Morocco is like a tree whose roots lie in Africa but whose leaves breathe in European air. This is the metaphor that King Hassan II (1929-1999) used to describe a country that is both profoundly traditional and strongly drawn to the modern world. It is this double-sided, seemingly contradictory disposition that gives Morocco its cultural richness.
Morocco is a country that is unique in the Muslim world. Its richly diverse culture has been shaped by 3.000 years of history, by ethnic groups whose roots go far back in time, and also by its geographical location, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west, sub-Saharan Africa to the south, Europe to the north and the Mediterranean countries to the east.
The Moroccan people are torn between the lure of modernity on the one hand and a profound desire for Islamic reform on the other. With events such as the death in 1999 of Morocco´s sovereign, Hassan II, and the enthronement of his son and successor, Mohamed VI, as well as the establishment of a leftwing coalition government and the problems that that government faces freedom of the press, Morocco today stands on the threshold of a challenging new phase in the history.
With a mountain range exceeding a height of 4.000 m(13.130 ft) and a coastline stretching from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, Morocco has a varied topography. In environments ranging from arid scrublands to cedar forests and high mountains, plant life compromises over 4.000 species adapted to extreme conditions. The coast is visited by migratory birds while the mountains are the habitat of Barbary sheep and birds of prey, including the lammergeier.
The history of urban architecture in Morocco goes back more than 1.000 years. The Karaouiyine Mosque in Fès was built in 857 by the first Idrissi rulers of Morocco, who founded the city. From the age of the Idrissids until the 20th century, a succession of many different architectural styles has produced a rich architectural heritage. The artistic conventions and styles of each period shed light on the secular and religious life of the rulers and people who lived in those times.
Morocco´s Medinas almost all have the same layout. The typical medina (meaning „town“ in arabic) consists of a densely packed urban conglomeration enclosed within defensive walls set with lookout towers. The tangle of narrow winding streets and countless alleyways turns the layout of a medina into a labyrinth. The centre of the medina is cut through by wide avenues running between the main gateways and by other main streets, which, as defensive measures, are either angled or closed off by houses or projecting walls.
The custom of producing utilitarian objects that are visually pleasing and enlivened with decoration is a deeply rooted tradition among Moroccan craftsmen. They inject beauty into the humblest of materials, from leather, wood and clay, to copper and wool. The importance given to decoration is often so great that it sometimes takes precedence over the object to which it is applied.
The endless interplay of arabesques, interlacing patterns, beguiling floral motifs and intricate inscriptions are an integral part of traditional Moroccan life. (read more about in the Blog)