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Morocco

Geography & Topography

Capital: Rabat

Population: 32,644,370

Area:  446,550 km2

Language: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, French (often the language of business, government, and diplomacy)

Religion: Muslim 99%, Christian 1%, Jewish about 6,000

Currency: Moroccan Dirham

History

Morocco is located in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and the Western Sahara. Morocco is a heady mix of languages, cultures, religions, ancient traditions and modern sensibilities.

Moroccan music, influenced by Arab, Amazigh, African and Andalusian traditions, makes use of some traditional instruments like the flute, shawm, harp and various short necked lutes. Younger Moroccans enjoy ravo, a style of plain-speaking Algerian music that includes traditional sounds with Western rock, Jamaican reggae, and Egyptian and Moroccan popular music.

 

Performing Arts

Music

The most recognisable instruments in traditional Morrocan music are:

Moroccan Qraqeb

 Moroccan Qraqeb: This instrument is handmade in Morocco from steel. It is in a form of 4 cymbals also called qraqeb or qraqesh. Each pair of the Qraqeb is connected with a ring to keep them together. Each hand holds one pair by having the thumb hold one side and the other 3 or 4 fingers hold the other side. The cymbals have 2 wholes each through which a string is placed for holding it. This instrument is played along with the Guinbri and or the tbel, a barrel drum with two heads struck with sticks. The Qraqeb are played by the Gnawa of Morocco for entertainment, also during special events and ritual ceremonies. The Gnawa are descendants of migrants and enslaved people from sub-Saharan countries.

 

Tam Tam

 

 

Tam Tam: The Drum, or Tam Tam plays, a big part in the arts and culture of morocco. Moroccan artists have been using  the same techniques to make drums for centuries. Traditional drums are made of either ceramic or wood. The ceramic being hand painted with highly decorative traditional designs. Whereas the wood drum can be made from several pieces shaped and glued together or carved from a solid trunk or root. Both types are normally skinned with goat skin.

 

 

Dance

Morocco is home to dozens of different traditional dances and musical styles rooted in Arab, Berber and African culture.

Shikat or Belly Dancing

Shikat

Shikat: A dance commonly known as Moroccan ‘belly dance’ or arabesque. Professional shikat dancers wear colorful costumes with tight, midriff-baring sequined tops and long loose skirts or pants. The dance is characterized by sensual hip movements, pelvic undulations and flowing hand movements. Often a hip scarf is worn to bring attention to the movements of the lower body. Belly dance music alternates between rhythmic percussion sections which call for quick, sharp body movements and fluid string sections that prompt more graceful, flowing movements.

Guedra: A traditional dance of the Tuareg Berber from the Goulmime area in southern Morocco. The dance’s name comes from the name of a

Guedra Dancers

traditional cooking pot called the guedra that is used to provide the percussive beat of the dance. Only women take part in the dance, and they usually wear loose blue robes and festive head dresses decorated with cowrie shells.

Awash: Performed in the High Atlas Mountains and particularly in the Ouarzazate area, the awash dance takes place around a fire. The male participants sit in a circle playing wooden bendir drums, while the women stand motionless in a larger circle. As the rhythm of the drums increase the women start swaying with the beat.

Gnawa: A type of music with Sub-Saharan roots and both Arab and Berber influences. The Moroccan oboe, or ghaita, is played to a background of highly rhythmic percussion. Gnawa dance is characterized by swaying motions, high jumping and acrobatic movements. It is usually performed by a group of men. Visitors to Morocco can see see gnawa performances at the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival or the World Gnawa Festival that take place every summer in Morocco.

 

 

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Morocco gained independence from France in 1956.
  • Morocco is situated in North Africa and it is the only African country that is presently not a member of the ‘African Union’.
  • Morocco is a member of the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union, the Francophonie, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mediterranean Dialogue group and Group of 77.
  •  Morocco is a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
  • The official language of Morocco is Arabic. However, Berber (another dialect) and French are also spoken widely.
  • Moroccan cuisine is a mixture of European and African cuisine, due to its location between Europe and Africa.
  • Morocco is the 12th richest country in Africa.

Moroccan Community in Australia:

More information on the Moroccan community: