Morocco/ 1. Historical perspective: cultural policies and instruments  

Autor: Salama Alghayam, Fatema Al Zahraa Al Shabani

1.1. Socio-Cultural Perspective (Political, Religious, etc.)

As history and anthropology are important in explaining and understanding socioeconomic phenomena, this report begins by examining the historical formation of Morocco as a nation and people through the lens of UNESCO’s concept of culture: that it includes not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs (World Conference of Cultural Policies, Mexico, 27 July - 6 August, 1982).

1.1.1. Moroccan Society Evolution: A Historical Prospective

The Amazigh civilisation has existed since Neolithic times—about 5000 years ago. Amazigh (“the free people”) are the oldest community in Morocco, a blend of Eastern, European and African races. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans, the ancient Mediterranean civilisations, had settled in Morocco, making a significant impact on urban organisation (Tangier, Lecsos, Salé, Melilla, and Essaouira). New essential elements had been brought by Arabs: race, language and religion (Islam). The Amazigh converted to Islam with the Arab newcomers, and joined together in annexing Iberia, which had been linked to Moroccan history for centuries. Morocco was connected for many centuries with Muslim Spain. The Almoravid, Almohad, and Merinid monarchs always lent a hand to Muslim Andalusia. The sequential migration of Andalusians and Moroccans created cities along the two sides of the  Strait of Gibraltar.

In 789 CE, Idriss I founded the Idrisid dynasty and established the city of Fès, a capital unequalled in splendour and Morocco’s first symbol of centralisation.

Delegations from the Beni Hilal and Beni Maqal tribe arrived in the eighth century, adding diversity to Morocco’s social fabric. Further diversity was added with the enormous arrival of Andalusian Muslims and Jews in two stages: first the exodus during the fall of Granada in the late 15th century, and second the arrival of exiled Spanish Moors in the 17th century. The new immigrants catalysed Moroccan urbanisation. Jews and Arabs fleeing the Spanish Inquisition found refuge in Morocco, bringing the number of Jews living in Morocco to higher than it had been since before Islam. These refugees made Morocco’s Jewish population a blend of several lineages. Morocco is still characterised today by distinctive cultural and historical features.

Since the mid-nineteenth century the country has witnessed minimal immigration, mostly comprised of European minorities and Algerians.

Modern Moroccan identity was formulated through their struggle for independence and militancy to eliminate colonisation, especially the recovery of Saharan regions. The struggle for independence between 1912 and 1934 and the many strongholds of resistance overshadowed regional and tribal differences and enriched nationalism.

Given recent changes, Moroccan society has and will witness profound changes in terms of its population, structure, value systems andsocial behaviour. It has seen a new dynamism during the last five decades in its traditions and cultural activities. Additionally, Moroccan expatriates confirm their presence as well as their contribution to the national economy; they are active players in the country’s openness and social change.

1.1.2. Population Growth since Independence

The first population census was organised in 1960. Since then, Morocco organises a census every decade, most recently in September 2014. Although the census survey results haven’t been published yet, it is noted that Morocco’s population increased by 260% between 1960 and 2004 (from 11.6 to 29.9 million). The annual growth rate declined to 2.6% between 1960 and 1970 and to 1.4% between 1994 and 2004).

Urban demographic growth is higher than rural growth: urban population growth between the last two censuses was at 2.1% annually, and only 0.6% in rural areas. The public debate on demographic growth has not been exposed to ideological or political explanations, as it is in other countries. Censuses reveal a “baby boom” in the two decades immediately following independence. Currently only 30% of the population is under 15, whereas more than 62% of the population is between the ages of 15 and 59. The percentage of the population that is elderly—currently 7.6%—has remained constant over the last half-century. Moroccan youth are considered a significant human resource; all public policies relating to education, health and work are influenced by their expected impact on this demographic.

1.1.3. Changes and Variation of Lifestyle in Moroccan Society

Standard of Living
Urbanisation has caused profound changes to the internal dynamics of Moroccan society. Changes are measurable in family structure, women’s contributions to the formal labour market, freedom of expression, and the agency accorded to Moroccans from different demographics. Despite the transformation of Moroccan society, it remains hesitant to fully modernise. It is essential to admit that, over the generations, Morocco’s geography and history have formulated Moroccan identity, but colonisation was one of the most critical points in the transformation of Moroccan society.

Living standards in Morocco have consistently advanced since independence, albeit slowly compared to other nations. Meanwhile, the gap is widening between social classes, men and women, and in particular between cities and villages.

The change in Moroccan consumption styles is an indication, though relative, of the development in living standards. Today, food costs less in real currency than it did in the 1960s, when consumption rates were higher. Costs of supplies and entertainment, however, have doubled since the 60s.

Structural Transformations in the Moroccan Household
Despite Moroccan openness to modernity, research on values indicates that most give high priority to family unity in general and marriage in particular. As for household makeup, it too has undergone changes. Recent studies have shown that 20.2% of households are run by women, and 8% of households are single-parent.

Marital behaviour in Morocco has also witnessed substantial change, most prominently in the increasing proportion of singles, and changes in marriage patterns. The percentage of single people in Morocco increased from 20% in 1960 to 46% in 2004 for men and from 17% to 34% for women.

There has been a significant shift in legislation concerning the status of Moroccan women in recent years. In 2004, a new family law passed that changed women’s situations and stipulated equal rights and obligations between married couples. The law is rooted in the belief that marriage is based on equity, satisfaction, understanding and sharing house and family responsibilities. The law has reorganised divorce and child protection, and put limitations on polygamy.

Youth are the Core of Change
The profound transformation of Moroccan youth is Morocco’s biggest challenge. Youth are the country’s future. Adults under the age of 30 comprise 60% of the population; those aged 15-35 comprise 40%. From sociological and cultural perspectives, the youth demographic is not sufficiently acknowledged for its size. The rare studies on youth reveal their apprehensive avoidance of politics, which had been a passion for youth in the 60s and 70s. Similarly, contemporary youth values are noticeably distant from the past generation’s value system.

Moroccan youth are rapidly learning and earning qualifications, despite the many dysfunctions in the education system. Consequently, they face high unemployment that becomes unbearable. Youth face an extensive battery of problems in addition to unemployment, far beyond the scope of the ministries put in place to address these problems (Youth, Education, Sport, and Culture).

