Sunday, May 27, 2012

Morocco: A Kaleidoscope of Cultures & Ethnicities

Since I’ve lived here in Morocco, I’ve heard many things about Morocco.  Many of them misguided and many of them quite incorrect.  When I speak of Morocco with those who have not been here, I hear a great deal about black Africans and many other things which are simply not correct.

What then is a Moroccan?  Is he an Arab?  Is he a Berber?  Are there other kinds of Moroccans?  The answer to all three questions is yes.  The ancient natives of Morocco are most commonly known as Berbers.  This is the name which was given to them by the Romans when they were on their conquest of the Mediterranean world.  It means “Barbarian”.  The label which these people give themselves however, is Amazigh (pronounced Amazeer).  It means “Free Men”.  They may be the original inhabitants of Morocco, but they are not the only inhabitants.  There were in older times, a large number of Jews here.  They came in two groups, the first group, known as the Toshavim came to Morocco when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed Herod’s temple in 70 A.D.  The second group known as the Megorashim came from Spain when Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Muslims and Jews from Andalousia (southern Spain) in the 15th century.  Of course there is also a large contingent of Arabs here.  They are really the majority now, having come to Morocco in the 10th century with Moulay Idriss I. 

What languages are spoken here?  There are three Amazigh dialects which are spoken in this country, in addition to Arabic and the French which was brought to this country when it was a French colony under the Protectorate.  

Morocco has been colonized many times throughout its history.  The Romans were here although they did not control a great deal of territory.  They were followed by the Arabs and then various parts of the country were colonized by the French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Great Britain.  The result is that there is not one singular “Moroccan Culture” but rather the culture is like a vessel of fine crystal which shows various colors and aspects as the light shines through it.  If one will search, one can find not only mosques, but synagogues, and churches.  One can find various languages spoken depending upon the region.  Arabic, French, and Spanish are common and even though Arabic is the official language of the country, I have known Amazigh persons who speak Amazigh and know little Arabic at all.  Morocco is beautiful and it is diverse.  The Moroccan culture is a conglomeration of many cultures and is influenced by many different ethnic and religious groups.  Those who have not seen it, must see it.  It is difficult to fathom without having visited it.  It is like a great work of art.  One can attempt to describe it, but words are nothing compared to actually seeing and experiencing it.    

Jillali (جيلالي)  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article. It gives an idea about the cultures and languages of Morocco. Very well said.