Morocco is an ethnically diverse country with a rich culture and civilisation. Through Moroccan history, it has hosted many people coming from East (Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Jews and Arabs), South (Sub-Saharan Africans) and North (Romans, Andalusians). All those civilisations have affected the social structure of Morocco. It hosts various forms of beliefs, from paganism, Judaism, and Christianity to Islam.
Since independence, a veritable blossoming has taken place in painting and sculpture, popular music, amateur theatre, and filmmaking. The Moroccan National Theatre (founded 1956) offers regular productions of Moroccan and French dramatic works. Art and music festivals take place throughout the country during the summer months, among them the World Sacred Music Festival at Fès.
Each region possesses its own specificities, thus contributing to the national culture and to the legacy of civilization. Morocco has set among its top priorities the protection of its diverse legacy and the preservation of its cultural heritage.
Culturally speaking, Morocco has always been successful in combining its Berber, Jewish and Arabic cultural heritage with external influences such as the French and the Spanish and, during the last decades, the Anglo-American lifestyles.
Women are at times sexually harassed when walking the streets, a woman walking the streets of Casablanca while filmed by The Moroccan Times was harassed about 300 times.
The indigenous Berber people and a series of foreign invaders as well as religious and cultural influences have shaped Morocco's architectural styles. The vernacular architecture can range from ornate with bold with colours to simple, clean lines with earth tones.
Influences from the Arab world, Spain, Portugal and France are seen in Moroccan architecture, both on their own and blended with Berber and Islamic styles. Among the buildings, and old Kasbah walls, sit French style-towns left behind by colonisation and intersect with intricately detailed mosques and riad-style homes. Sleek, modern designs are being constructed in cities like Rabat and Casablanca that give no particular homage to any of the past Moroccan architecture styles.
Moroccan literature is written in Arabic, Berber and French. Under the Almohad dynasty Morocco experienced a period of prosperity and brilliance of learning. The Almohad built the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, which accommodated no fewer than 25,000 people, but was also famed for its books, manuscripts, libraries and book shops, which gave it its name; the first book bazaar in history. The Almohad Caliph Abu Yakub had a great love for collecting books. He founded a great library, which was eventually carried to the Casbah and turned into a public library.
Modern Moroccan literature began in the 1930s. Two main factors gave Morocco a pulse toward witnessing the birth of a modern literature. Morocco, as a French and Spanish protectorate left Moroccan intellectuals the opportunity to exchange and to produce literary works freely enjoying the contact of other Arabic literature and Europe. Three generations of writers especially shaped 20th century Moroccan literature. The first was the generation that lived and wrote during the Protectorate (1912–56), its most important representative being Mohammed Ben Brahim (1897–1955).
The second generation was the one that played an important role in the transition to independence with writers like Abdelkrim Ghallab (1919–2006), Allal al-Fassi (1910–1974) and Mohammed al-Mokhtar Soussi (1900–1963). The third generation is that of writers of the sixties. Moroccan literature then flourished with writers such as Mohamed Choukri, Driss Chraïbi, Mohamed Zafzaf and Driss El Khouri. Those writers were an important influence the many Moroccan novelists, poets and playwrights that were still to come.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Morocco was a refuge and artistic centre and attracted writers as Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and William S. Burroughs. Moroccan literature flourished with novelists such as Mohamed Zafzaf and Mohamed Choukri, who wrote in Arabic, and Driss Chraïbi and Tahar Ben Jelloun who wrote in French. Other important Moroccan authors include, Abdellatif Laabi, Abdelkrim Ghallab, Fouad Laroui, Mohammed Berrada and Leila Abouzeid. Orature (oral literature) is an integral part of Moroccan culture, be it in Moroccan Arabic or Berber.
Moroccan music is of Arabic, Berber and sub-Saharan origins. Rock-influenced chaabi bands are widespread, as is trance music with historical origins in Islamic music.
Morocco is home to Andalusian classical music that is found throughout North Africa. It probably evolved under the Moors in Cordoba, and the Persian-born musician Ziryab is usually credited with its invention. A genre known as Contemporary Andalusian Music and art is the brainchild of Morisco visual artist/composer/oudist Tarik Banzi, founder of the Al-Andalus Ensemble.
Chaabi ("popular") is a music consisting of numerous varieties which are descended from the multifarious forms of Moroccan folk music. Chaabi was originally performed in markets, but is now found at any celebration or meeting.
Aita is a Bedouin musical style sung in the countryside.
Popular Western forms of music are becoming increasingly popular in Morocco, such as fusion, rock, country, metal and, in particular, hip hop.
Morocco participated in the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, where it finished in the penultimate position.
Cinema in Morocco has a long history, stretching back over a century to the filming of Le chevrier Marocain ("The Moroccan Goatherd") by Louis Lumière in 1897. Between that time and 1944, many foreign movies were shot in the country, especially in the Ouarzazate area.
In 1944, the Moroccan Cinematographic Center (CCM), the nation's film regulatory agency, was established. Studios were also opened in Rabat.
In 1952, Orson Welles' Othello won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival under the Moroccan flag. However, the Festival's musicians did not play the Moroccan national anthem, as no one in attendance knew what it was.
Six years later, Mohammed Ousfour would create the first Moroccan movie, Le fils maudit ("The Damned Son").
In 1968, the first Mediterranean Film Festival was held in Tangier. In its current incarnation, the event is held in Tetouan.
This was followed in 1982 with the first national festival of cinema, which was held in Rabat.
In 2001, the first International Film Festival of Marrakech (FIFM) was also held in Marrakech.