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Morocco - The Land of Magic

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Entrance to Koutoubia Mosque, Marrekech

This mountainous country of western North Africa lies directly across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain with Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north – making it the only African country to have coastal exposure to both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.

Though just a few hours of flight from Europe, it is a completely different world. The difference is so huge that it actually gives you the ‘travel hormone’ rush you so desire when you pack your bags! Sat in the old taxi which had camel-skin type of upholstery we gazed outside to feel the warm air and marvel at the pink architecture against a somewhat arid background. The palm trees, the bougainvillea’s, the succulents popping out of the dry land added some colour and character to the unique canvas.

Streets of Marrakech Medina

Due to its strategic location, Morocco has attracted ruling dynasties since historic times. It was the westernmost province of the Roman Empire and following Arab invasion the broader area of North Africa came to be known as the Maghrib (which in Arabic means “the West”) which turned majority of the population to Islam. The most notable dynasty was the Almoravid, whose empire stretched from Andalusia (southern Spain) to sub-Saharan Africa in the 11th century.

The quintessential Moroccan food - Chicken Tagine

Morocco also happens to be the only northwest African country to avoid Ottoman occupation. The Alaouite dynasty, which rules to this day, seized power in the 17th century. But as history would have it, the Europeans went out on their quest to control the Atlantic coast. The Portuguese empire began in Morocco in the 15th century and lasted into the 17th century. But Europe’s interest continued to linger and after a lot of political power games Morocco was divided into French and Spanish protectorates, with an international zone in Tangier in 1912. Morocco regained its independence in 1956 and the Kingdom now has an elected parliament along with monarchy and has significant influence over both the African and the Arab world.

Design of Moroccan tiles are mainly based on Islamic art

The indigenous people of Morocco are called Berbers (or Imazighen) and are the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa. The largest populations live in Morocco and Algeria and speak various Amazigh languages belonging to the Afro-Asiatic family related to ancient Egyptian. If Berber sounds familiar it is probably due to the huge surge of popularity of Berber rugs which are quite in trend now!

The predominant religion is Islam, and the main language is Arabic (Moroccan dialect of Arabic is known as Darija) and Berber. French is also widely spoken. There is a heavy Arabic and European influence on the culture, architecture, and overall feel of the place.

A man in djellaba - a traditional Moroccan outfit

What also adds to the feel of the place is the clothing! We often forget how much we associate a place and its history by its people's clothing, and it is always a huge achievement for any country if its people still wear their traditional attire in their daily lives. The ancient attire of a long robe called djellaba with full sleeves and a pointy hood (tob) and the flat leather slippers (babouche or Balgha) can still be seen everywhere in Morocco! The djellaba was traditionally made of sheep wool. The tob is also used as a little backpack to store and carry things around like bread! Quite a smart idea! Men also wear a traditional headdress called Fez or Tarbush usually red in colour with a tassel.

Entrance to Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

There are lots of cities to visit in Morocco- like Meknes, Fez, Chefchaouen, Tangier, etc. Rabat is the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco whilst Casablanca is its largest city. We visited Marrakesh and Casablanca during our stay.

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