Discussions in Morocco about the relationship between society and religion reveal the existence of three basic tendencies. First: the tendency to place centrally the institution of religious believers (Royal Institution), which represents the majority. Second: favouring Islamisation of all aspects of society, through extratemporally interpreting religious claims. And third: believing that concepts attached to "life" are the only ways to ensure freedom of interpretation, democracy, and expression. As can be seen through the observation of religious practices and government institutions in Morocco, the country is moving towards the integration of religion into the public space.

The Shifting Value System
A value systems survey conducted throughout Morocco in 2004 showed that values are shifting from the traditional to a set of newly-established values.  Moroccans derive their main values from Arab Islamic civilisation and Amazigh traditions. These long-established values, although internally generated, have been influenced by international contributions and interactions with neighbouring countries. Traditional Moroccan values related to time, place and the individual were altered by colonisation. Subsequently globalisation and media development imposed new, more cosmopolitan, values on Moroccan society. The national survey on values offers these findings:

  • Marriage is still a core value, but smaller households have become more prevalent. Freely choosing a marriage partner is becoming the rule. Taking care of elderly people is considered by 97% of Moroccans to be a son’s duty. In a recent study[1] conducted by the Higher Commission of Planning and published in October 2014, 95% of Moroccan women spent 5 hours a day on household chores. This was 72 minutes more than French women and 29 minutes less than Tunisian women.

  • Moroccan children follow the same relationship patterns as adults. If we exclude sleeping time, children aged between 7-14 years spend about 60% of their time around family, 22% in public places, and only about 15% in educational institutions. Boys spend only 22 minutes a day in household chores while girls spend 76 minutes. This pattern represents the lack of balance between boys and girls, and continues the community’s unbalanced work model between the genders to the next generation of Moroccans.

  • Religious affiliation tends to be concealed and individualistic. The study mentioned below suggests that Moroccan women tend to be more religious than before. The average time spent by women in prayer has increased from 48 minutes in 1997 to 72 minutes in 2012. The percentage of women who practise religion has also increased from 47% to 68%.

  • Interest in becoming a professional politician is weak relative to interest in civil works. The concept of left and right wing is not understood in general. Of those surveyed, 60% consider democracy to be advancing in Morocco, and 64% are confident in their country’s political future. In general, respondents held positive attitudes towards women’s participation in politics.


Of those surveyed, 77% have a strong desire to work. Respondents found the concepts of easy and illegally acquired money unacceptable. Values related to vacation are unknown; half of the respondents did not receive regular holidays. About 73% do not practise a specific sport. The results of the above-mentioned study  indicated that free time, available to all Moroccans after mandatory activities, was on average 6 hours 40 minutes, representing 28% of the typical day. This changed to 6 hours and 57 minutes for children between the ages of 7 and 14 years, and to 8 hours and 37 minutes for adults 60 years and above. Moroccans spend on average two hours and 14 minutes (33.6% of free time) watching television programs, and allocate 59 minutes (14.8% of free time) to religious practices. The rest of their free time is not occupied in either sport or reading, rather only two minutes are spent on siestas, friends and family visits, in addition to time spent in coffee shops. The Internet, on average, consumes 9 minutes per day (one minute in rural areas and 14 minutes in urban cities), and 83% of the internet activity is related to entertainment only. An average of 8% of Morrocans spends up to one hour and 53 minutes per day on the internet. Frequenting coffee shops is still a masculine activity by far as the ratio of participants in this activity is 1% among women and 25% among men who spend, on average, an hour and 54 minutes a day in these places.

The activity of watching television is extended throughout the day, but it is focused, in particular, in the evening. At 7am, 15% of the Moroccans aged 15 years and over (3.5 million people) are in front of the TV. This figure reaches 19% (4.5 million) after 1pm.  The peak is at 8.30pm, when more than half of Moroccans (50.5 %) are watching TV. This percentage starts to decline at 9.30pm and reaches about 31% at 11pm, then it reduces to 19.5% at 11.30pm and all the way down to 13% at midnight.

We can recognise the transition in behavioural and family values in the use of children’s free time, which constitutes 43.6% of television program viewing (3 hours a day on average). While children spend only two minutes on sport and one minute on reading, they spend 12 minutes on the internet  (2 minutes in rural areas and 21 minutes in urban cities) which is above the national number. With 5% of internet time allocated to educational research, the remainder of this time is dominated by communication through social networks.

1.1.4. Heritage and Cultural Dynamism

Morocco’s heritage and cultural and artistic dynamism provide meaningful contributions to global culture. After a long period of political conflicts characterised by an absence of real cultural policies, Moroccan society was able to preserve its national heritage and renew cultural and artistic creativity. Through its contributions to tourism and culture, this heritage gives the Morocco of today the image of a nation rooted in history.

The country’s architectural and anthropological sites have eroded somewhat due to their lack of maintenance over the past decades. Oral heritage and “local implicit knowledge” also suffer the same problem. The arts and culture boom Morocco witnessed from independence to the early 1970s stagnated for more than two decades. Since the early 1990s, political openness and media development have ushered in new artistic and cultural features in literature production, contemporary architecture and arts, film and theatre.

In a speech by the Moroccan monarch, the establishment of a royal foundation to serve Amazigh language and culture was announced. It was to be called the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture and would be entrusted with developing a national strategy for reconciliation between Moroccan society and the Amazigh. This institute now works in cooperation with government authorities and relevant institutions, and will result in the integration of this segment of society into the educational system, the media, cultural life and scientific research. The strategy of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture is based on four fundamental principles: (1) The Amazigh is an historic group, deeply rooted in  Moroccan history and civilisation. (2) The Amazigh are an essential element of national heritage, along with all other components of Moroccan society, without exception. (3) The promotion of Amazigh culture is a national responsibility. (4) To give attention to Amazigh culture in the context of ingraining a rule of law and institutions, and to build the democratic, modern society sought by Morocco.

And in another royal speech, given on 9 March, 2012, following the outbreak of the 20 February youth movement—which came in response to dynamic changes in the Arab region—the king called for the adoption of a new constitution, that would grant the Amazigh language constitutional status. This was confirmed in the new constitution, which Moroccans were invited to confirm in a referendum on 1 July, 2011.

