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Cultural Affairs
"Morocco is a tree, the roots of which are planted firmly in Africa but has its branches in Europe.." Quotation of late his Majesty Hassan II. In his book "Le Défi" (The Challenge). The richness of the Moroccan culture comes from the various civilizations that Morocco encountered trough different eras in its history. From the Byzantine civilization to the Roman influence to the Arab civilization, then the Spanish and French colonization, Morocco is now a panorama of genuine values of multiculturalism and gets its unity in its diversity. That is how the Moroccan identity is preserved.

The Standard Arabic is the official language in Morocco. However, French is widely used as business is conducted in French. In the north of Morocco and the Deep South, Spanish is widespread. Staff in hotels is multilingual. In tourist cities like Rabat, Fez, Marrakech and Agadir, merchants and guides speak several languages. The “Tamazight” has its origin in North Africa back 10,000 years ago and is the language Berbers speak today. The Tamazight in its historical and cultural aspects is part of the Moroccan identity.. Since September 2003, the Tifinagh alphabet of Tamazight has been taught in primary schools in Morocco.

Arabic is read from right to left and this Applet is designed under that rule. This translation is made to Latin .

The Tifinagh alphabet

Islam is the official religion in Morocco, but freedom to practice other religions is guaranteed by the Constitution. (Art.6 Pream I : Islam shall be the state religion. The state shall guarantee freedom of worship for all.) During the holy Month of Ramadan, Moroccan Muslims fast, refraining from eating drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset. Most civil service and public offices, monuments and shops alter their opening hours. All hotels will however provide regular meals.

Traditions and Folk Art remain very much alive in Morocco. Music is present everywhere in the country, accompanying festivities and ceremonies. Folk dances are magnificent and accompany the tribes’ everyday life. Here are the most important ones :
  • The Ahouach - High Atlas
  • The Ahaidous - Middle Atlas
  • The Guedra - Southern Morocco
  • The Tissint - Tata (South of Agadir)
  • The Gnawas - African origin
  • The Taskiouine - High Atlas (Ouarzazate)
  • The Kelaa M’Gouna - Rose festival (May)
  • Al Aïta - Rural (weddings, moussems & festivals)
  • Andalusi - Al Ala: From a Spanish-Maghreban civilization, the Andalusi music of Morocco perpetuates the âla,
  • Melhoun: Comes from the Andalusian music.
  • Aïssaoua: Founded by Sidi Mohamed Ben Aïssa, in the 16th century this religious brotherhood is attached to the Sufism

Festivals & Moussems
Festivals mark the seasons, celebrating local resources, popular art and traditions. Moussems are large gatherings to honor a holy man.
  • Almond Tree Festival - Tafraout (February)
  • Rose Festival - El Kelaa M’Gouna (May)
  • Wax Festival (the procession of candles) - Salé (depending on the lunar calendar)
  • Sacred Music Festival - Fez (June)
  • Desert Symphonies - Ouarzazate (June)
  • Cherry Festival - Sefrou (June)
  • Folk Art Festival of Marrakech (June) - for 10 days)
  • Camel Festival - Guelmim (July)
  • Asilah Cultural Festival - Asilah (August)
  • The Fiancée Festival - Imilchil (September)
  • Horse Festival - Tissa, 46 km Northwest of Fez (September)
  • Date Festival - Erfoud (October)
  • Agadir Festival - Agadir (December)
  • Moulay Abdallah Moussem - El Jadida (August)
  • Moulay Idriss Moussem - Zehroun, North of Meknes (August)
  • The International Film festival (Marrakech)
  • Gnawa Festival (Essaouira), (June)
  • Les Orangers Festival (Rabat)
  • Jazz des Oudaya Festival (Rabat)
  • Moulay Ibrahim festival (road of Asni, 50 km southwest of Marrakesh), 2nd week following the "Aid Al Mouloud” ; depends on the lunar calendar.
  • El Aouina Festival ( 18 km southwest of Marrakesh), one month after the "Aid Al Mouloud". depends on the lunar calendar
  • Festival of Moulay Aissa Ben Driss in Beni Mellal ; (March)
  • Festival of Moulay Bousselham (south of Larache) May or June
  • Setti Fatma festival (Ourika valley, south of Marrakesh) ; End August, for three days
  • Festival of Sidi Moussa Ou Quarqour (near Kelaat-Seraghna, north of Marrakesh) ; End September
  • Mdiq Moussem ( 15 km northeast of Tetouan) ; Beginning of July
During some of these festivals, men on horseback may perform some extraordinary acrobatic feats and fire their “moukhala” (old powder charged rifles) during a frantic gallop. This show is called “Fantasia”.

