Moroccan americans

by Elizabeth Shostak


Morocco, a country slightly larger than the state of California, is situated in northwestern Africa and is the African nation closest in location to Europe. It is bordered on the east by Algeria and to the south by Western Sahara. To its north is the Mediterranean Sea and to its west is the Atlantic Ocean. Morocco's two coasts are separated by the Strait of Gibraltar, a strategic point that guards entry to the Mediterranean from the west. Only 10 miles across the Strait to the north lies Spain. Morocco's total land area is 177,117 square miles (458,730 square kilometers), of which only 21 percent is farmable land. Two northeast-southwest mountain ranges, the Rif and the Atlas Mountains, bisect the country and occupy more than a third of its total area. Morocco's maximum north-south dimension is 825 miles, and its maximum east-west dimension is 475 miles. Its capital city is Rabat, on the Atlantic coast. Its principal economic and cultural center is Casablanca, also on the Atlantic coast.

Morocco's population in 1998 was estimated at 29,114,497. Of this number, the majority of Moroccans—approximately 75 percent—are of Berber ancestry. Arabs make up the second largest group, and smaller numbers of black Africans and French are also represented. Ninety-eight percent of the population is Muslim. Christians comprise only 1.1 percent of the population, and Jews only 0.2 percent. Arabic is the official language of Morocco, although French continues to be used frequently in business and government matters; Spanish is also used. Berber dialects are also spoken, particularly in rural areas. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy; its chief of state is King Mohamed VI (since July 24, 1999). The country is governed by a bicameral Parliament and follows a legal system based on Islamic law and French and Spanish civil law. Morocco's flag consists of a red field with a green five-pointed star—known as Solomon's seal—in its center.

Morocco has relatively high birth and population growth rates, which exacerbate housing shortages and a high level of unemployment. The lack of health care and social services are also significant issues. The country has a mixed economy, but continues to have a relatively low GNP and a surplus of unskilled labor.


Morocco's early history was shaped by pre-Arabic, Arabic, and Jewish influences. The Berbers, a group of non-Arabic tribes scattered throughout North Africa, inhabited Morocco by the end of the second millennium B.C. Many Berbers were settled farmers, though some groups were nomadic. They raised crops and pastured their flocks in Morocco's mountainous inland regions. Phoenician merchants established trading ports along Morocco's Mediterranean coast in the twelfth century B.C. Their presence brought increased commerce to the region and introduced new skills to the Berbers, including weaving, masonry, and iron and metal work. By the fifth century B.C. , the Phoenicians had expanded their ports along Morocco's Atlantic coast, as well. After the Roman Empire defeated Carthage, Morocco's Berber King Juba (25 B.C. -24 A.D. ) encouraged his country to ally itself with Rome. In 46 A.D. Morocco was annexed as part of the province of Mauretania to the Roman Empire. It is believed that during the period of Roman rule, the province was almost entirely converted to Christianity.

The Jewish presence in Morocco was established before the country became a Roman colony. Small groups of Jews entered the area in the first century A.D. after they had been forced out of their ancestral land. From 1391 through the last decades of the fifteenth century, Sephardim, Jews who had settled in Spain and Portugal, fled to Morocco and other North African countries to escape the Inquisition. There they engaged in small crafts or trades, such as silversmithing, and often moved from town to town. By 1438 the Jews in Fez were forced to live in special quarters called mellahs . This term derived from the Arabic word for salt, and referred to the fact that Jews were given the job of salting the heads of executed prisoners to prepare them for public exhibition.

In the late seventh century, the Arab conquest brought Islam to Morocco. Though the Berbers fiercely resisted Arab control, and in 740 staged a successful revolt against Damascus rule, Arab religious, social, and linguistic traditions remained a central part of Moroccan culture. After regaining their independence from the Arabs, various Berber factions vied for control in the area, leading to a series of local wars that spanned almost 300 years. Finally, around the middle of the eleventh century, a confederation of tribes called the Almoravids conquered all of Morocco, as well as much of Spain. Early in the twelfth century the Almohads, another clan, overthrew the Almoravid dynasty and assumed rule. By the thirteenth century, the Almohads were expelled from Spain; in 1269 they were defeated in Morocco by the Marinids. Marinid rule lasted until the mid-fifteenth century, after which the country was partitioned into small independent states. Around 1550, the Sa'dis took control and remained in power for the next century. The North African tribes who conquered Spain were commonly known as Moors.


During the 1800s, European interest in North Africa increased, with France and Spain vying for power in the region. France invaded Algeria in 1830, and eventually became the dominant colonial power in the area. The Treaty of Fez, signed in 1912, made Morocco a French protectorate. This new status resulted in improved conditions for Moroccan Jews, who were given equality and religious autonomy. However, when the official French government at Vichy cooperated with Nazi rule during World War II, the situation became more precarious. Although King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco during World War II, thereby saving them from almost certain death in Nazi concentration camps, they faced increasingly harsh conditions in Morocco. By 1948 most of the estimated 270,000 Jews in Morocco left its poverty and discrimination for new opportunities in Israel, France, Canada, and the United States. The vast majority of these emigrants settled in Israel.