As for literary production in Morocco, the publishing sector has witnessed remarkable development in the last two decades. About 12,400 books were published between 1985 and 2003, compared to the 3,113 books published between 1955 and 1984.

1.1.5. Democratic Practice

Two main challenges faced Morocco after independence: reclaiming land and establishing institutions and laws. After independence, most political powers gave priority to state-building and developing the most liberated regions, as well as struggling to liberate occupied lands. With the end of the struggle for independence, most political leaders adopted non-violent tactics for land reclamation. However, some leaders invoked violence to oppose lingering Spanish control. Consequently, Morocco was able to recapture Tarfaya in 1958, Ifni in 1969 and some Saharan regions in 1979.

After gaining independence, Morocco entered a period of lengthy constitutional debate, in which all political powers were regularly consulted. Basic laws were adopted while waiting for a full legal system to be completed. The full legal system eventually implemented is akin to a script (modouwana) for public liberties, associations and the press. The way the constitution was prepared initially evoked some political tension. The left wing supported the idea of establishing a general assembly to set forth basic laws for the country, while other political powers deemed it unnecessary. Morocco chose a democratic social monarchical system, wherein institutions represent the people, and the king plays a major role on multiple levels as head of state and chief executive. The majority of left-wing opposition wanted to reorganise power and give parliament more authority; executive power would be in the hands of the prime minister. The first Moroccan constitution has been altered to some extent, but remains partly unchanged. This constitution was adopted based on a public referendum on 7 December, 1962. It was supported by the political powers and boycotted by leftist opposition.

There have been several amendments to the 1962 Constitution, which came in response to popular calls over consecutive years: 1970, 1972, 1992, and 1996. However, in early July 2011, the Moroccan people—through a popular referendum—adopted a new constitution for the kingdom. Which, in the eyes of many Moroccan political observers, represents an important shift given that is a step towards laying the foundations of democracy and moving towards a constitutional monarchy. 

And while the new constitution does not alter what are known as nationally agreed upon constants—Islam, the emirate of the faithful, the monarchy, and national and territorial unity—on the other hand, it is focused on reinforcing the principle of separation and balance of powers. This is achieved by strengthening the role of the prime minister, who is appointed from the political party that leads in the elections of the House of Representatives. The leading party is directly elected by the people, which means respecting the results of the ballot boxes. 

Article 19 of the 1996 Constitution stipulates that the king is the commander of the faithful, the supreme representative of the nation, the symbol of its unity, and the guarantor of the perpetuation and continuity of the state. He is the defender of the faith and shall ensure respect for the constitution. He shall be the protector of the rights and freedoms of the citizens, social groups and organisations. He is the guarantor of the independence of the nation, and of the territorial integrity of the kingdom within all its rightful boundaries. In the new constitution (1 July,2011) this article has been divided into articles 41 and 42.

According to the preamble to Article 41 in the draft constitution, the king is the commander of the faithful, the defender of creed and religion, and the guarantor of the freedom to practise one's religion. He heads the Supreme Scientific Council, which is responsible for studying the issues brought to its attention. The council is the only body qualified to issue official fatwas on matters it deals with. These fatwas are issued on the basis of the principles, provisions, and noble goals of the sacred religion of Islam. These principles, provisions, and goals are what set the terms of reference and clauses of the council, by royal decree. The king exercises the powers related to the Emirate of believers, and these powers are exclusively vested in him, as defined in this article.

Article 42 notes that the king is the head of state, its supreme representative, the symbol of the nation's unity, the guarantor of the perpetuation and the continuity of the state, and the supreme arbitrator of its institutions. Moreover, he ensures that the constitution is respected, that constitutional institutions function properly, that democratic choice is maintained, he ensures the rights and liberties of citizens and groups, and that the kingdom respects its international agreements. The king is the guarantor of the country's independence and land, within all of its borders. He exercises these tasks through the authorities explicitly conferred upon him by the constitution. 

In addition to its political components, the new constitution seeks to ensure the pluralistic nature of Moroccan identity. It identifies the Amazigh as an asset to all Moroccans, and notes that, in addition to Arabic, the Amazigh language is an official language. The language is protected by regulatory departments and government agencies, which must respect and implement the language within their administration, the education system, and the media.

The new constitution also includes an entire article—Article 5—dealing with cultural and linguistic issues. It stipulates the establishment of a National Council for Languages and Moroccan Culture that protects and develops the Arabic and Amazigh language, and various other cultural expressions of Morocco. It considers these cultural expressions part of Morocco's integral heritage and contemporary creative scene. The Council oversees all institutions involved in these areas, defining their regulatory powers, composition and modes of implementation.

Concerning collective representation, Morocco, organised its first public direct-ballot election in 1960. While initially simplistic, elections have since witnessed profound development in accordance with the Collective Covenant of 1976. Passed in 2002, the covenant expanded the democratic experience to include electing local councils. Elections were carried out on a regular basis, and the resulting councils increased government efficacy by holding municipal debates and governing locally.

Despite discord following most elections, since 2002 the election process has become more democratic, in which power is shared between the National Democratic bloc and other parties. This was the result of a 1998 national accord between the monarchy and the nation’s progressive powers, which the left had been calling for since the 1970s.

Despite the Socialist Union of Popular Forces party, which was represented in their monopolised control over the Cultural Ministry between 1998 and 2011, the premature elections of 25 November, 2011, brought for the first time in its history the Islamic trend to power, represented by the Justice and Development Party. This represents  a new era in the modern history of Morocco.

1.2. Historical Perspective: Cultural Policies and Instruments

1.2.1. Post-Independence Stage

Moroccan society consists of two cultures, each with its own language or languages, its own way of thinking and style. There exists the traditional culture, which was prominent before Morocco became a protectorate and is still found today, although it has lost its vitality and original purpose. And there exists a “modern” culture that came with colonisation. Consequently, the authorities in charge of administrating culture must find a sort of proportionality between traditional heritage and Western culture while keeping an open venue for the development of traditions and the promotion of creativity.