Museums & Historical Sites
Historical sites: Sites like the impressive ruins at Larache, Lixus, Cotta, Banasa or Volubilis are to witness the Roman, Berber and Arab cultures. The surprising natural cave dwellings at Tarraga, Tamegoul, Merkala, Taourit, Zagzel, Erfoud, Taous and Foum El Hassan standing only to give credit to the generosity of the mother nature. The imperial cities with their historical sites reflects the richness of the Moroccan history and civilizations.

  • Rabat: Chellah necropolis, Hassan Tower, Oudayas, Mohammed V Mausoleum.
  • Meknes:the Ruins of Volubilis, Bab-el-Mansour leading to the immense mechouar where stands the moving mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, the Museum of Moroccan Arts.
  • Fez: El Qaraouiyyine University - the first University in the world - the Attarine Medersa, the Bouanania Medersa.
  • Marrakech: Jemaa El Fna Square, the Koutoubia, the Museum of Moroccan Arts, the Saadian tombs, the Ben Youssef Medersa, the Badii Palace.
  • Museum of Moroccan Art housed in the palatial Dar El makhzen (Tangier)
  • The Archaeological Museum in the superb Roman mosaic of the three Graces (Tetouan)
  • Dar Jamaï Museum( Meknes)
  • Rabat Archaeological Museum
  • Oudaya Museum with its exceptional collection of carpets, ( Rabat)
  • Dar Batha Museum : Moroccan ceramics ( Fez)
  • Dar Si Saïd Museum (Marrakech)
  • "Bab El Alqa" Museum ( Tetouan)
  • "Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah" Museum ( Essaouira)
  • Museum of Chefchaouen
  • The archaeologic Museum of Larache
  • "Nour" weapons Museum ( Fes)
  • National earthenware museum ( Safi)
  • Museum of contemporary arts (Tangiers)
  • Kasba Museum (Tangiers)
  • "Dar Belghazi" Museum ( Rabat) (private)

The Moroccan Cinematographic Center (CCM) delivers:
  • Professional identity cards
  • Shooting permits
  • Professional permits to producers, distributors , movie theaters and video clubs
  • Film exhibition permits
Morocco Known for its geostrategic location, its rich culture and its historical sites, magnificient and exhotic sights, attracted and is still attracting the world’s great filmmakers like Henry Hathaway, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, David Lean, John Huston, Martin Scorcese, Michael Zeffirelli, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jean-Luc Godard, Raoul Ruiz, Jean Delannoy, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, William Friedkin.

Morocco can represent sets like Saudi Arabia, India,, Yemen, Somalia and many others because of the richness of its natural sites, and human types not to mention the different measures of simplifications in application procedures.

CLA Studios in Morocco: Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis and Rome’s Cinecitta Studios have teamed up to create in January 2005 “CLA” Studios in Ouarzazate. It stretches over 371 acres with two shooting stages of 19,380 square feet each.
It is bigger than any studio in Hollywood or Europe and will be able to accommodate five medium, or two major movies a year. In addition, costs are 20 to 30 percent below the most competitive location in Eastern Europe.

