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Interesting facts about Morocco

I am fond of travelling. It is like getting a breath of fresh air. It is de-stressing, it is exciting, it is inspiring, and it makes you more conscious of the world you’re living in. And it also makes you grow, become more knowledgeable, wiser, cause you get to learn many things about the place, the culture, the people, the lifestyle. Travelling is knowledge, it is the best form of education, I believe. During this breathtaking trip, I learned many interesting facts about Morocco that have helped me better understand Moroccan culture. And I feel inspired to share my findings in this post.

stray cats of Morocco, Interesting Facts about Morocco
stray cats of Morocco

cats in Morocco

In Morocco, as in any other Islamic country, religion plays an important role. In Islam, dogs are seen as impure creatures while cats are sacred.

The legend says that the Islamic prophet Muhammad was fond of cats. Once when the prophet was getting ready to attend the morning prayer, he found his favorite cat Muezza sleeping on his tunic. He then decided to cut a piece of the fabric so as not to wake it up. This is just how much he loved the cat. In many Hadiths, a collection of sayings of the prophet, cats are revered, and any killing or persecution of this “quintessential pet” is prohibited.

And as you may or may not know, Hadiths are the second major source of guidance for Muslims following the Quran. That is one of the many reasons behind the growing cat population in Morocco as well as in other Islamic countries. You will see them literally everywhere on the streets. While some are well-fed, other might appear to be malnourished and angry.

Another reason behind the growing cat population in Morocco is the attitude of Muslims towards neutering. Thoughts are divided on this issue. This is not a common practice in Morocco, most likely because the act of neutering in Islam is seen as immoral. According to the traditional beliefs of the locals, “God will provide enough for all living creatures and no creature is born unless it is in accordance with God’s will”.

To date, there are some charities fighting to help the stray cats of Morocco, one of them being SPANA. You can donate money, food and/or time to help the feline community in Morocco.

adhan or the muslim call to prayer

When in Morocco, a distinctive and special thing you will stumble upon is the daily Adhans overheard from the mosques. Adhan means ‘call to prayer’. Muezzins or Mu’addhins are the designated people to recite the prayers at the mosque. The position they stand in is dictated by the position of the sun. They must align in such a way to face the qiblah, the direction of the Ka’bah in Makkah. There are 5 prayers recited during the day – Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, Isha. Some more interesting facts about the Muslim daily prayers.

Loudspeakers are normally used for Adhans all 5 times per day, sometimes starting as early as 4 am. Many unaware tourists might be surprised and confused to be woken up before sunrise by the loud prayers overheard from a nearby mosque. Mounted atop the minarets, they are used for the prayer to be heard at big distances. That is why no matter where you are during the day, you will hear these prayers melodiously chanted by the mu’addhins.

I have been told by the locals that the morning prayer Fajr is the most powerful one so mornings are a sacred time of the day for the Arabs. An interesting fact is that many Arabs use an application to track the prayer times (salat). They literally receive a notification on their phones with the exact time of the prayer.

Ait Souka Village, Interesting Facts about Morocco
Ait Souka Village

the Berber culture

Berbers, in antiquity called Libyans by the Greek, are an indigenous ethnic group in North Africa that ruled for hundreds of years in the region of Maghreb long before the arrival of the Arab-speaking populations. They make up to an estimated 30 to 40 million people in Africa that speak a language called Tamazight. The majority are found in Morocco, Algeria, and to a lesser degree in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.

They call themselves Amazighen (singular: Amazigh), and are largely unhappy about the term Berbers they are associated with due to the word’s negative connotations. The word Amazighen stands for “free people”, so Berbers refer to themselves as free people. In the world, they’re portrayed as nomadic tribes with own distinctive customs, faith and beliefs, who cross the desert on camels. But the idea is somewhat distorted as the main occupation of Amazighen is and has always been agriculture along with commercial trade between regions.

The process of Arabization related to Muslim conquests of the land has marginalized and oppressed the evolution of the Indigenous culture and language. Only in Morocco, Amazighen people account to more than 60% of the local population, though the government is trying to conceal the numbers and suppress any manifestation of Amazigh ethnicity and rights. Linguistic repression is also widely present with Amazighen children being punished at school for speaking their mother tongue. Due to the restrictions imposed, Tamazight language has not taken advantage of any linguistic developments. As a result, in the world today, North Africa is perceived as an Arab region with Arabic as the only language prevailing. To date, there are many local and international diasporic organizations fighting for Amazigh political rights in North African countries and are determined as never before to revive the Amazigh culture.

Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou in Ouarzazate, Interesting Facts about Morocco
Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou in Ouarzazate

second largest film set in the world

Morocco is a country boasting of incredible desert landscapes and picture perfect antique architecture that has caught the attention of Hollywood. To date, the country is home to the second largest film set in the world being the preferred location of Hollywood directors when they need to shoot a Biblical film or portray a war zone.

One of such iconic Hollywood film sets in Morocco is the Ait Ben Haddou fortified village located in the city of Ouarzazate, an abandoned city that lies in the middle of the Moroccan desert. The city is well- known in the film industry as Morocco’s capital of film. This pre-Saharan habitat consists of “a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls”. Located on the edge of the High Atlas Mountains, the village is featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and this is where films like Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, Game ofThrones TV show and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ were filmed.

Atlas Studios in Morocco is another widely famous film set located in the same Ouarzazate city. Also known as the abandoned “Hollywood in the Desert”, this abandoned film set is one of the most visited places in Morocco. You may have largely seen it in the Game of Thrones series in scenes starring Khaleesi ‘The Queen of Dragons’.

As I’m yet to recollect the wide plethora of my sweet memories from this trip (more about my 1st day in Marrakech), I believe there’s still a lot to learn about this country and the Moroccan culture. More interesting facts about Morocco will follow as soon as I manage to get over this post-travel depression.

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