Before the protectorate era, cultural activity was exclusively relegated to the Makhzen (Repository).[1]  The Makhzen established praying places, mosques, shrines, religious festivals and sharifs like Dr. Abdullah al-Aarwi’s book.[2] The cultural life of Morocco continued harmoniously within this traditional system until the protectorate era.

The protectorate system established the Fine Arts Service in 1912 in an effort to modernise Moroccan culture. The Fine Arts Service was the first administrative authority in charge of Islamic and modern archaeology and arts. In 1920, the service was annexed to the Department of Public Education, Fine Arts and Archaeology. It remained this way until independence in 1956, when the entire apparatus underwent organisational overhaul. Thus it can be said that formal arts institutions began in the protectorate era.

With the establishment of the first independent Moroccan government in 1955, the Department of Public Education, Fine Arts and Archaeology was transformed into the Ministry of Sciences, Education and Fine Arts. Ten months after its transformation, the Ministry vanished, taking fine arts with it. Fine Arts reappeared with the eighth government in 1963, under the Ministry of Tourism, Traditional Handicrafts and Fine Arts. When a government transition occurred again in 1963, the new government retained the same ministry, including fine arts.

Placing fine arts with traditional handicrafts and tourism reflects an implicit desire by officials to relate it to tourism and traditional handicrafts, priority sectors in the five-year plan of 1968-1972 for economic and social development.

In the tenth government, established in June 1965, fine arts was placed with the Ministry of National Education, Fine Arts, Youth and Sports in an attempt to put together all related cultural components. This lasted only for the government’s term, from June 1965 to May 1967. In the next government, fine arts fell under the Ministry of National Education. It was not until 1968 that culture appeared as its own ministry.

Culture was overlooked for 13 years after independence, during which time priority was given to spurring economic growth through founding governing institutions and implementing rules.

Before discussing the period of time in which the first Moroccan cultural institution was established, this report reviews the corresponding socio-cultural and political situation, in order to explain the conditions that led to its establishment.

Funding for Cultural Activities

During the first two decades post-independence, Morocco adopted a development strategy aimed at economic development and strengthening state control. This strategy emerged from the belief that economic development would increase standards of living and education, which in turn would spur cultural development. Therefore, culture was absent in the first two plans for socioeconomic development (1960-1964 plan and 1965-1967 plan).

In the five-year plan of 1968-1972, culture was allocated funding under both “cultural education and development” and “socio-cultural and sport activities”. The establishment of two cultural houses was listed in the plan. Morocco’s development plan did not fully incorporate culture until its fourth iteration (1973-1977), when a cultural work committee was created. The plan emphasised the task of extending cultural policy; it indicated that “cultural policy is a key element in socioeconomic development. It concerns many aspects of life—education, creation, media, work, entertainment, lifestyle, urbanisation, housing and environment. It also addresses the populace with no discrimination towards age or social status. All youth should be incorporated into the cultural policy”. Indeed, the plan stresses the notion of “encouraging everyone to participate in cultural life”, not just the cultural elite. “Culture should be incorporated into daily life as a basic element in developing citizens’ personalities”. Eleven cultural compounds, reading centres, higher institutes for music, and museums were established, as well as an expanded program for the rehabilitation of historical sites in Rabat, Fès, Marrakesh, Safi, Meknès, El Jadida and Tangier.

Since the Constitution of 1996, it was made incumbent on the Prime Minister of Morocco to present to both chambers of parliament, confirming the presence and importance of culture in government policy. Whether it was a matter for Professor Abderrahmane Youssoufi (Socialist’s Union for the People, 1998- 2003 ), Mr Driss Jettou (a technocratic, 2003 - 2007 ), or Mr Abbas El Fassi (The Independence Party, 2007 - 2011), they all, in spite of their different political and cultural persuasions, confirmed the importance of culture and its role in national development on both regional and local levels. Following this approach, Mr Abdelilah Benikrane, current President of the Government (Justice and Development Party), will pledge during his government the following three platforms:

1. Strengthening national identity and maintaining cohesion and diversity of its components and opening up to different cultures and civilisations. This can be achieved by adhering  to the kingdom’s religious authority and promoting individual responsibility, alongside strengthening Moroccan identity. This identity features Islamic religion at the forefront, as the guarantor of values inside a framework of openness and moderation, tolerance, dialogue and mutual understanding between cultures and civilisations of mankind as a whole. It also promotes the values of good citizenship and the rise of a dialogue based culture, a culture of cooperation and responsibility, work and production, sense of duty and guaranteed freedom.

2. Launching an integrated language policy to strengthen the fabric of national language and opening up to foreign languages. This includes strengthening national languages in the two official languages of Arabic and Amazigh, along with the adoption of a new approach to promote openness and foreign languages in order to promote scientific research for cultural economic cooperation and interaction.

3. Adoption of cultural, technical and media policies that promote Moroccan identity based on citizenship, freedom and responsibility, and creativity. In particular, through the Government's commitment to culture through: media infrastructure and services; maintenance of cultural and natural heritage (protecting and valorising it); improving corporate governance in cultural affairs; modernising cultural measures to take into account regional dimensions and keeping pace with creativity; caring for production conditions, creators, and producers; promotion of youth creativity;  development of a policy to support national production and dissemination; and activating international cultural cooperation, according to the rules of professional quality and competitiveness, transparency and partnership.

At the Political Level

Since the protectorate era, culture has been infused in political discussions, many of which focused on the role of Islam and the Arabic and Amazigh languages in political conflicts against the French-Spanish protectorate, and in defining citizen liberties post-independence.

At the Cultural Level

Moroccan cultural life witnessed a remarkable revival after independence: Arabic-French bilingualism, theoretical and cultural journalism developed spectacularly. Souffles magazine was established in 1966, aiming at creating a new cultural paradigm that reconsidered the sacredness of the past by connecting it to contemporary Western civilisation. In the same year, Lamalif was issued, addressing cultural issues. Less than two years later, the Cultural Research Association was established to provide critical analysis of Moroccan culture. The association’s preliminary manifesto stated that the “time has come to expose the temptation imposed on our society, and on all of the developing world, by the technological power of consumptive society… Highlighting this temptation will reveal that technological power and scientific development in the Western world will only become tools to displace man and impede his many creative abilities”.

