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 Arab state and sometimes as an African state. The majority of Morocco's population is of Berber origins. 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 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 Omar Ibn Al Khatab.
The almost medieval-like hustle and bustle of Morocco is for most travelers a world away from their own cities and towns. The culture and people are usually so completely different from what they know that they often find themselves in situations to which they have no idea how to react. The following brief explanation of Moroccan art and culture is designed to help you get the most out of your stay in this amazing country.
Art The art of this country is truly special. Many historical examples are on display at the local museums. More modern examples are on display at art galleries and in souks. Beware of cheap imitations though!
There are so many different ways that the people express themselves – in carpets, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, sculpture, painting, carving, and calligraphy. They even hold an international art festival once a year to showcase all their talent. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this country, you should consider buying some of the local artwork. Not only will it provide you with a little memento of your trip, but it will help out the local people who are usually quite poor.
Culture Souks are a way of life in Morocco and you usually wont have to go far to find one. You can often get good bargains here, but remember that most Moroccans will have a lot more experience than you will when it comes to haggling the price so you will seldom find yourself able to get better than that which is offered.
You may find, if you are friendly and courteous enough, that you will soon start to make friends with the locals. If this happens and you are invited to a meal, it is good to keep in mind some of the local customs. For example, you will usually take off your shoes when entering a house. You can follow your host’s example in this regard. Also it is a good idea to take a gift of some sort with. If you are in a home in the city you might take some pastries or some sugar with you. If you are in the county it would be better to buy a live chicken for the household which is likely to not be quite so well off. A home invitation is perhaps the most authentic way to sample Moroccan dishes. Most Moroccan food is eaten with the hands. If you are invited to join someone for a meal, you should always eat with the right hand as the left is supposed to be used for the toilet.
Any plans to visit mosques will usually meet with failure as these are considered to be very holy places that only Muslims are allowed access to. Though this is allowed in other parts of the world, the closest you will likely get to the inside of a mosque in Morocco is if you visit some ruins or disused mosques such as Tin Mal and Smara. Most other monuments are on view to the public for a price and you can also observe certain celebrations such as the Imichal wedding Fair.
When taking photographs of the local people, it would be wisest to ask their permission. Taking a photograph of someone with out their permission – especially in rural areas – can cause offense. This may result in them demanding money from you – even if you only intended to take a scenic shot of something. In contrast, taking photographs of someone you have become friendly with is usually very welcome. Often people with whom you’ve become acquainted will take you to a place where they can get a photograph taken with you for themselves. You should not be unfriendly about this as it usually does not result in you paying for the picture or any further harassment.
Traditionally the men take to the streets and the women are in control of their homes. This means that you will not often find woman in cafés or restaurants. If you are a woman and you strike up a friendship, you will likely be invited to the person’s home or to a hamman (bath) for further association. On the other hand, if you are a man or a man and woman traveling together, you will likely be invited into a café for some tea or a meal.
In general, Moroccan culture can be an exiting and worldly experience. The people are friendly and the place is colorful. Hospitality is really a part of their culture so you can strike up friendships virtually anywhere if you have the right attitude. Usually this results in further association with these dynamic and interesting people and a real taste of Moroccan life.
Morocco is considered by some as an Arab-Berber country. Others insist on the Berber-African identity of Morocco. About 42% acknowledge a Berber identity, though many more have Berber ancestry. Berbers are identified primarily by language but also by traditional customs and culture - such as the distinctive music and dances. Berbers don't identify themselves by blood ties. Berber language (Also called Amazigh) is not yet officially recognized in Morocco, though French (the colonial language) is. Classical Arabic remains the only official language of Morocco and is used in limited socio-economic and cultural activities and written newspapers but it is never spoken between Moroccans.
Linguistically, Berber belongs to the Afro-Asiatic group, and has many accents or variants. The three main accents used in Morocco are Tachelhit, Tamazight and Tarifit (Also called Thamazight by its speakers). Collectively, those Berber languages they are known as "Chelha" in Moroccan Arabic and as "Barbaria" in Classical Arabic used in the Middle East. The terms "Barbar" and "Chelha" are considered by most Berber activists as extremely offending and humiliating. They prefer the word Amazigh.
Tachelhit (sometimes known as "soussia" or "chelha") is spoken in south-west Morocco, in an area between Sidi Ifni in the south, Agadir in the north and Marrakech and the Draa/Sous valleys in the east. Tamazight is spoken in the Middle Atlas, between Taza, Khemisset, Azilal and Errachidia. Tarifit is spoken in the Rif area of northern Morocco in towns like Nador, Al Hoceima, Ajdir, Tangier and Taourirt, Larache and Taza.
For more detailed information on this subject see: Berber languages.
Although Berbers were eventually converted to Islam, their ethnic and linguistic purity has remained. Hundreds of Amazigh (Berber) associations were created in the last few years. Newsstands and bookstores in all the major cities are filled with new Amazigh magazines and other publications that provide articles about the Amazigh culture and art. The state owned TV station RTM (now TVM) has started broadcasting a daily 10-minute long news bulletin in the 3 Berber accents since the mid 90's. Berber activists are repetedly demanding a 50% share of broadcasting time in standardized Amazigh language on all 5 state owned satellite channels TVM, 2M, 3, 4 and Laayoune TV. The state still refuses or ignores these demands.
The traditional dress for men is called djellaba; a long, loose, hooded garment with full sleeves. For special occasions, men also wear a red cap called tarbouche and mostly referred to as Fez. Nearly all men wear babouches —- those soft leather slippers with no heel, often in yellow. Many women do as well but others wear high-heeled sandals, often in silver or gold tinsel.
The distinction between a djellaba and a kaftan is that the djellaba has a hood, while a Kaftan does not. The women’s djellabas are mostly of bright colors with ornate patterns, stitching, or beading, while men wear djellabas in plainer, neutral colors. Women are strongly attached to their "Moroccan wardrobe", despite the financial costs involved. The production of such garments is relatively expensive, as most of the work is done by hand. Despite the costs involved most women purchase a minimum of one new kaftan or "tk'chita" every year, normally for a special, social event, such as a religious festival or a wedding. Nowadays, it is an unwritten rule that Moroccan dress is worn at such events.
Berber people are found the in whole North African countries including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Lybia, Niger, Mali, mauretania, Western Sahara, Egypt and Tchad. All governments of the listed countries above did not recognise the culture and the language as official in the counrty. Arabic language is predominant in all state department. The Berber are non-stop claiming their identity to be recognised, but in vain. By origins, the berbers represent the majority in North Africa, once known as Numidia. The berbers have a very attractive and distinctive handicraft, such as Jewellery, pottery, paintings, Rugs, etc To view hundreds of pictures of their handicraft, visit http://www.berberosaharan.com
Many foreign directors were seduced by the beauty and the magic of Morocco. After Louis Lumière, it was time for Orson Welles to film his "Othello". The movie won the Palme d'Or prize in Cannes Film Festival. In 1955, Alfred Hitchcock directed The Man Who Knew Too Much while David Lean did Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. Especially the place Aït Benhaddou has been the setting of many films. There is also a large cinematographic centre near the city of Ouarzazate.
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. . 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 . 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. 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. 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.
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 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.