Morocco, Country with Varied Culture!

King and Queen of Morocco

1.What is Morocco and who are the Moroccans?

Some of my blog readers sent me emails asking if Morocco is a perfect place for holidays. I don't think there is such a place called "perfect".  If you decide to travel abroad, the choice of the place will depend on your expectations, planning and goals. Are you an adventure traveller? or comfort-five-stars tourist?  The most common questions received by e-mails, Google private chat, or Facebook are:


I-From Middle-East sent me an email (quoting him): "I always thought Morocco is an Arab country until I last visited small villages in the South and Atlas mountains and no one could understand my Arabic and nor could I understand their language, which I understood afterwards it was "Imazighen".

II-Is it safe to travel to Morocco?

III-Are Americans or non-Muslims a major target there?

IV-Is it really safe to bring my "woman" with me for shopping or walking in the streets?

V-Should my "woman" wear a scarf or Hijab or skirt or Burka, or whatever?


Not all Moroccans are Arabs though most of them are Muslims. It is estimated that majority of Moroccans are ethnically Imazighens and by Imazighens we mean :

1- Swassa (South)
2- Ryaffa (North)
3- Zayanes (Atlas-Center of the country)

I admit I was really surprised by the last questions, to say the least, because this reminds me of the hysteria following September 11, 2001.  If you live in Deptford or Catford or New York City or Los Angeles, where the danger, I suppose, of being shot by a gun is much more higher than in any city in Morocco, so I'm sure you can travel to my country without a problem. However; we all know that there is always a little risk that something by chance or bad luck could happen to us ANYWHERE in the world.  I think the most important thing to bear in mind when you decide to travel somewhere, is to show some respect to the culture, religion and traditions of the place you intend to visit. For women, you don't need to wear a scarf or hijab to visit Morocco (lot of women don't wear it, including myself), but of course as in any country in the world, you should dress appropriately before you put your feet outside. And as a visitor, always, be sensitive about whom you photograph, it is considered polite to ask permission of people before you take their picture. Use your common sense, how would you feel if someone in your own country take a picture of you or your children without your permission?  

Most importantly, if you don't speak one of the local languages/dialects or if you are not sure about all the different places you want to visit, stick to your travel agent and ask him/her for advice to arrange special tours for you.  If you want to visit the south, make sure your travel agent speaks fluently Soussiya, if you intend to go to Atlas, your agent should be fluent in Zayanes, whereas the North, it's Rifiya which is more spoken.  

As for the main towns as Casablanca, Rabat, Fes etc..., it is more Darija-French Dialect which is predominant. So if you are French speaker, you'll have no problem to be understood; however, you still need an agent who speaks well Darija and classic Arabic since most driving signs and formal news are written or broadcasted in calssic Arabic. 

With the "Arabisation System" implemented in the 80s in public primary/secondary schools all over the country, Moroccans born after 80s don't speak fluently French as it was the case in the 50s, 60s and 70s. You will notice that people who are born between 50s and 79s, their French is more perfect and fluent. However, Moroccans who can afford to pay private schools, their children speak fluently several languages including French and English.

2.Where is Morocco?

Kingdom of Morocco is located in the Northwest Coast of Africa, bordering both the shores of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. So many cultures live in this small Kingdom, and over 5 dialects/languages are spoken. Morocco is rich in its culture and historical background, and it has so many breathtaking sights and beautiful landscapes!

Hosting a big number of international visitors each year, and according to Morocco Tourism Report of 2010, more than 9 million tourists visited Morocco! Undoubtedly, Morocco is one of the most beautiful and worthwhile places to visit in Africa.  Holidaying in Morocco is not only having a nice and exotic trip, but also discovering a unique place, getting a full experience of its rich history, people, culture, languages, art, music, cuisine etc.., and especially its stunning nature, full of unusual landscapes; allowing you one day to ski on the snow-capped mountains in Ifran in the Middle Atlas region, and the other day to ride a camel in the colourful and unique sand dunes in the Sahara!

