Although united under the umbrella term, Moroccans, the people of Morocco are a multi-ethnic group. From the dawn of humanity to modern times, various groups have made this spot on the northwestern edge of Africa their homeland.
Moroccan people are among the most historically and culturally rich groups globally, with a history that spans more than 300,000 years. With a rich ethnic diversity, Morocco stands out as one of the unique countries in Africa, along with its neighbors: Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
So, what is it about Moroccan people? That’s what we’ll explore in this all-encompassing article about 10 things to know about Moroccan people.
Table of content
- The Ethnicity of Moroccan People
- The History of Moroccan People
- The Religion of Moroccan People
- The General Attitude of Moroccan People
- The Values of Moroccan People
- Things that Are Special About Moroccans
- Traditional Moroccans
- Modern Moroccans
- Famous Contemporary Moroccan celebrities
- Moroccan People who Changed the World
1.The Ethnicity of Moroccan People
As I’ve already stated, Moroccans are a multi-ethnic group, with the majority having a mixed genetic background. Morocco’s most prominent ethnic group is the Amazigh people, also known as Berbers. Many Moroccans consider Berber a pejorative term because the colonial powers that took over North Africa in the past used that term with negative connotations. Arab ancestry is also prominent in Morocco. However, some other groups exist in small numbers, like the Jewish people.
Indigenous Moroccan people (Amazigh People)
Moroccan archeological records suggest that humans have inhabited the region ever since 300,000 ago, which is the oldest trace of humanity.
Indigenous Moroccans are known as Amazighs. This ethnic group is spread all over North Africa. The ancestry of Amazighs in Morocco goes back to the prehistoric era. They used to live in tribes centered around families and relatives.
Almost all Moroccans can extend their ancestry way back to these indigenous groups. The most prominent tribes of Amazighs are the Riffians, the Shilha, and the Zayans. The more dark-skinned Moroccans, who usually occupy the south, are known as Haratins and Gnawa; these groups originate from southern oases.
Early Moroccan people
Early Moroccans shared their ancestry with the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Ancient Egyptians. There’s a huge genetic similarity between all of these North African ethnicities. The similarities can also be seen in traditions.
Judo-Christian Moroccan People
Judaism and Christianity used to be prominent in Morocco before the Arab Muslims dominated the region.
Many Jewish people and Romans inhabited Morocco during the old times and mixed with the indigenous tribes.
The dawn of Arabs in Morocco came with Islamic conquests after the death of Prophet Muhammed (SAW) in the centuries following 632 AD.
The most prominent person in the history of Islam in Morocco is Idriss I: the first monarch who united the Amazighs after his marriage to a princess of one of the tribes.
The Arabs came to Morocco from the Middle East and Andalusia and mixed with the Amazighs in the following centuries.
Although many Moroccans identify as Arabs, their genetic background suggests that they also had Amazigh ancestors.
Contemporary Moroccan People
Contemporary Moroccans are a multi-ethnic group. While the predominant majority are Arab/Berbers, many Moroccans are only half Moroccan, with one parent from Europe, America, the Middleeast, Asia, and Sub-saharan Africa.
Moroccans in the mainland are mostly Amaizighs and Arabs. But all over the world, you can find a Moroccan with a parent from a far away ethnic group.
2.The History of Moroccan People
Here’s a quick run-down of Moroccan history.
Archeological data that goes back to the paleolithic era suggest that Moroccan people can be traced way back to the dawn of humanity. Whether you believe we evolved apes, the ancient Atlantians, or aliens, the land we know now as Morocco is probably where it all started.
In 2013, the bones of the most ancient remains of homo-sapiens (300,000 BC) were found near Essaouira in western Morocco, making Morocco hold the earliest trace of humanity.
The Amazigh tribes were the most dominant groups in Morocco in early history. These tribes shared many attributes with the nearby civilizations: Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians.
In its early history, Morocco was ruled by Berber Kings, the likes of those who led the Kingdom of Mauretania (3rd century BC – 40 AD).
