5 Moroccan Cultures That Showcase The Developing Melting Pot Of Africa

5 Moroccan Cultures That Showcase The Developing Melting Pot Of Africa

Diversity in Africa

There are 54 culturally diverse nation-states on the African continent, yet many Americans tend to perceive Africa as culturally and ethnically homogeneous. However, scientific research has demonstrated that there is more genetic diversity within Africa than between Eurasia and Africa itself. One prime example of the diversity of Africa can be found in the Northern country of Morocco, a nation that many consider the melting pot of the African continent. All of the cultures described below have rich histories that can be traced back to ancient times, and each are treasured, celebrated parts of a greater Moroccan culture. Here are six of those Moroccan cultures today.


Sanhaja Berber Women

Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Berber people, also known as the Amazigh (meaning proud raiders), were the first inhabitants of North Africa and are the indigenous people of Morocco. They fought against Roman, Arab and French invaders and have an long, rich history.

Today most Berber live in the South of Morocco, represent more than half of the Moroccan population and speak different yet similar languages depending on their location. These languages include Tarifit in the Rif of northern Morocco, Tamazight in the Middle Atlas region and Tashelheet from the High Atlas and Souss region.

The Berber people are known for their folkloric music, jewelry, tattoos and beautiful poetry.


Arab invaders conquered Morocco in the late seventh century and spread Islamic culture to the Berber natives. Despite the fact that most Arabs live in the northern regions of Morocco, Arab culture can be seen across the nation. Not only is Arabic the first language of Morocco and the ethnicity of the nation's leaders, but the religion of Islam, brought to Morocco by the Arabs, is followed by over 99 percent of Moroccans today.

The national dish of Morocco is couscous, which though mostly associated with Arab tradition is a common dish across the Maghreb. Classic Arab dress has become traditional Moroccan garb, consisting of caftans, djellabas and more.


Map French and Spanish presence in Morocco in 1912


During the 300 years of Roman occupation that ended late in the third century, Roman territory and influence extended to just north of Rabat, the present day capital of Morocco. The northern tip of Morocco known to the Romans as Mauretania Tingitana, present day Tangier, exported olive oil and wheat to Rome, and was the home to many Berber who had become Christian. However, today the population of Christians in Morocco is very small and anyone trying to convert Moroccans to Christianity can be punished by law.

Morocco, like every other African country, did not escape contemporary European colonization that began as early as the 15th century on the coasts of Africa and India. By the 19th century, Spain and France were the two major European powers that occupied Morocco and had the most recent impact on the nation's culture. The French protectorate controlled most of the country until 1956 when Morocco became independent, and soon thereafter regained most of the territory from Spain.

Although the country's first language is Arabic, about 85 percent of the population frequently uses Darija (the colloquial language) which has integrated French and Spanish words and phrases. Andalusian cultural influences can be seen in the ruins of 11th century mosques and architecture in the northern cities such as Fez, though the Spanish Protectorate controlled only about 1/10 of the country.


A Gnawa Festival


The Gnawa people are an ethnic group originally from the northern region of West and Central Africa known as the Sahelian region. With pre-Islamic African spiritual traditions, the Gnawa eventually adopted the Sufi order, a mystical spiritual version of Islam that focuses on peace and love and looking within. The famous 13th century Sunni Muslim Persian poet, popularly known as Rumi, Persian Sunni Muslim poet, as well as scholar of Islam and a jurist, founded the mystic Sufi order of Islam. The Gnawa people mix pre-Islamic African traditions with classical Islamic Sufism.

Gnawa music has attracted leading musicians from around the world, including Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin lead singer, for example.

The music is often accompanied by rituals with a specific purpose to connect with the spiritual world in order to heal. When Gnawa music began attracting droves of tourists, the Moroccan government publicized it on a government website and in 1998 launched the Gnawa music festival in the southern city of Essaouira.


A Fountain at the Temple Beth-El in Casablanca


The roots of the Jewish population in Morocco can be traced to four diasporas that took refuge in the country over a period spanning many centuries. While the faith has many unique traditions, ever since the fourth wave of Jewish immigration to Morocco, many aspects of their culture have meshed together with that of the Moroccan land they inhabited. The Moroccan city of Casablanca maintains the largest Jewish community along with the only Jewish museum in the Arab world.