3-Official Name of the country : Kingdom of Morocco

4-Capital City : Rabat

5-Total Land Area 710,850 sq km

6-Currency : Moroccan Dirham (DH). Currency Converter-Click here to check currency-

1 GBP (British Pound Sterling)  = 14.27 MAD (Moroccan Dirham)
1 EUR (Euro) = 10.85 MAD (Moroccan Dirham)

7-Religions: Sunni Islam. There is a minority of Chiâa as well, Judaism, Christianity, Hindu and Chinese religious practice. However, Islam is considered as the official religion of the Kingdom, and the King has the responsibility of ensuring "Respect for Islam as well as other Religions".

8-Independence : After 44 years of occupation, Morocco regained independence in 1956 from France, and then in 1975, Moroccan Sahara regained independence from Spain. However, there are still two main towns under Spanish colonisation: Sebta and Mlilya in the North.

9-Languages spoken There are official, regional and local  languages:

9.1.Imazighen: Since summer of 2011, Imazighen language has finally became official alongside Classical Arabic.  Imazighen is the predominant spoken language in Morocco, which exists in three (3) different  dialects:

a-Tachalhit or Chalha or Soussiya in the South
b-Tarifit or Rifiya in the North
c-Zayanes or Zayaniya in the Central Middle Atlas

9.2.DarijaThis is the colloquial dialect, and most widely spoken by all Moroccans in general in everyday conversations, songs, movies and informal occasions. Darija is not understandable to Arab speakers, and this is due to the fact that it has had its large share of borrowing words and expressions from different communities: Imazighens, Jews, Andaloussi, Sahrawis, Arabs, Spanish and French. Mauritania and Algeria are probably the only countries where our Darija can be understood.

Example of Darija

If Arab countries have their own regional dialect though each country has developed its own idiosyncrasies, but generally speaking, Arabs from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, Quatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia can easily understand each other, because first they are all Arabs, thus their dialects are close to classical Arabic, which make their dialects share the same linguistic characteristics, though there are slight differences in the accents, expressions and words.

Due to differences in accents, words and pronunciation, Moroccan speakers can easily spot someone from another town, region or village, so the way people talk is based on what part of the Kingdom they live in. There are marked dialectal differences according to the parts of the Kingdom, people do live. These social and regional differences in accents, pronunciation and expressions can be summarized as follows:

 9.2.1-Bilingual/Urban DialectIt is a mixture of French and Moroccan dialect, widely used in big cities, especially in international companies, certain administrations, businesses, technical fields, Banks, some universities and school. This dialect is strictly used by bilingual speakers, so it is very common that Moroccans "code-switchingeasily and randomly from Moroccan-dialect to French language and vice versa, which could be very confusing for non-French speakers.  However; if you are francophone, you will at least understand half of the conversation, which is not bad! If you pay close attention to the conversations around you, you will notice how much certain French expressions are repeated frequently, example: "Voiture", "Bus", "ça va?"...

Example of bilingual/urban dialect

Sometimes, it could be the whole conversation in French, mixed with very few Moroccan dialect expressions! Strangely and sadly enough, speaking fluent French in Morocco has been associated to highly educated and privileged socially rank elite, so more fluent is your French, more respect you will get from people around you, assuming that you're a VIP!

9.2.2.- Rural Dialect : If you speak urban dialect, and visit some villages in big Casablanca area, you may have difficulty understanding the strong and local accent. It sound like Darija but with some differences in accent and expressions. Places as:  Abda (عَبْدَة),  Dokkala (دُكّالَة ),  Mzab (مْزابْ ),  Ben Hmad (بْنْ حْمْدْ ).
Example of rural dialect

9.2.3.-Majority of Imazighens living in big cities are bilingual and they speak urban dialect with a beautiful soft accent which sounds like Marrakeshis'.

9.2.4.-Moroccans living in the East as (Oujda) speak a dialect which is slightly different from the west speakers, with strong influences from eastern expressions and accent, same as neighbours in the East.

9.2.5.-The Fassis and the Northern dialect are quite distinguishable with all their linguistic characteristics and a special lovely accent, though it's hard to understand.

Example of Fassi dialect

Example of Northern dialect

9.3-Classical ArabicIt is the official as well as the religious language.  The Classical Arabic is taught in Mosque, primary, secondary schools and universities.  It is Morocco's official government language, used in media news, political shows, parliamentary services and government institutions.  