In 1967, Al-Alam newspaper began issuing a weekly cultural addendum, a practice followed by other papers. The fields of history, fiction, poetry, painting, theatre and music also witnessed unprecedented prosperity. In plastic arts the Casablanca school, comprised of several well-known painters, established theories on the socio-cultural integration of Moroccan painting. This became known in Marrakesh as the “manifesto exposition”. Casablanca’s painters reconsidered colonial inheritance and tried to remove Moroccan painting from obscurity by presenting their work in public spaces rather than bourgeois galleries. In 1969, they held an exhibit in the yard of Al-Finaa Mosque. In the same year, Casablanca held another exhibit at 16 November Square. A decade later the approach was repeated during an exhibit at the Asilah festival.

Many theatrical groups were established following independence; by 1969 140 groups had been established. In 1959, the Moroccan Drama Research Center and the Amateur Theater Festival were founded. The latter was to be a yearly opportunity for unfettered theatrical expression away from any ministerial oversight.

The same period also witnessed a new wave of popular music emerging from theatre, led by the bands Nas Algewan and Jel Jalalah. Nas Algewan directed Moroccan singing toward its popular origins, reviving its poetry and musical heritage with deep Arab, Amazigh and African roots.

The period between independence and the early 1970s was characterized by the emergence of a new generation of intellectuals and writers who believed that no scientific, literary, or artistic awareness could be had without political awareness. These left-wing principles tore at the illusion of a single, uncontested cultural identity. They argued that Morocco’s political forces must support cultural progress if they intended to modernise. Confronted by this situation, the political authority that had remained silent on cultural issues since independence was forced to invest in culture as a means of asserting its control.

1.2.2. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs

Organisation and Tasks

On 8 July, 1968, the King announced the first ministerial change by appointing a State Minister for Cultural and Primary Education. This came as a result of his speech on 3 March, 1968, in which he defined culture as a complex phenomenon that includes not only arts and literature, but also modes of life, traditions and beliefs, and the interaction between them. 

The Ministry was charged with developing and coordinating cultural activities through the following tasks:

  • Adopting appropriate approaches to support literary activities, including cultural, educational and artistic associations.
  • Promoting literary and scientific production by establishing prizes.
  • Publishing literary and scientific research periodicals.
  • Managing cultural institutions (cultural houses and libraries) and creating activists in them.
  • Arabising geographical names, alley names, banners and trademarks.
  • Advancing popular culture.
  • Working to implement signed agreements with other countries.

Following the first coup attempt on 10 July, 1971, the twelfth government was appointed on 11 August, 1971, which included the Ministry of Culture, High, Secondary and Primary Education and Training. Eight months later, when a thirteenth government was appointed, it was shortened to the Ministry of Culture High, Secondary and Primary Education. Following the second coup attempt (16 August, 1972) a new government was appointed on 20 November, 1972 that included the Ministry of Awqaf, Islamic Affairs and Culture.

Despite the hard political conditions the country has faced, the state is aware of its responsibility to intervene in cultural affairs. As ministries were created, culture usually accompanied Islamic affairs and primary education. This tendency derives in one part from the government’s eagerness to emphasise its Arab and Islamic origins, and also from the government’s hesitancy to adopt a clear cultural policy. Six years following the establishment of the first cultural institution, a government change on 25 April, 1974 (the fourteenth government) was made, establishing the State Ministry for Cultural Affairs.

A decree (number 2-75-443 on 25 August, 1975 published in the official gazette No. 3281 L, September, 1975) was issued organising the Ministry for Cultural Affairs and specifying its mission as follows:

  • Preserve national cultural heritage and secure its integrity, using all possible means to develop it.
  • Set up legislative and organising text to protect artefacts, archaeological sites and historical features.
  • In addition to that, and within the scope of legislative and organising provisions, the Ministry shall run the internal institutions in its specialisations.
  • The Ministry includes: the minister’s office, general clerk’s office, inspection division, central administration, and external cultural services.
  • The central management includes: the division of cultural activities and artistic education; the division of museums, archaeological and exploration sites and historical features; the administrative service; planning and documentation service; and legal service.

In accordance with ministerial decision No. 78.430 (issued on 22 February, 1978), external services under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs were established in eight administrative regions in the kingdom (six municipalities, 1 region, 1 town).

The Ministry of Cultural Affairs remained operational until the end of the 20th century, headed by six ministers in 12 government formulations. It was transformed to the Ministry of Culture at the beginning of this century.

During this period, several amendments were carried out to organise the Ministry’s departments. The most important of these is the 1985 amendment (decree No. 2.82.800 on 29 Jan, 1985 published in the official gazette No. 3779 L, on 3 April, 1985), in which the Ministry’s central administration includes: the Department of Cultural Activities and Artistic Education; the Department of Museums, Archaeological and Exploration Sites and Historical Buildings; the Cultural Heritage Inventory Division; Planning and Documentation Service and Legal Service.

In accordance with the ministerial decision No. 87.546 issued on 8 October, 1986 (official gazette No. 3884 L, on 8 April, 1987) deputies were established in 25 administrative area of the kingdom (23 regions and two prefectures).

In 1994, the Ministry witnessed the most important organisational amendment in decree No. 2.94.222 on 24 May, 1994 (official gazette No. 4277 L, on 19 October, 1994). The amendment cancelled decree No. 26 August, 1975 and stated that the Ministry shall assume the set up and implementation of policies related to cultural and artistic development through the following:

  • Unifying directions and coordinating works aimed at strengthening national culture and preserving its distinctiveness.
  • Utilising all possible means to guarantee its flourishing as well as following up any work or initiative seeking the preservation and maintenance of the national heritage.
  • Setting up a precise strategy on local and regional levels to raise the national cultural level.
  • Advancing and activating cultural work; establishing and managing cultural institutions for artistic education; and promoting creative work and research in the fields of culture, arts and literature.
  • Drafting laws and regulations in related cultural and artistic fields and assuring their implementation.
  • Making cooperative relations with the cultural and artistic institutions, associations and commissions inside and outside Morocco.