The Romans used to have alliances with the local Berber tribes. The history of the Roman Empire goes along with the history of the Berber Kingdom of Mauretania.
Muslim History began in Morocco as far as the 7th century when the Muslims expanded all over North Africa, South Europe, and West Asia from their Middle eastern homes.
When we talk about Islamic history in Morocco, we’re talking about the first dynasties that united the early Moroccan Kingdom. Most Moroccan historians attribute the first Moroccan kingdom to Idriss I and his son Idriss II who ruled Morocco from their capital city Fez 12 centuries ago.
Fez is the oldest imperial city in Morocco, with a history that goes back to the 8th century AD.
Many Berber/Muslim dynasties rose and fell along the 12-century timeline, most notably the Al-Mohads, Al-Moravids, and the Saadians. The current ruling dynasty is called the Alaouite, and their ancestry goes back to the Idrissid dynasty.
Like its neighboring countries, Morocco was subjugated to the colonial endeavors of European countries in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Spain, France, and Germany all had their eyes on Morocco.
Spain and France succeeded in occupying many Moroccan regions and were met with resistance from Amazigh tribes. The bloody wars ended up with France and Spain winning because they had advanced weaponry.
Morocco regained its independence (1956) with the strong resistance of Moroccans and the king at the time, Mohammed V.
Ever since its independence, Morocco has taken a progressive turn of events with the reign of Hassan II and his son Mohammed VI. The current king is Mohammed VI, and he’s known for his progressive agenda that favors globalism, progressivism, and making positive diplomatic relations with the West.
3.The Religion of Moroccan People
The beliefs of the very early Moroccans were basic on their ancestry. The worship of the great ancestors, the first ones, was a huge thing in Morocco. Even today, the traces of this belief system still have their traces in language; Moroccans often say, “God Bless your Parents” instead of saying “thank you (shokran).” Islamic monotheism is the belief system that dominates contemporary Morocco, but traces of old beliefs are still there.
Early Moroccans shared their ancestry and religious background with Carthaginians and Egyptians. During these times, Moroccan tribes had pagan influences.
The Roman empire also used to occupy many Moroccan regions, namely in the North, making Roman paganism prominent during these times. You can still visit the remains of ancient pagan temples in Morocco for old Roman deities like Jupiter (Greek counterpart: Zeus). Volubilis is the spot you want to visit if you’re looking for the remains of ancient Roman Paganism in Morocco.
Judaism and Christianity used to be prominent in Morocco before the Arab Muslims dominated the region. The Roman Catholic Church also had its influence in Morocco in the old times. A
Before the times of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW), some Moroccan regions were predominantly Jewish. The history of Judaism in the region goes back thousands of years.
Southern cities like Taroudant, Tinghir, and Essaouira still have many Jewish influences.
Moroccans welcomed Islam as the most dominant religion when Idriss I took refuge in indigenous tribes. Idriss I was the first monarch of Morocco after he made an alliance with the Amazigh tribes in the 8th century AD.
The History of Morocco from that time onward was the history of the rises and falls of Islamic kingdoms.
Contemporary Moroccan Beliefs
A 2009 study showed that 99% of Moroccans identify as Muslims. However, because the study was made in a country with Islam as an official religion, it’s hard to know exactly how accurate those numbers are.
Young Moroccans still identify as Muslims, but they share many values with Western Enlightenment values of reason over superstition when studied closely. One can say that a lot of young Moroccans suffer from the same loss of spiritual belief that Westerners do. Aside from the dogmatic aspects of organized religion, many Moroccans care little for spirituality or the individual-God relationship that old Moroccan Sufis used to talk about.
The values of liberalism, capitalism, and globalism have taken over the dominant role in the belief system of contemporary Morocco. Religion is mainly an apparatus of the state that guarantees the success of the above values.
4.The General Attitude of Moroccan People
Most Moroccans can be described as friendly and peaceful. Moroccans got used to multi-culturalism and diversity as a nation, especially in urban areas.