Today Morocco's Jewish population numbers are small, yet many are optimistic about the future revival of the community and live in peace with Moroccan Muslims. The country is experiencing growth in Jewish-heritage tourism.

During Shabbat Jews in Morocco traditionally enjoyed a meal of wheat, meat and dried peas. Possibly the original slow-cooked meal, this Moroccan stew was prepared by cooking these ingredients slowly overnight at a low temperature. The name of the dish, known as dafina, refers to it being covered or smothered. Interested in the recipe? Click here!

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A Letter To My Dancers

Everything your dance teacher wants you to know.

When anyone (especially a child) chooses to invest their time, talent, and passion into dancing, it's nothing to take lightly. These kids spend more time with me at the studio than they do at home with their parents. Before long, they're my "kids," too. When I only have an hour to lead a warm-up, teach choreography, and rehearse a number, there isn't much time to express the thoughts and feelings I'd necessarily like to. Being a dance teacher is the most spectacular and rewarding job - and I want my students to know that. Between the great rehearsals and the frustrating ones, the competitions and recitals, and the endless hours we spend together each week, there are just a few reminders I need to share with them.

Dear Dancers,

Please love yourself and love what you do with every ounce of your being. Do it with so much passion that your heart wants to burst. Dance is the most special thing; it's something we are privileged and lucky to have, so don't take it for granted.

Please believe in yourself. You are worthy. You are talented. You are strong and capable of everything you set your mind to. Strive to be the best version of yourself every day, not the reflection of the girl next to you. Dance like you. Move like you. Experiment and find what makes you, you. Be an individual. Trust me when I say I don't want 20 carbon-copied robots. I want you.

Trust that I have your best interest in mind. Sometimes my choices and decisions won't make sense, you might be confused, hurt or frustrated, but keep the faith that I'm on your side. I don't want to see you fail, and I'll do everything in my power to help you find the success you're looking for.

I want you to succeed, but for me to do that, you need to tell me what you need. Do you need the counts again? Do you need me to review the transition to floor one more time? If you understand, tell me. If you don't, tell me that, too. Be vocal, be present, be smart, and be prepared. Practice on the sides. Pay attention to the small details. Ask questions. Don't be late, and definitely don't forget your choreography. Take responsibility for your responsibilities and lead by example. Do you have any remote idea how many children look up to you? Who want to be just like you someday? Dance just like you? Kids watch, listen, and copy. Make sure the behaviors you're teaching them are behaviors you're proud of.

Make memories with your dance family while you still can. Cherish every 9 a.m. Saturday morning rehearsal, every competition you attend, every fundraising event, and every team sleepover. It'll be gone so fast. You're going to miss these days. Please, enjoy them.

Don't compare yourself to other dancers. You are you, and nobody can do "you" better than yourself. Don't wish away your abilities by secretly wishing you had Suzie's feet, Betsy's port de bras, or Charlie's center. The only thing you need to worry about is being a better version of yourself than you were the day before. You are your only competition, so don't be too hard on yourself. Be kind to your mind and body. You work day in and day out to perfect your craft and artistry. You work to mold and create yourself. You'll be rewarded with time if you keep fighting and don't give up. Usually when you want to throw in the towel, it's after you don't get the part you wanted or you don't make the team you hoped to. What you need to understand is the answer isn't "No," the answer is "Not yet." You know you're trying and working hard, and those efforts don't go unnoticed -- even if it seems they are.

Please, remember that it's not going to always be fair. You're going to be let down, and you're going to feel disappointed from time to time. You're not always going to win the trophy. You're not always going to get the featured solo part, and not everyone can be the front row and center dancer. This doesn't mean you're "bad" and this doesn't mean you're not "meant" to dance either.

