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Cougar Cultural Corner

2021-2022 Year Of..."Morocco"
Morocco Facts
  1. The official name of Morocco is the Kingdom of Morocco.
  2. Morocco is about the same size as the state of Texas.
  3. There are over 36 million people living in Morocco.
  4. The capital city of Morocco is Rabat, although the largest city is Casablanca with nearly 4 million people.
  5. Other major cities in Morocco include Marrakech, Tangier, Tetouan, Salé, Fes, Agadir, Meknes, Oujda, Kenitra, and Nador.
  6. Ethnically, Moroccans are predominately of Berber (North African indigenous) and Arabic decent. 
  7. The Berber people have been living in North Africa for centuries, historically living in the mountainous areas but in more recent times moving to the cities for work.
  8. The official languages of Morocco are Berber and Arabic. The distinctive group of Moroccan Arabic dialects are collectively called Darija. French and to a lesser extent Spanish and English are also spoken in the country. 
  9. From 1912 to 1956, Morocco was divided into French and Spanish zones. There are just two small Spanish-controlled areas remaining today (Ceuta and Melilla).
  10. Morocco is quite a mountainous country with the Atlas Mountains running from northeast to the southwest through the center and the Rif Mountains located in the north.
  11. The currency in Morocco is called the Dirham.
  12. Moroccan cities commonly have mosques with beautiful towers called minarets, market areas called bazaars, old medieval sections called medinas and old fortresses called kasbahs.
  13. Green tea with mint and sweetened with sugar is a popular beverage in Morocco.
  14. The most famous of Moroccan dishes is couscous, other popular dishes include pastilla, tajine, and harira. Chicken is the most widely eaten meat.
  15. The most popular sport in Morocco is football (soccer), the Moroccan national team became the first African and Arab country to make to the 2nd round of a World Cup when they did so in 1986.
Marrakesh: a Moroccan city built almost a 1000 years ago. It is said that caravans doing trade between the north and the south, and the east and the west, and that were carrying gold from Africa and spices from the east, were frequently attacked by bandits. In defiance to those bandits, a city was built in the location where the attacks happened. Marrakesh became the capital of the country, and became a peaceful site where traders and travelers came to rest, eat and be entertained. Palaces and gardens have been built throughout the ages. Marrakesh comprises an old fortified city, the medina quarter, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The region has its own unique style of Moroccan cuisine, and it is a destination for food, especially street food.

Wikipedia Page
Tajine is an extremely common dish in Morocco. The oldest description of Tajine, found in historical documents, dates back to 1,200 years. The name itself refers to the cooking utensil made out of clay, and used to make stews of vegetables and meats. The top (cover) has a cone shape.
Very low heat is used for cooking. The shape, in combination with low heat, causes the water vapor and flavors that come out of the vegetables and meats to circulate within the dish, thus preserving all the flavors of the ingredients.

The stew typically includes several types of vegetables, a meat and spices. The dish can be made with vegetables only. Although the basic recipe may be the same for different stews, the result can widely vary in flavor due to the preferred combination of vegetables and meats.

A funny video below is of an American who makes Tajine for his family.

Wikipedia Page
andalusian music
Andalusian Music

There is a genre of music, Andalusian music, in Morocco. Andalusia is the name of the southern region of modern Spain. However, in the past that name referred to most of the Iberian peninsula, that includes modern Spain and Portugal, and was part of the Moroccan empire. Several small kingdoms prospered all throughout the region. They were known in particular for their sophisticated culture. In architecture, the many castles built at that time are still standing and are visited by tourists. The music, on the other hand, traveled to Morocco with the people who fled the war. It has become part of the Moroccan, and north African, culture.
The main instruments used to play Andalusian music are: violin, guitar/lute, rebec, drums, tambourine and qanún (zither).  The violin is always held vertically and rested on top of the knee.  The video below plays a very famous piece...what would be an opening to a symphony.

Wikipedia Page
Happy Mimouna (April 23)
Mimouna is a holiday originated in Morocco and north Africa. Mimouna comes from the Jewish faith, but it is a broad social event, a celebration that includes all other religions and ethnic groups. It symbolizes love and respect between family, friends and neighbors.

Moroccans are a mix of many different ethnic groups, races and religions. For thousands of years, the Amazigh people and Jews were the original inhabitants in Morocco. Later (about 14 centuries ago), the Arabs came from the middle east. In the middle ages, more Jewish people moved to Morocco from Europe, as all non-Christians were pushed out by war. From sub-Saharan Africa, people settled in Morocco throughout history as business travelers and traders.

Mimouna marks the end of Passover, but the importance of Mimouna goes beyond simple religious practice. Moroccan Jews set out a lavish spread of traditional holiday cakes and sweetmeats. One of the holiday favorites is Mofletta. The table is also laid with various symbols of luck and fertility. The homes are wide open to neighbors and visitors. Typically all those in attendance at a Mimouna celebration are sprinkled with a mint sprig or other green dipped in milk, symbolizing good fortune and new beginnings.