Major American movies shot in Morocco:
  • "Othello" ( USA 1949) of Orson Welles with Suzanne Cloutier.
  • “Patton" ( USA 1970) of Franklin Schaffner, with Georges Scott and Karl Hadden.
  • "The Black Stallion Return" ( USA 1980) of Robert Dalva with Kelly Reno.
  • "Jewel of the Nile" ( USA, 1985) of Lewis Teague, with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas.
  • "The last Temptation of Christ " ( USA, 1987) of Martin Scorsese with William Dafoe and Harvey Keitel.
  • "The Sheltering Sky" (USA 1989) of Bernardo Bertolucci, with Debra Winger and John Malkovich.
  • "The Atlantide" (1990) of Bob Swain, with Anna Galiena, Christopher Thompsoe.
  • “Abraham” (1993) of Joseph Sergent, with Barbara Harshey and Richard Harris ; “Samson and Dalilah” (1996) of Roger Young with Eric Thal and Elizabeth Hurley.
  • “David” (1996) of Robert Marcovich with Nathaniel Parker, Jonathan Pryce and Gideon Turner.
  • "Kundun" ( USA 1996) of Martin Scorsese.
  • "Legionary" ( USA 1997) of Sheldon Lettich, with Jean Claude Van Damme.
  • "The Mummy" (USA 1998) of Stephan Sommers.
  • "Rules of Engagement" (USA 1999) of William Friedkin with Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones .
  • "Gladiator" (USA 1999) of Ridley Scott with Russel Crowe, Oliver Reed and Richard Harris.
  • "The Mummy Return " (USA 2000) of Stephan Sommers.
  • "Spy Game " (USA 2000) of Tony Scott with Brad Pitt and Robert Redford.
  • "Black Hawk Down " (USA 2001) of Ridley Scott with Josh Hartnett and Tom Sizemore.
  • "Exorcist Perquel" (USA 2002) of Paul Schrader with Lian Neeson.
  • "Hidalgo" (USA 2002) of Joe Johston, with Vigo Mortensen, Omar Charif, Zulikha Robinson and Said Taghmaoui .
  • "Live from Baghdad" (USA 2002) of Mick Jackson, with Robert Weiner and Ingrid Formanek.
  • "Sahara" (USA 2003-2004) of Breck Eisner, Matthew Mc Conaughey and Penelope Cruz.
  • "Kingdom of Heaven" (USA 2004) of Riddley Scott, with Orlondo Bloom and Jeremy Irons.
How to get there?
You may travel to Morocco by air plane via Royal Air Maroc, a direct flight to Casablanca from New York or via different other companies mainly to Europe then to Morocco. Morocco is equipped with international and national airports. Royal Air Maroc, the Moroccan International Airlines, connects Morocco with most of the major cities of the world. There are many main ports in Morocco. However, most passengers arrive in tangier, especially if they are coming from the city of Algeziras (Spain) by ferry. The crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar takes approximately 2 ½ hours. You may also take your car.

How to travel inside?
By plane: Royal Air Maroc provides internal flights to Agadir, Al Hoceima, Casablanca, Dakhla, Errachidia, Fez, Laayoun, Marrakech, Meknes, Ouarzazate, Oujda, Rabat-Salé, smara, Tnagier, Tan-Tan and Tetouan.

By car: The Moroccan road network is well structured with four categories of roads : motorways (toll), main roads (most of them are paved), B roads (3/4 are paved) and C roads (1/4 are paved). The highway signals are of international type and are written in French and Arabic. The speed limit is equivalent to the American standards. Wearing seat belts is compulsory.

International car-hire agencies such as hertz, Europcars, Budget and Avis are present in Morocco. Prices and rental conditions are much the same as elsewhere. However it is recommended to make your car reservations before you leave home, particularly during the peak of the vacation season.

*By rail : The railway system is well developed in Morocco. The express trains are fast, comfortable and air-conditioned. They have a bar service and a buffet car. Some major cities are not served by rail, but the O.N.C.F. (National Railways) provides bus connections.

*By taxiThe “petit taxi” (3 people maximum) have a distinctive bright color for each town. They only drive in town and can take other passengers who are going in the same direction. You may settle the price before leaving if they have no meter.
Collective or individual, the “grand taxi” (6 people maximum) will take you to the outer suburbs or to other towns. They offer a fixed price.

Open from Monday to Friday from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m. and from 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. In summer, certain banks close at 1 p.m. and do not reopen in the afternoon. Exchange offices are open in harbors and airports at arrival and departure points for ships and airplanes. At Casablanca-Mohammed V airport, the exchange office is open continuously.

Life Style
General Attitudes:
Moroccan culture is deeply rooted in Islam. When fortunes turn, people tend to attribute the cause to Allah, and the phrase ’IInsha’allah" (if God wills) is frequently heard. This belief is stronger in rural areas than in urban ones. Moroccans value family, honor, dignity, generosity, and hospitality.

National Dress:
The national garment is the "djellaba", a hooded caftan worn by both men and women but in different designs. Although Western-style clothing is common, the djellaba is still very popular among Moroccans. It is important to be neat, well-groomed, and appropriately dressed so one will be treated with respect.

Moroccans generally shake hands when greeting each other. To show one’s pleasure to see the other person or to show personal warmth, one touches the heart after the handshake. Rural children conventionally kiss the right hand of their parents or elders to show respect when greeting. Westernized people might greet close friends or relatives by brushing or kissing cheeks. The most common general greeting is "Assalam Oualaikoum" (Peace be upon you), which is used as "hello". "Sbah al Kheir" (Good morning) and "Msa al Kheir" (Good evening) are also used. Greetings between friends also include inquiries about each other’s well-being and that of their families. Repeated enthusiastic phrases of welcome are often extended to guests. It is polite to greet an acquaintance when passing on a street, but people do not greet strangers.

