Morocco has felt the influences of several ancient cultures. Excavations have unearthed elements of the Phoenician, Greek, Carthaginian, and Roman civilizations. Christianity spread to this region in Roman times and survived the Arab invasion, but Arabic influences, which began in the 7th century, were to prove the strongest. The Arabs brought to Morocco a written language that is still the primary language of business and culture. Over the centuries Morocco received an influx of Moors and Jews, who left Spain as a result of the Christian conquest or the Inquisition. As a result of Moorish influence, Morocco developed a style of music and architecture known as Arab-Andalusian. It soon spread to the rest of Islamic North Africa. The western African influence, seen in dances and other arts, spread northward with the establishment of trade routes across the Sahara from the 10th century on. Among more recent cultural influences, the strongest is that of France.
Morocco’s literary legacy goes back to the earliest days of Arab settlement and the foundation of Islamic civilization. The most famous of Morocco’s early writers is Ibn Battūtah, who was born in Tangier in 1304 and lived and worked throughout the then-known world, from Mali to India and China. He completed Rihla (“Travels”), the narrative of his observations, in 1356. Moroccan literature of the 20th century reflected such concerns as colonialism, nationalism, the survival of traditional cultures framed by Islamic values, and introspective and inventive literary forms. Autobiographical works and treatments of social problems dominated novels in Arabic. Notable Moroccan authors in Arabic included Mohamed Zefzaf and Abdellah Laroui. Among French language novels Driss Chraïbi’s Le Passé Simple (The Past Tense, 1954) shocked Moroccans with its condemnation of patriarchal society. Later novels of Chraïbi were translated into English, including Naissance à l’aube (1986; Birth at Dawn, 1990).
Abdelkebir Khatibi wrote on social themes in his autobiographic La Mémoire tatouée (Tattooed Memory, 1971) and his novel Triptyque de Rabat (Rabat Triptych, 1993). Tahar Ben Jelloun, born in Fès and based in France, rose to international fame for his novels in French, especially L’Enfant du sable (1985; The Sand Child, 1988), which was translated into many languages, and La Nuit sacrée (1987; The Sacred Night, 1989), which won the Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary award.
The art of oral storytelling, frequently accompanied by singing and dancing, continues in the countryside and at local festivals. Berber storytellers specialize in recounting odes and songs of local myth and faraway places.
Classical music in Morocco is music of the Arab-Andalusian style. It features an orchestra of traditional stringed instruments, such as the rabab (two-string violin), ‘ud (Arab lute), and qanun (zither), as well as percussion instruments, including the tambourine and drum. Songs in Arabic often accompany this music. A popular music style known as rai (“opinion”) developed in the cities of Algeria and Morocco during the 1970s, as young people sought to break with traditional society and express their views.
Its outspoken lyrics are set to a rock beat, and the music is performed on traditional as well as electronic instruments. A folklore festival is held each June in Marrakech, featuring folk music and folk dances from various locales in Morocco. Handicrafts have long been important in Morocco and are produced both in cities and in the countryside. They were originally made as items for daily use rather than works of art, but are now found in shops and souks (markets) in every city and town. Fine examples can be found in the country’s museums. Morocco’s handicrafts include jewelry, leatherwork, pottery, textiles and carpets, and woodwork. The town of Safi has long been a center for pottery in Morocco. The Moroccan national library, which was founded in 1920, is located at Rabat. Other libraries in the country include the Library of Casablanca and the University library at Fès. Morocco has a number of major museums. The Archaeological Museum in Tétouan has collections of Carthaginian, Roman, and Islamic art and artifacts. Archaeological museums also are found in Rabat and Larache. Tangier has a Museum of Contemporary Art. The National Museum of Ceramics is at Safi. "Morocco" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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