The rural areas can seem a little bit more tribal and conservative when it comes to dealing with outsiders, but that’s hardly ever a problem when interacting with Moroccans.
Most foreigners describe Moroccan people as tolerant, hospitable, and easy-going. Since Morocco is a touristic country, it’s not a surprise that such attitudes prevail.
Even though Moroccans are Muslim and may seem religious, they don’t mind encountering non-Muslims doing things that are considered forbidden in Islam. The general attitude is live and let live.
5.The Values of Moroccan People
Hospitality is a matter of cultural pride among Moroccans, especially in traditional families. There’s a whole set of traditions and customs practiced especially for guests in traditional Moroccan homes.
One of the best ways to encounter Moroccan hospitality and experience it firsthand is to travel with an agency that organizes tours in which you can visit a traditional Moroccan family.
You’ll rarely find difficulty being welcomed into somewhere all over Morocco just because you’re a foreigner. A true Moroccan will always have a genuine, welcoming smile welcoming for a respectable foreigner.
In traditional Moroccan families, family is the number one value. Individuality in Morocco is only a product of intercourse with Western culture. Traditional Moroccans regarded the family circle as the priority of the individual. Homes were big and inhabited by multiple generations. The old father and mother are the patriarch and the matriarch of the family, and their children share the home with their parents.
Children old enough to get married either stayed with their parents or had a home near them. The whole family usually gathers for meals and chats. Men often do the outside work while women stay at home to take care of the family. The whole collective super-organism called family (the owners of the house) works synergetically to maintain the peace and stability of each individual member, which sometimes demands compromise and sacrifice from the individual.
Chastity has always been a well-established virtue among Moroccans, especially with Islam. Islam is a religion that values chastity and traditional family structures. Sexual encounters are only meant to happen under wedlock, which the family often arranges. Parents pride the chastity of their children, especially their daughters. Girls are meant to lose their virginity only under wedlock.
While these values are vanishing from contemporary Moroccan families due to contact with the Western post-modern thinking and feminism, the old generation still regards them very highly.
6.Things that Are Special About Moroccans
Multi-culturalism is the thing that stands out most about Moroccans. Moroccans are moderate Muslims who live in a constitutional monarchy with liberal, capitalist values. Moroccans are can easily communicate with all the Arab countries as well as Europeans, Latino people, and Anglo Saxons. Centuries of cultural exchange with the Arab world and the West has made Moroccans open-minded to everyone. That’s why Moroccans often take a neutral stance when it comes to taking sides with some countries as opposed to others.
Take the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as an example: Moroccans are fully supportive of their brethren in Palestine, but that doesn’t mean cutting ties with their Jewish kin who left Morocco to inhabit Israel.
Traditional Moroccans usually refer to the old generation who grew up before the advancement of communication technology. When TV and the internet entered Morocco, many Moroccans were exposed to Western cultural values.
Traditional Moroccans are often devout Muslims who value family and collectivism more than individuality and egoism. The patriarch of the family is usually the person who provides for the family and makes all the big decisions.
Modern Moroccans are the new generation of millennials and GenZ. The baby boomers and generation X gave birth to subsequent generations who grew with global brands, cartoons from Europe, America, and Japan; and they listened to pop music coming from the West.
With the introduction of the internet and the country taking a progressive turn, the new generation of Moroccans found similarities with their Western counterparts.
Nowadays, you can’t distinguish between a Moroccan girl and a British girl judging from their clothes. Modern Moroccans value individualism and hedonism more than traditional values, which sometimes puts them in weird situations with their parents who grew up in traditional homes.
9.Famous Contemporary Moroccan celebrities
Many born Moroccans have achieved worldwide fame in many fields ranging from sports to music and films. Below is a list of people from Morocco who achieved worldwide fame.
The list only includes people who are famous contemporary
Achraf is one of the most beloved football players in Europe and the Arab world. He achieved the peak of fame after he transferred to Paris Saint-German. Devout Moroccan football fans rarely miss a game where he plays.