9.4-Hassaniya or Hassania = الحسنيّة  It is the language predominant in Moroccan Sahara..  This is the dialect native to Mauritania, which has the characteristics of two (2) languages: Classical Arabic and Imazighen language, especially Soussiya.

Example of Southern-Sahara dialect

9.5- French: Most Moroccans, living in big cities, speak French fluently. It is the language taught from very early age on private primary schools and at the nursery centres. French, both spoken and written, is also the language of businesses, administrations, international companies, banks and certain commerce /education institutions.  The higher your level of French is when you begin your job search, the higher your chances are of finding work quickly in big cities, and this is the reason why some parents decide to send their children to private schools though they are not affordable to everyone.

If you're looking for a job and the ad states: "Perfect Bilingual applicant has the priority", this means two languages : "Classical-Arabic and French". Though majority of Moroccans speak Darija and Imazighen, these two dialects, however, are not counted important when it comes to job search, which is sad. Both Imazighen and Darija are the first languages of Moroccans yet these dialects are not used at the professional level, putting more pressure on our children to learn foreign languages such as French, Spanish and English to find a suitable job in their own country.

Some employers would wait until the interview to ask their candidates if they speak Imazighen, especially when it comes to hire sales representative for big companies or tourists agents for certain regions.

9.6-Spanish: It is largely a spoken language for many people, living in the north and Sahara.

9.7-English: It is still far behind in comparison with other spoken languages. There are still very few people who can speak English.

10-Moroccan Population: About 31.70 millions persons in 2009, according to the International Monetary Fund.  Population in Morocco is very heterogeneous.

10.1.- Imazighens : which  means "Free or Noble People" are Native Moroccans. I will not be using the term Berber بَرْبَرْ to refer to Imazighens in Morocco because a long time ago, this term was associated with "Barbarous", thus conveying negative connotation. So the word "Berber" was used by both Greeks and Romans to describe other nations who simply fought back to defend their own land against invasions. The "Defenders" were described as "Berber" which meant "Barbaric" and  "Savage", and this was because Romans and Greeks believed they were more civilized and advanced than any other group of people at their time.

Imazighens represent the majority of Moroccan inhabitants, accounting for more than 80% of the whole population, including those who live in big cities. There is a class of super-rich Imazighens, especially from Souss region, known as "Swassa", and who live in Casablanca. Most of them own and operate big businesses in Derb Omar (درب عمر ), which is considered as one of the busiest wholesale and retails center in Morocco, where thousands of businessmen all over the country get their supplies of products.  Great number of these Imazighens live now in one of the most luxurious district in Casablanca, called California, where Villas and houses resemble those in Beverly Hills.

Swassa living in big cities speak several languages fluently : Imazighen, Darija, French and English.  Imazighens have lived and thrived upon the Kingdom of Morocco for more than 5000 years. There are three (3) distinct Native languages, spoken in Morocco:

1-Swassa , in the South 
2-Ryafa, in the North 
3-Zayanes or Ait Zayan, in the Central Middle Atlas

Language Imazighen is the essence of culture and all-important to Moroccan Imazighens. It is the main tool that united them, communicating their ways of living, their traditions, culture, art and their philosophy in life. Although most Imazighens today can more or less speak Darija, yet they still consider their language to be extremely important for their identity, for what they are and for what they become. Moroccan Imazighens fought for so many years for their language and culture with French colonization, and they were and they still are determined to keep and preserve preciously their native language, alive.  They maintained their ancient traditions, costumes, art, music, dance, cuisine, distinct lifestyle, language, and culture in general.

They are quite concerned that if their language is not transmitted to the next generation, and if the last speakers of their native language, pass away, their whole culture will be gone forever! This means  their whole civilisation, tradition, and history of great and free people, who lived in this part of the country for centuries, will disappear and never return.  Morocco will never be the same!

Other communities came to Morocco as Jews, Arabs, Andaloussis and all along with Imazighens, they lived peacefully together and they still do, and this what make Morocco unique and attractive.

