and Swedish design to create a style of living at once global and distinctively local. Today, the emergence of a new approach to architecture blending craft, interior design, and cuisine has given birth to what we call “An Architectural Revolution” spearheaded by a growing community of local and international designers, hoteliers, and chefs de cuisine.
The influence of the Berbers represents the oldest cornerstone. Berbers have lived in the deserts and mountains since prehistoric times and build morocco art and culture. Berber architecture includes the castles of red earth called Kasbahs from which the ruling families controlled the caravan routes across the Sahara desert and through the Atlas Mountains. Berber crafts feature colorful carpets and carved doors with geometric patterns.
The creators of the new Moroccan Arts also find inspiration in traditional Berber building materials, handmade bricks and rough wooden beams among them. The Arab armies that swept North Africa in the seventh century AD and established Islam as the region’s dominant cultural force laid the second cornerstone of the new Moroccan style. Along with a new religion and language, they also brought a new design vocabulary. Because Islam forbids the representation of animate forms, this language consisted of elaborate patterns of stars and other geometric shapes, abstracted plant forms, and the calligraphy known as arabesque.
The Arabs also brought a Persian palette of blue and white with their ceramics. After conquering North Africa, the Arabs pressed into Spain to establish the Islamic stronghold called el Andalus by the early eighth century. By doing so, they set in place the third cornerstone of the new Moroccan style: the Andalusian culture, which represents a marriage of Arab and Berber influences with the Hispano-Roman roots of southern Spain.
Roman architectural forms featuring columns and loggia gained prominence combined with Arab-inspired decoration including zellij (intricate geometric mosaics of cut ceramic tile) and tagguebbast (filigree-like borders of plaster carved while damp). The French placed the final cornerstone of the new Moroccan style during the protectorate (1912 to 1956), when they imported European building techniques and architects to construct buildings in the art deco style, often incorporating decorative flourishes borrowed from Morocco.
With its pure geometric forms and strong colors, Andalusian decoration proved a perfect complement to the European art deco style, as demonstrated most famously at Marrakech’s La Mamounia Hotel, which opened its doors to an international clientele in 1923. During the last few decades, King Hassan II and his son, King Mohammed VI, protected and preserved Morocco’s architectural heritage and fostered the continued practice of its age-old crafts. They encouraged the purchase of architecturally significant palaces and private homes by local entrepreneurs and westerners with the resources to restore and transform them into guesthouses, hotels, and restaurants catering to the country’s growing international tourist trade. By so doing, these monarchs set the stage for Morocco’s contemporary style revolution.
A visit to Morocco today, whether to the cosmopolitan realms of Marrakech, Rabat, and Casablanca, the ancient walled city of Fez, the wind-swept coastal town of Essaouira, or the mysterious Routes des Kasbahs in the Atlas mountains, allows travelers to discover the living legacy of these historic influences. Grand hotels dating from the time of the French protectorate blend early twentieth century art deco stylishness with Moroccan decorative elegance. Intimate Riads, as the guesthouses operated in former grand urban homes are called, reveal a blend of traditional domestic architecture, with rooms arranged around colonnaded courtyards, and the chic tastes of contemporary interior designers. The highpoint, both literary and figuratively, of a visit to a Riad may be the traditional breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade breads, and local honey served on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Mazelike streets of Fez or the distant peaks of the Atlas outside Marrakesh.
One Country. Many Faces
Morocco is a country where life is good and the food is even better! Its cuisine is rich and inviting, tinged with the best of the Middle East. Spices are given pride of place: coriander, saffron and cumin elevate many recipes with a hint of spiciness in the best taste. Couscous, tagine and pastilla made with chicken or seafood are the most famous Moroccan dishes.
Moroccan cuisine is world renowned and boasts incredible diversity. After all, food on the coast is not approached the same way as in the Atlas Mountains. For example, Agadir has specialized in cooking with argan oil, but in the mountains sheep are turned into mouth-watering mechouis spit roasts.
Sweets are featured throughout the country; “gazelle horns”, honey briouats and ghriba are tiny treats that will please the palate and win over even the most demanding gourmets. Fruits also get the royal treatment. Dates may be stuffed with marzipan or walnuts and oranges are sprinkled with cinnamon or juiced. Tagines play with flavors; though most are savory, they also flirt with sweet notes when flecked with prunes, apricots or raisins. At the end of the meal, a glass of mint tea – peppermintif you like – isserved to warm the throat and give your belly a break!