A standard greeting will go something like this:

Ssalamu ’aleykum (Peace be upon you.)
Wa ’aleykum as-salam (And upon you.)
Labas ? (How are you ? or literally ’No harm ?’.)
Labas, barak llahu fîk (Fine, thank you.)
Kulshi bekhir ? (Is everything OK ?)
Bekhir, llhamdu llah (Fine, praise God.)

Items generally are passed with the right hand or with both hands. It is impolite to point at people and improper to let the bottom of one’s foot face a person. Raising a hand is used to hail a taxi. Snapping one’s fingers is used in coffee houses and restaurants to call a waiter.

The extended family is the most important element in Moroccan social life. One’s family is a source of reputation and honor as well as financial and psychological support. It is one’s duty to provide financial support to other members of the extended family when it is necessary or requested. The tie between mother and son is the most important relationship. Children are indulged but are also expected to contribute to the family by attaining a respectable position in society. As adults, they are expected to take care of their aging parents.

Dating and Marriage:
Dating in the Western sense does not occur in Moroccan rural areas, and brides and grooms often do not meet until they are to be married. Urban couples meet in various situations, ask permission of their parents to marry, and have time to get acquainted before they get married. The groom gives the bride an agreed upon sum of money to meet her expenses in the wedding. Marriages are celebrated as lavishly as possible. A wedding usually lasts two days. The first day is for the bride’s female relatives and friends to come together and sing and dance. They decorate the bride’s hands and feet with henna dye. On the second day, the groom’s family and bride’s family meet as one family and celebrate the wedding together. The wedding ceremony is performed on that day. Most women and men are married by their early 20s in the rural areas. In the cities, young people prefer to get a degree and a job before getting married. Although divorce is frowned upon, it is not uncommon.

Visiting friends and relatives frequently is an important part of Moroccan culture. Visiting is most popular on holidays, but may occur at any time. especially important for relatives to visit often and maintain their relationships. It is acceptable to visit unannounced. Visit arrangements are made in advance whenever it is possible. This is less common in rural areas, where telephones are not always available for calling ahead. Moroccans are warm and gracious hosts. Social visits can last for several hours. Guests are not expected to take gifts. If they take candy or a small toy for the children, it is appreciated by the hosts. If urban residents visit a relative or friend in a rural area, they are expected to take a gift (staple foods, clothing, and household items). Guests are generally offered refreshments, milk and dates are served as a sign of hospitality. Men and women do not always socialize together in rural areas. Young urban couples do socialize in mixed company. Men also often socialize in public coffee houses, especially on weekends, holidays, or "Ramadan" evenings.

Most Moroccan families get together for at least one meal a day. Before and after eating, each person washes his hands. A basin of water is usually available in the eating area for washing. Moroccans eat with their fingers from a large communal dish. Moroccans usually socialize around a table garnished with the most delicious Moroccan dishes, which require a lot of time and effort to prepare. Guests are urged to eat as much as they like. If the hosts think the guests have not eaten enough, they will ask them to eat more.

The Finest of Moroccan is its cuisine. Lamb, beef, chicken, fish and a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits are the principal constituents of the Moroccan diet. Some sample dishes include “kefta”, ground beef or lamb seasoned and cooked over charcoal ; “tagine”, a meat stew with vegetables ; “couscous”, steamed semolina grains with meat and vegetables ; “mechoui”, roasted lamb. Mint tea is the national drink, a cheap refreshing drink which is made with green tea and masses of white sugar.

Religious holdays:
Religious holidays are observed for two working days. Since then, they are based on the lunar calendar, their dates vary each year.

First of Moharram - the first day of the hegira, the Muslim year
Aid El Mawlid - the birth of the prophet Mohamed (PBUH)
Aid El Fitr - the end of Ramadan
Aid El Adha - the commemoration of the “sacrifice” of Isaac by Abraham

National holidays:
January 1, New Year
January 11, Independence Manifesto
July 30, Throne Day
August 14, Commemoration of Oued Eddahab
August 21, Youth Day (King Mohammed VI Birthday)
August 20, Revolution of the King and the People
November 6, Commemoration of the Green March
November 18, Independence Day

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