Morocco has a diverse and dynamic history that has seen a long line of different rulers including Romans, French, Spanish, Jews, Arabs, and Berbers. This diversity is reflected in many aspects of Moroccan life, namely in language, dress, cuisine and culture.
Traveling from one region to another in Morocco seems more like traveling from country to country. Because the cultural diversity from one city to another is amazing. In general, however, Morocco can be divided into two main cultures: Arabic and Berber. And everyone has their own charm. Tourists visiting Morocco will definitely not be bored as they have to discover Morocco’s eclectic heritage at every step.
The Berbers were the first inhabitants of North Africa and are also considered indigenous. Berber history goes back more than 5,000 years. The Berbers are a group of people who may have migrated from the Middle East or Eurasia to the westernmost coast of the Atlantic Ocean and as far as Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. It wasn’t until the 7th century, with the Arab invasion, that the Berbers “Arabized” Islam and adopted it.
There are three main Berber groups in Morocco who speak the three different Berber languages. Berbers from the coral reefs of northern Morocco speak Tarifit, barbers from the Middle Atlas region speak Tamazight, and people from the High Atlas region and Souss in the south speak Tashelheet. Berber texts differ from Arabic and are called Tifinagh.
Berbers, which most Moroccans call Shlooh, make up more than half of Morocco’s population and live mainly in southern Morocco. Today, many attempts have been made to preserve the Berber identity and promote their culture. As a result, Berber has recently been introduced as a mandatory language in primary schools. The main characteristics of the Berber culture are its nomadic way of life, folk music, beautiful poetry and silver jewelry.
Arabs experience a different story in Morocco. When they invaded Morocco in the late 7th century, their conquest met fierce resistance from the Berbers. Finally the Arabs succeeded in conquering Morocco and forcing Berbers to adopt Arabic culture and Muslim religion.
Arabs make up about 40% of Morocco’s population and mostly live in the northern region of Morocco. One of the main features of Arabic culture in Morocco are customs, language, music, religion, food and clothing, to name a few.
Apart from Berber and Arab influences in Morocco, there is also Andalusian influence in the north and Saharan influence in the south. Due to the Christian conquest of Spain, there were many Muslim and Jewish exiles from Spain to Morocco, which explains the Spanish / Andalusian element in Moroccan culture, especially in music and food. You will see a lot of black Moroccans in southern Morocco. It was during the caravan trade that many Guinean slaves eventually grew up, and it was there that the influence of the music known as Gnawa was dominant, especially in Marrakech, the main stop of the caravan.
It should be noted that the official language of Morocco is Arabic. Most Moroccans speak Arabic regardless of origin. There is a nomadic minority of Berber who do not speak Arabic.
So, stay tuned on your next visit to Morocco to experience Moroccan diversity.