Wikipedia Page
Moroccan Zellij
A characteristic of the Moroccan architecture is the tilework used to decorate the interior and exterior of buildings. Clay tiles of many different colors are cut into small pieces by hand, following many different geometric patterns. The pieces are then fit into elaborate patterns and glued together to form mosaics.

In some instances, the clay pieces are cut into lettering used to include calligraphy with mosaics.

While creating a style, several considerations are taken into account such as, the function of the building (for example: whether the building is a home, a religious building, a hotel etc.).

In combination with Zellij, the rest of the decor almost always includes hand-carved wood and hand-carved clay.

Wikipedia Page
harira soup
Harira Soup
Harira is a soup made with tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, celery, chickpeas and lentils. It is seasoned with ginger, pepper and paprika. Then, thickened with flour and/or pasta.

Moroccans favor Harira at the first meal of the day!  But, when is the first meal of the day, anyway?

Starting this past Sunday, April 2nd, and for a month, people practicing the Muslim religion do fasting. That is, they do not eat or drink from before sunrise and until after sunset. The first meal after sunset is called "Iftar", the Arabic word for breakfast.

Wikipedia Page
Moroccan Kaftan
Kaftan is a fancy dress women wear at festivities and to special occasions. The Moroccan kaftan is part of the culture, just like Kimono means more than just a dress for the Japanese culture and history. Kaftan was introduced several hundred years ago from the east. Kaftans were worn by royalty, and then adopted by everyone in the Moroccan society.
Kaftan is a long loose dress, with embroidery along the edges and the seams. The colors, the way it is cut and the patterns in the embroidery, are all selected for a specific design that must conform with the occasion for which it is made and worn.

Wikipedia Page

Fossils In Morocco


Imagine you were visiting Morocco 250 Million years ago. You would be standing under sea water, surrounded by an environment teeming with life. There once lived in that sea 300 to 400 species of Trilobites, Orthoceras, Amonites, sharks, sea urchins and many more. Today, most of those species are extinct or their decedents have evolved into other species. But, the bodies can be found fossilized in rocks that are well above sea level.
One of the activities tourists, and especially fossil collectors, like to do in Morocco is to browse the thousands of tourist souvenir shops in search of a unique fossilized specimen.
For those who are more adventurous, they take a pick axe and other tools, water, food and all camping gear, then head for the mountain to dig out their own fossilized souvenir.
The Atlas Lion
Just like the United States has the bald eagle as its national animal, Morocco has the Atlas lion. The Atlas lion (also called Barbary lion), not long ago, roamed in the wild in the area near the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The Romans captured Atlas lions, and used them in arenas to fight with gladiators.

The Atlas lion has been overhunted and is now extinct in the wild. The living lions are all in zoos around the world.
Marathon Des Sables

Thousands of runners each year travel to Morocco to participate in what is called "The toughest footrace on earth". Each day, the runners run a stage, covering a total distance of 250km (~155 miles) in 7 days. The idea of the race started with Patrick Bauer, who trekked alone through 250km (214mi) in 12 days, in 1984.


In the middle of the desert temperatures can reach over 120 F. Sandstorms pick up the sand in the air making it hard to see. At night, the runners sleep in communal tents. Add to that a number of snakes and scorpions common to that region.


In the first race of 1986, there was 23 participants. Now there are more than 1000 runners, and if you want to participate, you may have to sign up two years in advance.


Wikipedia Page:


Youtube Video:

gnawa music
Gnawa Music
One of Morocco's many types of music, Gnawa music, is listed a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages. The origin of the music can traced to sub-Saharan West Africa.
The instruments are mostly percussion based, including drums, large heavy iron castanets known as qraqab or krakebs, and a three-string lute known as a hajhuj, guembri or gimbri.

The rhythms are mostly mellow, but can be fast paced. The lyrics are mostly spiritual/religious. The costumes are typically decorated with sea shells. The colors of the uniforms are part of the celebration. They are chosen in accordance with the theme chosen for the night, that is dedicated to one of the many spirits.
fez hat
Fez Hat
Named after the Moroccan city, Fez.  It is made of felt and has the color of crimson berries.
For hundreds of years, the Fez hat has become popular in many nations. The Ottoman empire made it famous by making it the official hat of its army, then subsequently outlawed it in 1925.
Today, the Fez is worn by royalty and religious individuals as a symbol of dignity, by musician as an icon of culture, or by comedians to make a joke.
fantasia horse & sport
Fantasia, a Moroccan Horse Sport and Show

Throughout Morocco and throughout summer, horse teams from different regions come to compete at festivals. Horse saddles are very ornate, the teams uniforms reflect the culture and traditions of the region of each team, and the horses are, of course, gorgeous!
At the show, teams take turns to show off their skills. Each rider holds a musket filled with gun powder, and ready to fire (in the air). The team lines up, then moves in synchrony following their leader's signals. In a first move, they show off their dressage skills, then charge to their highest speed, then at another signal come to a full stop with a bang from the gun powder.
The teams are judged for their skills to handle the horses, and especially the timing of their movements reflected in the timing to pull the muskets trigger, which produces the loudest bang. Other prizes are awarded for the beauty of the uniforms, horse saddles, and of course, the beauty of the horses.
After sunset, roast lamb and couscous are served for dinner and music bands play until late at night. The festival lasts from three days to a week.