Gad Elmaleh is a Moroccan from a Jewish family who achieved fame in France as one of the highly-regarded comedians. He refreshed his career in the past few years by making comedy specials in English and touring America. He also has a Netflix mini-series called, Huge in France. The plot plays on the theme of him being super famous in France and virtually unrecognizable in America, which puts him in weird situations. One of the funniest scenes is when Jerry Sinfield laughs at him for believing he’s the “Jerry Sinfield of France.”
French Montana is a rapper and producer who was behind many hits that the whole world danced to. His song, Unforgettable, has over ONE billion views on YouTube alone.
Hicham Lasri is probably the most talented director in contemporary Morocco. Some of his movies push the limits of cinema to the full extent. Some of his great works are very abstract and funny. If you want a good movie to get you into the works of Hicham, you should go with Starve your Dog or End.
Toto, also known as Elgrande Toto, is one of the most famous contemporary rappers among the Moroccan youth for his brutal style and impeccable flow. Many people from all over the world know Moroccan rap from Toto’s songs.
Redone is one of the most popular producers in the whole world. The artists he worked with include Lady Gaga, Akon, Michael Jackson, U2, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Scherzinger, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Mariah Carey, Khaled, Alexandra Burke, One Direction, and Usher, just to name a few.
The Moroccan-born Pokimane is the number one female Twitch streamer. All the kids that watch follow gamers and Instagram personalities know who she is.
Hakim is the attacking midfielder and winger for Premier League club Chelsea. He’s one of the most Moroccan football players with a huge online community.
Bard Hari is a kickboxer who gained worldwide fame when he was the former K-1 Heavyweight champion and the It’s Showtime Heavyweight world champion. He’s currently ranked the #7 best heavyweight champion.
Sophia Pernas is a Hollywood star born to a Moroccan mother and Spanish father. She achieved fame through her extended filmography that goes back to 2009. She recently appeared in Secret Society of Second-Born Royals and Blood & Treasure.
Saïd is a movie star who began his career in France before he became a Hollywood celebrity. Since his face is recognizable from movies like Conan the Barbarian, G. I. Jo, and John Wick, I would like to suggest a more obscure movie he appeared in called Hideous Kinky. Staring Said and Kate Winslet, Hideous Kinky is the story of a Mother of two girls who found herself looking for love and spirituality in Marrakech of the hippie era. The movie is based on a true story.
10.Moroccan People who Changed the World
Below is a list of 4 Moroccan people who played a huge role in the history of human civilization and positively impacted the advancement of human knowledge, science, and technology.
Ibn Battuta’s travel book: The Travels, was one of the first books of its kind in the 14th century. In it, Ibn battuta recounts the chronicles of his journey across the medieval world that was known at the time. Many geographists that appeared after him owed a great deal of respect to his works.
The tomb of this great historical figure can be found in Tangier where he was born.
If it wasn’t for the discovery of Rachi Yazami in the field of electric batteries, you wouldn’t be using your smartphone or laptop.
Born in Fez, before he obtained his Ph.D. in 1985, Rachid has already discovered the secret behind what we now call the lithium battery.
A Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine winner, Baruj Bencerraf has shed a great deal of illumination upon the understanding of the immune system with his “discoveries concerning genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions,”. We owe a great deal of gratitude to his discoveries, especially during hardships such as the recent pandemic.
Born to a Jewish-Moroccan family in Casablanca in 1944, Serj is famous for the Nobel Prize in Physics he won. He gained his Nobel Prize “for the ground-breaking experimental methods he developed that enable measuring and manipulating individual quantum systems.” His method has changed the physics community around the world, especially in the field of quantum physics.
Though it’s not the most reliable go-to for serious research material, we hope you enjoyed learning some facts about Moroccan people. If you want to learn more about Moroccan people, you should read some books to get a clearer picture of their culture and attitudes.
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