Quite frankly, it's just how it works, you guys. It doesn't mean I don't like you, and it doesn't mean the dancer who does have the solo is my favorite. The dancer just might be more talented. Yeah, I said it. They might have better lines, straighter knees, or stronger stage presence, and that is entirely okay. You're going to run into this for the rest of your adult life. Someone is going to be smarter, more qualified, more desirable for a particular job or position. So instead of despising and resenting these dancers (and especially me), try to learn from them instead. You'll learn more from each other than you could imagine. But if you take away one thing from this, know that you are still worthy of my best training, my best analogies, my best choreography -- whether you are featured, in the third row, or even off-stage for the turn section.

As your teacher, it's my job to teach. Learning (and learning correctly) requires close attention to detail, incredible focus, and a plethora of corrections on my part. Yes, I will go out of my way to critique you, and I will continually tell you what needs fixing until it's fixed. I might have to tell you over and over and over again. And you know, I might even get frustrated with you once in awhile because of it, but here's what you need to understand: This doesn't make me mean or a bad teacher. This doesn't mean I hate you. What it does mean is that I see potential in you and I want to help. I just have to ask, do you see what I see in you? Do you see the talent and abilities I see?

Corrections are good. Success is an incredibly long and never ending process that takes time, but the corrections I give you are helping you get one step closer. So next time you catch yourself getting upset about receiving the same critique week after week or you want to complain about how mean I am, please remember that my intent is not malicious. I'm doing my job.

It's also my job to instill perseverance, dedication, discipline, trust, humility, confidence, creativity, bravery, and strong work ethic into you. I want to push your limits. Test you. Challenge you. I want to mold you into the person you want to be. Even though you probably don't even know who that person is, I do.

There are so many possibilities, opportunities, and challenges that are out there once you enter the world of adulthood. The dance world is so much bigger than your studio, competition routines, and conventions. At the end of the day, no one remembers or cares (especially your future employers) if you won a quadruple diamond platinum plus on your lyrical solo in 2016. They don't care about your first place overall at Showbiz. They don't care if you're Teen Miss Winner of the World. They don't care. What people do care about is your character, your heart, and how you made them feel.

Dancers, I will always support you. Whether you want to pursue a professional dance career in Los Angeles or New York City, in a company overseas, on your college dance team, I will support you. Whether you want to teach dance or choreograph locally in town, I will support you. Whether you don't want to dance at all and maybe be an engineer or a cosmetologist, I will support you. I will always fuel your dreams, goals, and desires, no matter where they'll take you.

I love you and I'm proud of you.


Your Dance Teacher

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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8 Old Katelyn Tarver Songs You Probably Haven't Heard

None of her new songs will ever go as hard as "Chasing Echoes" and that's a fact.


Years ago, I found (through iTunes recommendations) a pretty cool female artist. Later found out she was on "Big Time Rush", and then I found out she had some new songs out. I decided to give her new songs a listen, and they're good. However, I prefer some of her older stuff, which sadly isn't on Spotify. Fortunately, YouTube exists, and I'm here to share the best ones.

1. "Wonderful Crazy"

This is just a fun, upbeat song for when you're having a good day. Would recommend playing in your car with the windows rolled down.

2. "Rain"

I have a very specific memory of a time when this song blessed my life, but for all intents and purposes, it is a beautiful and happy song.

3. "I'll Make It Real"

This is a beautiful song with a wonderful message about staying true to yourself. I used to listen to it on the way to school every day my senior year of high school.

4. "Something In Me"

Featured in the greatest show of all time, "South of Nowhere" season 1 episode 6. A very relatable breakup mood.

5. "Love Alone"

This is definitely the second-hardest-hitting song she's ever released. The fact that this is not on Spotify or even iTunes anymore is just not fair.

6. "Favorite Girl"

This one's cute and upbeat, a definite crush mood. Not on the same level as "Love Alone", but it's still underrated.

7. "Closer to My Heart"

Another cute love song. I'll tie it with "Everything" for cutest love song on her first album. Highly recommend both.

8. "Chasing Echoes"

Facts are facts and the facts are that Katelyn Tarver's new stuff could never go as hard as "Chasing Echoes". I can't even begin to explain how deeply these lyrics cut through me when I was fifteen. Even now, this song can take me all the way back. She is robbing us by not making this available on streaming services (or even to purchase). Katelyn, bring this song back, I am begging you.

Anyway, I'm still enjoying the new stuff and am excited to see what's next.

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