The general administration includes: the general clerk office; general inspection; the cultural heritage department; the cultural development department; the arts department; the book, stores and stocks department; and the department of human resources and general affairs.  The same decree organised and defined the tasks of departments and central administration services.

Cultural Dialogue

In 1975, the National Culture Committee was established (decree No. 2.74.549 on 3 July ,1975, published in the official gazette No. 3272 L, on 16 July, 1975) with the following tasks:

  • Promote studies to be conducted by different ministries to disseminate culture.
  • Coordinate, study, and propose all possible means to advance archaeological research and develop the heritage of national buildings.
  • Propose any measures, especially legislative and organisational, that will achieve the aforementioned objectives.

This committee convened for the first time on 30 June, 1981, six years after its establishment. In 1986, a national symposium on Moroccan culture was held in the southern city of Taroudannt; a second symposium was held on the same topic in Fes in 1990. By 1995, this committee was replaced by the Supreme Council for Culture, which included branch councils. This council was an advisory body, designed to discuss cultural policy and to propose topics of priority to cultural work. But this consulting committee would be doomed to fail as it was started with immobility.

Except for the great national consultations that have been adopted in a debate form, consultation on issues of culture take a sectorial dimension, the Ministry of Culture or the Ministry of Communication acting as guardians for the film sector, and the Moroccan Authors’ Copyright Office holding bilateral meetings to study sectorial emergency issues, with its partners, professional associations and trade unions. This would lead to the adoption of joint draft laws and books that contribute to highlighting the nature of the consultation between the State and its partners from various concerned parties in respect to art and culture.

In 2014, the Ministry of Culture extended the invitation for a new national seminar to determine the priorities agenda for development beyond 2015, which is expected to replace the Millennium Goals Declaration adopted in 2000.

The selection of Morocco to engage in this pilot project began in a framework of cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO. It came on the basis of growth achieved by new cultural practices and the development of the Cultural Dimension of National Initiatives for Human Development Strategy in 2020, the  Tourism Industry Strategy in 2015, and the experience of traditional Morocco as a beneficiary of the program of "Cultural Heritage in Creative Industries as a Stepping Stone for Development", funded by Spain.

Morocco was the only Arab country chosen to activate this national consultation. Among a group of five other countries, Morocco was tasked with compiling and analysing visions and trends which link culture and sustainable development concepts from 2015. The kingdom's progress report will be presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations in October 2016.

The city of Rabat launched the national consultation on "Culture and Development in Sustainable Development agenda, after 2015" with a view to pooling and analysing perceptions on the ways of integrating cultural elements horizontally, regionally, and nationally.

There will be, to this end,  six thematic workshops dealing with the contribution of culture in sustainable development, especially in the areas of education, combating poverty, gender equality and the empowerment of women, sustainable cities, urbanisation, the environment, climate change and reintegration and reconciliation. In addition to the workshops, the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO office in Rabat added a questionnaire on their websites for academics, civil society activists, and the general public to express their views on the culture of sustainable development in Morocco. The national council cover letter stressed the role of culture in the fight against poverty, through the preservation of cultural heritage, investing in activities with cultural direction, and encouraging contracts with culturally oriented small businesses. This would increase the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs and the empowerment of individuals, strengthening their capacities. It also highlights the many benefits that could be derived from the integration of a cultural dimension to  education where emphasis on a spirit of tolerance and positive values and attitudes can encourage creative development. The paper also points to the relevant role of cultural projects in women's empowerment and gender equality. It explains the role of women in passing on their traditions and heritage, and their significant role in traditional industrial production, which has a strong cultural relevance.

It is through culture that women can enhance their capacities and improve their living conditions through serious employment opportunities. It also considered cultural life, nature, and coexistence between the various components of the city (historic districts, cultural heritage of ancient cities, modern cities, public gardens, cultural facilities) as a key to sustainable urban development.

In this context, investing in infrastructure, theatres and museums, cultural facilities and in the role of culture, is the start to creating a civic space which promotes dialogue and social integration.

The document stresses the role of cultural initiatives in the advancement of the environment. There may be some resistance to abandon harmful practices which impact the environement. Improved  understanding of the cultural context of a number of practices can be the best response to dealing with resistance to change.

The influence of culture extends to reintegration and reconciliation, wherein Morocco presents a model of the role of culture in reconciliation with historical memory and its relevance in activating policy through a cultural understanding of the country’s situation and parties involved[3]

Culture in the Socioeconomic Development Plans
1968-1972 Plan: 2,800,000 dirham was allocated to fund the preservation of national heritage, especially historical sagas and archaeological researches. The money was also intended to promote culture by building two houses, one in Rabat and another in Tetouan. Due to financial difficulties, the project was postponed. Only small centres were established in cooperation with local groups by transforming deserted churches in El-Jadida, El-Hajeb and Ahfeir.

1973-1977 Plan: 3,350,000 dirham was allocated to establish 13 cultural houses, compounds and repositories in all major cities, to rehabilitate existing museums and establish new ones. These projects were confronted by several obstacles, including the difficulty of purchasing land and the lack of oversight needed to implement and supply the project. Studies reveal that only 6% of the allocated budget was used to supply cultural houses in Rabat and Tetouan.

1978-1980 Plan: 1,377,000 dirham allocated to rehabilitate eight museums in Fes, Marrakesh, Tetouan, Tangier, Meknes, El-Jadida and Safi. 5,986,000 dirham allocated to build two cultural compounds in Meknes and Tetouan. Several measures were taken to promote reading such as lowering publishing and book costs. Even though the eight museums were rehabilitated, there were delays in building the compounds.

1981-1985 Plan: Only the two uncompleted compounds from the previous plan were completed.

1988-1992 Plan: Emphasised that culture has become a basic element of the country’s socioeconomic development. The diversification of culture affects societal stability and coexistence. The aim of this plan was to intensify cultural activities across all sectors, to encourage local groups and the education sector to take the necessary measures related to publishing rights, to issue cultural investment law and to regulate artefact exports.

1993-1999: Morocco faced a difficult financial situation during this period and the economy was subjected to a Structural Evaluation Program from 1993 to 1994, with the support of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Thus, it was satisfied with completing the two compounds. Still, new projects emerged such as the cultural press Al-Manahil, a network of public libraries, the rehabilitation of Bab Al-Rouh performance hall, the National Institute for Archaeology and Heritage and the Theatre Institute.

