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Moroccan culture - A brief summary

Moroccan society comes from an agropastoral tradition, where honesty is placed in the rank of virtue. Moroccans have a close relationship to the sacred, they like a well done job  and are fine negotiators. In Morocco hospitality is a duty, but the Amazigh can become a rabid warrior when it comes to protecting his wealth or ensuring solidarity within his group. Rich in history, Morocco has always been able to take advantage of the contributions of the companies it has rubbed shoulders with and absorb them. Globalization, migration, the evolution of the contemporary world project Moroccan society towards new horizons where tradition meets modernity.


1.An agropastoral society

Moroccan society is basically an agro-pastoral society which maintains a primordial relationship with the land and the herd. All the nuances between nomadism and sedentarism have existed there: transhumant nomadism, nomadic transhumance, rearing among sedentary people and occasional plowing among nomads. Rain is eagerly awaited in autumn and spring; when it is slow to fall, we castigate the "deviant" behaviors of men, we activate the ritual practice including the rogatory prayer or « The bride of the rain ». A link exists at sea too, as fishing activity is traditionally complementary to agropastoral life. On land and at sea, goods circulate and exchange for consideration or simply to build bonds, expand the circle of relations, maintain friendship, neighborhood or solidarity.

 2.Honesty has rank of virtue

The well done work is always considered as value in Morocco; honesty is hoisted to the rank of virtue. Both are horizons to which one must constantly strive. The reality of social relations shows the fallibility of humans in this register; but it is always good to remember the "right path" even to the most honest people. Religious preaching, the hagiographic story, the moralist tale, the proverb, the adage, the poem, among others, serve to support the preacher, the troubadour, the storyteller, the bard, or the simple prose-writer. In infinite repetition, we seek less to convince than to recall. A supreme, diffuse and immanent morality ends up tainting social relations, behaviors, language, polite expressions, attitudes and proprieties.


 3.The sacred pegged to the body

The social relations that people maintain, especially the days of festivities or celebrations, mourning or distress that punctuate life, are consolidated by a close relationship to the sacred. Far wider than religion, the sacred includes both religion and all forms of religiosity and sacredness that characterize Moroccan society. The sacred is at two levels: 

  • at the horizontal level, it is found everywhere in the territory whatever the latitude or the altitude, in plain, in mountain, in the desert or on the coasts;
  • at the vertical level, it radiates like a wave network, each sacred point emitting on a given radius (sacred source, tree or forest, rock, mountain peak, village santon, valley patron saint, city or of region, « Zaouïa », oratory of district or village, cathedral mosque ...). Not to mention the characters holding the « baraka » and ranging from the local seer to the preacher to the national aura, through several intermediate levels of skill or popularity.

 4.Enjoying a well-deserved rest

Breeders, peasants, tradesmen and artisans all show a love for a well done job. But they know enjoying a well deserved rest: among breeders, days of shearing sheep give rise to an intense recreational activity; among the peasants, days are idle to rest, to purify themselves; among artisans and traders, it is still customary today, in the medinas, to close shop on Fridays. they purify themselves, they dresses themselves properly to visit a relative or a neighbor or simply to make a tour in town or in the village. In Marrakesh, between artisans, we prepare a  tangia (jug in pottery where we cook the meat in the ashes of the fire of a hammam) and we will enjoy it together in a garden on the edge of the city. It always ends with a noisy  dakka marrakchia , a mixture of male songs and dances whose rhythm rises crescendo to the sound of rattlesnakes, drums, tambourines and hands that are struck, fingers fan-shaped.

 5.A fine negotiator

The agricultural, pastoral, artisanal product is primarily intended to satisfy family consumption, that of the community, but it does not escape the exchange, the circulation. It has been said of the Moroccan that he is a negotiator. Everything is a pretext for bargaining : the pile of vegetables in a souk like the sheep of the Eid or the 4x4 last cries. The Moroccans take the opportunity to discuss things and others before returning to the object of the sale. The Moroccan has trouble accepting the price display: this is confusing and suspicious. The Moroccans prefer the effort to find the right price for vulgar labeling. One fears to be rolled, one redoubles of pugnacity in the negotiation. The Moroccan merchant uses a lot of subterfuges to embellish the goods, to rent the quality of the service or, on the buyer side, to negotiate the best price arguing, for example, that we want to buy two pairs instead of one. The merchant is not mistaken that raises the price, pertinently convinced that he will have to agree to lower it when the time comes.

 6. The Amazigh "Berber " is a fierce warrior

The defense of his land is another character of the Moroccan. The Berber  Amazigh, it has been said and written, is a fierce warrior: since the highest antiquity, his coveted land has taught him to sacrifice himself. The episodes of the leader Aedemon in revolt after the assassination of the son of Juba II, the king Ptolémée, by Caligula (40 J.-C.), Koseïla repelling the army of Oqba (seventh century), Saâdiens defending the ribs against the Spanish and the Portuguese (sixteenth century), and more recently the resistance to Franco-Spanish colonization (1907-1936) are uplifting examples. The weapons engraved on the stone or chiselled in the metal, the control of the fantasia and the equestrian games, the war dances are some distinctive cultural marks. Of course, this does not exclude treachery, misunderstandings and wickedness. This does not exclude very human behavior for fear of death, fear for oneself, betrayal, but there is always someone to remind the reluctant of the duty, such as the marking of their henna clothes by women at the time of the fight. Less to make everyone laugh at it than to point out cowardice.

7.solidarity is a duty

In an adverse nature, the complementarity of men and their solidarity are much more than necessary. In two-thirds of the country, it rains so little and irregularly that pasture and cropland productivity is reduced. The epidemics, the internal wars, the disorders consecutive to the dynastic transitions add to the state of insecurity in which the Moroccans were found quite often during their history. To cope, complex social scaffolding has been in place since ancient times. It is based on family, kinship, real or fictional genealogical links. Commensality is sacred. The sharing of food makes commensals allies who must help each other. Covenant pacts called  tada were sealed between groups of different dimensions. The sharing of food (or salt, in reference to a key ingredient of the meal) can not be broken under penalty of curse. It is still invoked today to recall the links that unite (and continue to unite) commensals; whatever the degree of kinship between them. Hospitality is more than an obligation, a duty.


These profound traits of Moroccan culture are not visible everywhere and at all times of the long history of Morocco. Rather, it is a question of moral ceilings that society seems to have set for itself, towards which individuals must tend, constantly and indefinitely. Today, Moroccan culture has experienced profound changes. Traditional forms have experienced various modes of adaptation, have disappeared or are disappearing. New forms have been introduced such as theater, cinema, painting, sculpture, photography, music concert, video, etc. Creative media and modes of dissemination have diversified and modernized. Other modes of cultural consumption have been adopted and largely acclimatized. The content itself has been enriched by new themes that sometimes comply with the ambient moral standards that are sometimes contentious and critical of the majority consensus. This tension, often characterized by the combination of tradition and modernity, is what seems to characterize Moroccan culture today.


Author : J .Rodi

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