Example of Imazighen Soussiya or Swassa

Example of Imazighen Rif or Ryafa

Example of Imazighen Zayanes

10.2.-Moroccan Jews: They constitute one of the ancient community, living in Morocco and they lived friendly and peacefully with Imazighens. Most Moroccan Jews now live in Essaouira, Agadir, Marrakesh, Casablanca and Fes, but majority of them left the country during the second world war, especially when France, whose government was highly present in Morocco at that time, was invaded by Germany.

10.3.-The Moroccan Sahrawis or Sahraoui who form an ethnically mix of Imazighens and Africans. They live in Moroccan Sahara and speak Hassaniya.

10.4.-Moroccan Arabs: During the Islamic expansion in the late 7th century, some Arabs left Arabian Deserts and headed to Kingdom of Morocco, where they settled in the flat regions, near the Mediterranean Sea.  

10.5.-Moroccan Christians : Actually, I have a lot of friends who are Moroccan-Christians, born in Morocco or live and work in Morocco, but originally are from France, Senegal etc...

10.6.Sub-Saharian Africans: They come to Morocco hoping one day to reach Europe via Spain, but unfortunately, some of them are trapped in the North. 

All Moroccans over the whole Kingdom have lived peacefully together for several centuries and they are very proud of their country and history. There have never been hate or racial incidents between the different ethnic groups and all Moroccans are united under their national identity, no matter what is their race, skin colour, tradition, religion, dialect or culture! 

11-Moroccan Cuisine: It is a cuisine that combines history, tradition and culture. The history of Moroccan cuisine, which is of Imazighens, Jews, Andaloussi, Arab and Sahrawi origins, stretches back for several centuries and was able to adapt itself to changes and different modern ingredients from period to period. Moroccan cuisine is rated among one of the most cleverly balanced cuisines, with strong focus on rich flavours, aromas, texture, presentation, and perfect choice of spices and fresh ingredients, thus leading Moroccans to pride themselves on eating tasty, delicious and traditional food on a daily basis. Several Moroccan dishes have become increasingly popular now in other parts of the world (North of America, Australia and Western Europe) and it is no surprise that some neighbouring African countries have adopted the Moroccan Style Flavour.

12-Anthem of the Kingdom of Morocco: Music by Léo Morgan, and Lyrics by Ali Squalli Houssaini.

منبت الأحرار

 مشرق الأنوار

منتدى السؤدد وحماه

دمت منتداه وحماه

عشت في الأوطان

للعلا عنوان

ملء كل جنان

ذكرى كل لسان



هب فتاك

لبي نداك

في فمي وفي دمي

هواك ثار نور ونار

اخوتي هيا

للعلا سعيا

نشهد الدنيا

أنا هنا نحيا


الله الوطن الملك

13-Moroccan Flag:

14-The Issue of Moroccan Sahara: This is a long cold war and this issue has been on the agenda of United Nations for years now, trying to settle the dispute.  Morocco has supported the independence of Sahara diplomatically and also supported the peace plan, allowing Sahrawas or Saharians to choose between independence or integration with Morocco.  However, Algeria, backing the Polisario community, put conditions on this referendum, as who is eligible to vote and who is not, thus creating a long cold war and strong tensions between Moroccans and Algerians, over the unsolved borderline issue.

15-Traditional Moroccan ClothingMoroccan clothes are traditionally rich and varied. Each year Marrakech city hosts the annual "Moroccan Caftan (Kaftan) Fashion" event, which celebrates Moroccan haute couture, and this event is very popular all over the world.  The most popular costumes in Morocco for women are : 

  • Jellaba [J L U B A] for women and men

  • Takchitta [T U K S H E E T A] for women

  • Caftan [K A F T A N E] for women

Fashion and style in Morocco

Here are some examples of traditional Moroccan men's clothing:

Khadija El Mary


Colette Bennani said…
Merci pour ce beau article mamatkamal et mes respects pour ce grand pays qui est LE MAROC! Est possible de nous parler un peu du costume marocain pour hommes et femmes, merci d'avance.
said said…
salam alikoum
thanks so much for this amazing website i find it very intersting to me and it help me a lot to improve more our moroccan cuisine here in uk
well done

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