1999-2003 Plan: Sought to complete previously-launched projects such as cultural compounds in El-Aioun, Oujda, Fes, Asilah and El-Jadida. Sought to implement nine cultural house branches, build 250 cultural houses for urban groups and 250 for rural groups, and conduct studies on the cultural practices and production in Morocco. Sought to build a national library and some other projects addressed in chapter six of this research.

Following the adoption of the 1996 Constitution, the first government obligation for the Minister is to provide a statement in front of the two Houses of Parliament in order to get their confirmation. Since that date, the Ministry acts as a guardian to issues of culture, drawing special sectorial strategies. These strategies were immense in line with the new requirements of the Constitution of 2011:

Between 2012 and 2016, the Ministry of Culture designed a strategy for the following five key topics:


  1. The policy of close proximity, which meant to expand cultural activities beyond big cities and bring them closer to villages and remote areas.
  2. Support and keep pace with creativity and creative people. Expand the support to include creative youth, persons with special needs, social conditions and providing professional nurturing for creative people, giving legal status and motivating them to engage and effectively contribute to their development.
  3. Maintenance of cultural heritage. Attention to cultural heritage in both its forms socially and materialistically to promote Moroccan culture, catalogue and classify the most important locations and historical sites in Moroccan humanitarian heritage, and maintain them to be used as locations for cultural activities.
  4. To stimulate cultural diplomacy. Create a bond with Moroccans living abroad and strengthen their culture of connection to Morocco. Strengthen knowledge of Moroccan cultural production and technical skill. Strengthen ties and friendship with neighbouring and friendly countries and intensify cooperation and events, and stimulate Moroccan cultural centres abroad. Strengthen exchanges through international cultural events. Coordinate relations with international organisations and activate and implement the requirements of cooperation agreements.
  5. Improve governance and management (restructuring and reorganising the Ministry). Revamp the Ministry’s structure and priorities, updating legal texts to match and reflect current developments, the capacity and rehabilitation of human resources, and to increase competency, ownership and accountability in the Ministry. Activate the role and involvement of civil society in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of programs, followed by increasing the Ministry's budget to 1 % in 2016, and expanding the involvement of private sector in supporting cultural affairs.


The principles for this scheme are as follows:


  1. The principle of State involvement in cultural matters, which was shown in aspiring to provide basic conditions, practise linguistic and artistic creativity, bring prosperity and support to creative people, and rationalise a cultural market.
  2. The principle of freedom of expression and artistic creation. Encourage cultural initiative individually and collaboratively.
  3. The principle of linguistics and cultural diversity. The State shall provide protection for all manifestations of cultural diversity and languages in Morocco.
  4. The principle of cultural exception, that culture is not a commercial commodity. This is what makes it exempt from the World Convention of the Organisation of World Trade.
  5. The principle of democratic pluralism, starting from a pluralistic system of the political, the cultural and the linguistic.
  6. The principle of decentralisation. Chapter 1 of the 2011 Constitution considers the Al-Turabi system a Moroccan decentralised system.
  7. The principle of the right to culture, which allows all citizens of different segments and sensitivities to take advantage of the culture of public service through disseminating cultural structures through a plan to activate national cultural centres.
  8. The principle of cultural cooperation between cultural representatives locally, nationally and internationally, including guarantees of freedom and promoting opportunities for dialogue.
  9. The principle of the primacy of international treaties and covenants for those with relevant cultural policies and protection of cultural diversity, and maintaining the cultural rights of regional languages[4].


Ministry of Cultural Affairs Achievements
On the technical level, the following was established: 

  • 1985: The National Institute of Archaeology and Fossils (official gazette No. 3776, issued on 16 March, 1985) in Rabat.
  • 1993: The National School for Fine Arts in Tetouan (official gazette No. 4203, issued on 19 May, 1993).
  • 1985: 21 Music and Dance Institutes (official gazette No. 3810, issued on 6 November, 1985) distributed as follow: three in Rabat; two in Meknes; two in Casablanca; two in El Araesh; one in Oujda; one in El-Jadida; one in Beni Mellal; one in Marrakesh; one in Essaouira; one in Safi; one in Asilah; one in Tetouan; one in Chefchaouene; one in Tangier; and one in El-Aioun.
  • 1985: The Higher Institute for Theatre and Cultural Activities in Rabat (official gazette No. 3773, issued on 20 February, 1985).
  • 1973: Mohammed IV National Theatre in Rabat (official gazette No. 3151 issued on 21 March, 1973).


The inventory of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs shows the following: 15 museums (as follows: four archaeological museums, seven anthropological museums and four specialised museums); 136 repositories; 20 theatres; 13 performance halls; 14 research centres and institutes; 20 cultural compounds and 31 regional representative offices.

On the legislative level in cultural activities, the most important achievements are: 

  • Law No. 22.80, pertaining to the preservation of ancient buildings, scenery, writings and inscriptions, artefacts and antiques, that replaced the manifesto of 21 July, 1945 (official gazette No. 3564, issued on 18 February, 1981).
  • Decree No. 2.81.25 on 22 October, 1981, pertaining to the implementation of Law No. 22.80 (official gazette No. 3601 issued on 4 November, 1981).
  • Decree No. 958.97 on 20 May, 1997, pertaining to the establishment of the National Park for Rock Inscriptions.


The Ministry of Culture’s activities in the 21st century will be dealt with in detail in Chapters 2 and 6.

1.2.2. Cultural Decentralisation and Contribution of Local Communities 

The manifesto of 7 May, 1917 (official gazette No. 210 L, issued on 7 May, 1917) is considered the first law to regulate local groups in Morocco. They were given the right to create spaces for theatrical, choreographic and musical activities, and to establish literary and journalistic clubs. In 1919 the protectorate era’s decentralised government built a municipal libraryin Casablanca, and subsequently provided several cities with collective cultural supplies such as theatres, music and fine arts institutes, and libraries. Marrakesh (Municipality Library, 1923), Al-Araesh (Municipality Library, 1932), Chefchaouene (Municipality Library, 1940), Sefrou (Municipality Library, 1949), and Fes (Municipality Library, 1950) were all serviced. 

