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Alumni Travel Reading: Morocco


Ancient sandstone village

Courtesy of Penn Alumni Travel.


DIY Moroccan Cuisine

Plates of Moroccan food on tableCourtesy of

Understanding Morocco Through Its Music

Morocco is a land of music. The CDs here have been selected to give you some idea of the diversity of music you will find.

Painting of Moroccan musician leaning against wall strumming instrument

Gnawa Musician. Courtesy of

First, we have a CD of Moroccan classical music entitled Musique Classique Andalouse de Fes, ensemble led by Ustad Massano Tazi. This music is supposed to have come to Morocco with the many Muslims who fled from Spain after the conquest of the last Muslim stronghold, the city of Grenada, in 1492. This is the origin of its name “andalousi” or Spanish. There is a set instrumentation of plucked and bowed strings, and a set repertoire based on musical keys/modes or noubas. This music is the soul of courtly Moroccan culture, and is esteemed in the same manner as Western classical music is.

Next is the popular group, Nass El Ghiwane on their CD La Legende. Formed in the late 1960s, Nass El Ghiwane are living legends, who have developed a compelling mixture of Moroccan folk forms and instruments with the intensity and musicianship of Western rock’n’roll. Their lyrics reflect political or social concerns. Their music is usually referred to as Chaabi, or popular. This CD dates from 1975, and is one of their best.

The last CD contains Gnaoua or Gnawa music. This is the music of Black Sufi brotherhoods, many of which are based in the towns of the edge of the Sahara. The music is percussive and repetitive, and is very trance-inducing. Despite this, Gnaoua is one of the major musical currents in Morocco. It is often heard at the international festival, Fes Musiques Sacree du Monde, which usually takes place in the summer.

General Introduction

The blog The View From Fez is the best introduction to all things Moroccan. From food to news to required reading to Moroccan “basics”, this is an easy and fun place to go wherever you are for a one stop guide to the country. The photo journal with more than a thousand pictures captures the beauty, magic and diversity of the land and people of Morocco, and is itself worth a visit to the blog.

Historical Overview

Understanding Morocco Through Its Oral Tradition

Painting of people outside ancient city and bridge

Arrival of a Caravan Outside the City of Morocco. Courtesy of


Selected and Annotated By:
David Giovacchini
Middle East Studies Librarian

For more information concerning this Penn excursion, please visit the Penn Alumni Travel website.

Moroccan Women: Tradition and Modernity

Painting of woman in cloak preparing to pray

Women in a Mosque. Courtesy of New York Public Library.

Outside the Eye of the Tourist

The film Ali Zaoua, Prince of the Streets, directed by Nabil Ayouche gives a realistic and moving portrayal of the plight of the homeless children, who roam the desolate slums of Casablanca. This is not a side of Morocco usually seen by tourists, but it is the reality of many of the modern urban areas of the country. The unlooked for victory is that despite their desperate circumstances, the children’s courage, playfulness and vibrant camaraderie come through so clearly. In Arabic, with English subtitles.

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