Youtube video:
Henna, before there was tattoo stickers!

Henna refers to the art of skin painting that lasts a few days.

The word Henna comes from the name of a plant that is dried, ground into a powder, then mixed with water to make a paste. The paste is applied to the skin using a thin wood stick or a syringe. After drawing artistic patterns on the skin, Henna is let to dry, then it is washed away with water. Henna leaves a yellowish color on the skin.

In Morocco, wedding celebrations can last several days. Henna ceremony takes one of them: Henna day.

Youtube Video:



Moroccan Medinas


Getting lost is never a fun experience, unless you are visiting an old medina in Morocco.


Medina simply means city. Within nearly every Moroccan city, the oldest part was built before cars. The streets are narrow, houses, shops and all life happens within a tight community. So, obviously tourists tend to get lost. But instead of getting frustrated, they simply enjoy it and keep shopping.


Medinas preserve their style to give visitors a flavor from the past. In fact, several of the medinas, like the ones in Fez and Marrakesh, are considered a world heritage by the UNESCO.


Youtube Video by a visitor to Chefchaouen:


UNESCO world heritage map. Click to explore -



Atai, also known as Moroccan Tea


When you are in Morocco, you drink Atai throughout the day. This tradition is several hundred years old. It started when shipping lines opened between China and the west. Today, Morocco is the biggest single importer of tea from China.


Moroccans took green tea and mixed it with locally grown mints and other herbs, such as verbena, and sweetened it with sugar.


Atai started as a drink for royalty and was served only in the king's castles. Teapots and trays are made of silver, and glasses have golden rims. Atai is served in an official ceremonial way. Atai rapidly infiltrated every level of the Moroccan society. And today,  whether you are at home, at a restaurant or a cafe, that ceremonial way seems to have carried over.


Youtube Video for making tea:



Let's go to the movies, a shortcut to Morocco


If you have watched movies, you have probably seen quite a bit of Moroccan scenery.


Morocco, because of its climate and the diversity of its landscape, has been a perfect location to film numerous movies. In particular at the city of Ouarzazate. It has hosted many sets of famous movies. The sets are still open to visitors.


Wikipedia Page for films shot in Morocco:


Youtube Video:


It's Friday, let's have some Couscous /ˈkusˌkus/


In Morocco, it's a tradition to have a dish called Couscous for lunch on Fridays.


The basic recipe of Couscous has steamed semolina served with a stew of vegetables and meat.  Depending on the variety of meats and vegetables the same recipe can give dishes that are quite different, changing by region, preference of local spices and even by season.


Wikipedia Page for more info.:


This Youtube Video shows the 7 vegetables Couscous:


goats and shampoo

Goats and Shampoo!


Can you think of something common to goats and shampoo?


You may say that goats use shampoo to wash their hair. Maybe... but the correct answer is: Argan tree. Argan trees grow exclusively in Morocco.


The Argan tree lives up to 200 years and grows to about 30 ft. Most importantly, Argan trees make a fruit which goats find extremely delicious. So, they climb on top of the tree to eat both leaves and fruits. Inside the fruit, there is a nut. The nuts are harvested ground and pressed to produce an oil, Argan oil. The oil is used in many products, including medical and beauty products, and... shampoo.  The Argan tree has its own day, May 10, for celebrating it.


Wikipedia Page:


Youtube Video:




The picture above shows the façade of a building. What's behind that façade, anyway?

It is a school. Not just any school! In 859, a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, started this school. It is recognized as the oldest university in the world. Its name is Al-Qarawiyyin, and it is located in the city of Fez, Morocco.

Wikipedia Page:

Youtube Video that shows the interior of the building:


United States Independence

On the July 4, 1776, the congress (of what was then the thirteen colonies) declared independence from Britain. USA needed recognition from other countries in order to establish its own relations.

Now, here is a quiz question: which foreign country was the first one that recognized USA  independence? If you answered: the Kingdom of Morocco, then you are correct!

On December 20, 1777, the Kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to recognize United States' independence. A treaty was signed between both countries in 1786 and remains the longest unbroken treaty in the USA history.

Wikipedia Page, for more information:

2020-2021 Year Of..."Culinary World Tour"

This year we brought the cultural studies program into your kitchen with a CULINARY WORLD TOUR.  Parents and kids can try cooking recipes from around the world at home, on their own time.  Each month we added a new country (sometimes more!) that includes a recipe, a video and a handout with fun information about the host country.  The recipes and videos come from our very own Cornerstone families.