Decentralisation led to the marginalisation of many local groups, however they still put forth some cultural projects. Libraries were established with funding from local groups under the Rabat general treasury’s supervision, which helped local authorities in every city include libraries within their city expansion plans. Thus, several municipality libraries were established in Moroccan cities such as Oujda, Asilah, Safi, El-Hassima and Agadir.

In 1976, the collective convent manifesto was issued (30 September, 1976), which was considered a significant achievement for local groups’ cultural work. According to the manifesto, jurisdictions were expanded and they were given the responsibility of comprehensive socioeconomic and cultural development within their jurisdictions. Local groups, starting from this date, were in charge of organising cultural activities (seasons, festivals, and cultural meetings); cultural stocks and libraries became of interest to the elite. Several institutions of this type were established such as the municipality library in Taza (1978) and four libraries in Tangier (1982,1983,1989,1990).

In the early 1990s, local cultural groups faced a structural change when the Kin, in his address to the National Symposium on Professional Theatre (14 May, 1992), decreed that they must allocate 1% of their budgets for theatre building and staff. This never saw the light of the day and professional bodies in the theatre sector are still demanding for this decree to be carried out.

In line with this decision, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs made great efforts to encourage local groups to join the process of formulating national cultural policy. In light of the economic crisis that prevailed in the 1980s and 90s, the minister of cultural affairs called upon local groups to help establish regional representatives’ offices, without which no cultural work could be done at the local or regional levels. To address these issues, seminars on cultural decentralisation were held in Teteouan (26 May, 1993) and in Rabat (7-8 April, 1994). A course was also held by the Supreme Council for Culture on the topic (21-20 December, 1994). And the Moroccan-French project on “Cultural Attitudes in Morocco” was ratified by the National Moroccan Cultural Committee. The project was designed to create an administrative structure within the Ministry of Cultural Affairs capable of supporting the decentralisation process. As a result, the Ministry established the Local Groups Coordination Division in 1994. This led to a boom in the cultural work done by local groups (see Table 2.1).

However, the decree No. 328-06-2 of 18 Shawwal 1427H (10 November, 2006) which was issued to determine the terms of reference and organisation of the Ministry of Culture, (Official Gazette No. 5480, issued on Thursday 7 Dec 2006) cancelled this section.

Tabel 1.1: Equipment established by local communities between 1990 and 2000

Stock type








Cultural Centres




Cultural Compounds




Cultural Houses








Music Institutes









Moroccan Cinematography Centre
Moroccan cinema began in the protectorate era. The country’s first cinema opened its doors in 1934, and the Moroccan Cinematography (Bureau) Centre was established in 1944 and reorganised in 1977 (manifesto No. 1.77.230 as a law, on 19 September, 1977, published in official gazette No. 3387 on 28 September, 1977). The centre was in charge of the following:

  • Overseeing laws pertaining to the cinematography profession, especially licensing laws, and regulation ofrelated institutions and cinemas.
  • Acting within legislation to monitor films imports, exports, production, distribution and resource utilisation.
  • Production, distribution and utilisation of films, in particular promoting the production and distribution of media films (Moroccan filmed news).
  • Working directly or indirectly for public to produce films on their specific activities.

In 1987, decree No. 2.87.749 was issued, stipulating two types of tariffs to be levied on cinemas and paid to the Moroccan Cinematography Centre:

  • Tariffs paid by theatre investors (owners, managers or operators) to support the Centre’s operations.
  • Tariffs to be paid by theatregoers to advance cinema production and utilisation.

These instalments were to be paid equally into to two bank accounts of the Moroccan Cinematography Centre—an account titled “Funds to Aid in Utilising Cinemas” and one titled “Funds to Aid in Cinema Production”. The last modification of this decree was in 2003.

It should be noted that Morocco now has less than 40 cinema halls, while in 1985 there were 247, and the number of movie patrons has declined from 45 Million in 1980 to only 2 million in 2012. The centre annually hosts more than 53 activities between film festivals and rallies. Perhaps the most prominent is the Morocco International Festival, accounting for 40 percent of the total volume, the balance would be distributed between the other activities (less than 7 % of this volume was distributed to the 40 events in 2013).

An estimated 353 films have been produced between the early 1950s and 2000, including 95 motion pictures. During this period, over 185 cinema and video production companies were started. Production, too, has witnessed evident improvement since the beginning of this century (for details, see chapter 6).

The royal decree to participants in the National Cinema Conference that opened on 16 October, 2012, in Rabat, is seen as an important event surrounding the arrival of Islamists to power and their assuming of responsibility for the portfolio of the Ministry of Communication that oversees the film sector.

The decree represents a road map of the rise of film in Morocco. It calls for the development of the National Conference Centre to make it a suitable venue with continued support and sponsorship for production, initiatives, and film screenings. In this way, it was a clear signal to all bodies and constituents with religious or Salafi leanings that forbid art or call for clean art.

Also, an important event that shaped the recent Moroccan film scene was when the Council of Government appointed a new director on 2 October, 2014 succeeding Mr Nour al-Din Al Sail, Mr Sarem Fassi Fihri, the President of the Chamber of Film Producers who promised to provide annual funding of 100 million dirhams, and promised to adopt a new cinema policy based on " freedom of creativity, respect for the pluralistic constitution and the rehabilitation of the cinema sector.” It would include involvement from private sector producers, directors and representatives, and would support Moroccan film production.

The new Director encouraged the growth of a thriving film industry as a priority for the Centre’s future activity. Highlights of his policy would be "to review the privileges of foreign production companies, and enhance the attractiveness of Morocco as a location for film and TV production". He warned against the phenomenon of digital piracy confirming that he would work with the communications division to prevent the illegal downloading of movies, with the necessity of granting legal alternatives.




[1] The primary results for the time management study conducted by the Higher Commission of Planning in 2011/2012. Initial findings were presented in Rabat on 28 October, 2014.

[2] One of the most prominent Moroccan historians and thinkers who, through his cultural and intellectual presence, shaped modern Moroccan history.

[3] Found on Official website for the Ministry of Culture.

[4] Found on the Official website for the Ministry of Culture.





Capítulo publicado: 05-05-2016