In the years following World War II, anti-colonial agitation increased throughout Asia and Africa. Morocco pushed for independence from France, which was negotiated in 1956, when Sultan Sidi Muhammad formed a constitutional government. A series of attempted military coups, however, prevented the new parliamentary government from assuming its duties until 1977. Morocco's constitution, signed in 1972 and revised in 1980 and 1992, gives supreme executive power to the hereditary king, who appoints a prime minister. The constitution also created a House of Representatives and an independent judiciary.

Although modern Morocco has instituted land reforms and economic modernization initiatives, and has strenuously developed its tourism industry, by the late 1990s the country was still experiencing problems typical of developing nations: high government spending and inflation, a huge external debt, limited access to health care, poor housing and living conditions, and high unemployment. With an estimated birth rate of 26.37 births per 1,000 people—resulting chiefly from Muslim opposition to family planning measures—Morocco is faced with a relatively high rate of population growth (estimated at 1.89 percent). Moreover, approximately two-fifths of the country's population is younger than 15 years of age. Morocco's high unemployment rate, estimated between 16 and 20 percent, particularly affects this segment of the population. Migration has emerged as a significant means of relieving unemployment, which, according to a 1999 article in The Economist, brings about $2 billion a year into Morocco, providing the country with its second-largest source of hard currency.

With average wages in nearby Europe about 20 times higher than that in North Africa, migrants have increasingly attempted to enter Spain, France, and Italy from Morocco to obtain work. But by the end of the 1990s, the European Union began limiting visas for North Africans and barring illegal migrants from entering Europe. The elimination of access to European jobs caused significant problems in Morocco. Some Moroccan workers sought illegal entry to Spain—a practice fraught with dangers: The Economist reported in 1999 that, during the preceding five years alone, 3,000 Moroccans had drowned in illegal attempts to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to enter Spain. This situation affected mostly unskilled workers; those Moroccans with higher levels of education and job skills were able to consider emigration to the United States.


Moroccan presence in America was quite rare until the middle of the twentieth century, but it is believed that Moroccans may have been present in the country from the earliest years of European exploration. Evidence indicates that Azemmuri, a Moroccan boat pilot from Azemmour, landed in America before Columbus. It is also possible that a few Sephardic Jews from Morocco made their way to the United States early in the twentieth century by way of South America. In the early 1800s, large numbers of young Moroccan Jewish men, seeking to escape crowded conditions and poverty in their native country, went to the Amazon region in South America. They settled in the cities of Rio de Janiero, Caracas, and Belem, where they established a synagogue in 1824. These young men were instrumental in developing the Amazon's rubber trade, and enjoyed substantial business success. Many returned home after making their fortunes, but others remained in South America. In 1910, however, the South American rubber industry collapsed, and the Moroccan Jews left the area, either returning to North Africa or moving on going to other opportunities in the western hemisphere. Although little documentation exists to trace their various routes, it is possible that some of them entered the United States.

Though the Moroccan American community is relatively new, America's relationship with Morocco dates from the very beginning of U.S. history. Morocco was the first country to grant official recognition to the newly formed United States of America after the country obtained independence from Great Britain.


Although the vast majority of Sephardic Jews who left Morocco after World War II went to Israel, sporadic waves entered the United States. Motivated by the desire to escape difficult social and economic conditions in North Africa, they tended to settle in areas where earlier Sephardic immigrants from Spain, Turkey, or the Balkans had established communities. Arabized Moroccans, however, did not begin to enter the United States in significant numbers until much later in the century, after American immigration laws lifted national quotas, based on data from the 1920 census, that had favored the entry of immigrants from northern and western Europe. Another factor that inhibited earlier Moroccan migration to the United States was the relative proximity of Europe. Until very late in the 1990s, Spain and France welcomed unskilled migrants from Morocco and other North African countries. It was easy, inexpensive, and quick to go back and forth across the Strait of Gibraltar, making this option attractive for workers who hoped to improve their earnings but then return to their homes and families. Furthermore, Spain's Moorish heritage and France's colonial dominance of the Maghreb had established strong cultural and linguistic connections between these countries and Morocco. This undoubtedly eased the transition for migrants who sought opportunities there.

While Moroccans who migrated to European countries were typically unskilled workers hoping to escape their country's high unemployment rate, those who came to the United States from approximately the late 1970s through the 1990s tended to have more education and better job skills. They settled in urban areas, especially in New York City, New England, the District of Columbia, California, and Texas, where they often established small businesses or entered professional fields. By the late 1990s, a large proportion of Moroccans in the United States were students or recent university graduates. In general, the number of Moroccan immigrants remains relatively low. The 1990 U.S. census counted only 21,529 foreign-born Moroccans residing in the United States; 15,004 census respondents listed Moroccan as their first ancestry, while 4,074 listed it as their second ancestry.

Acculturation and Assimilation

Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the United States from Morocco were generally attracted to areas where other Sephardim lived. Within these communities, they shared religious, linguistic, and cultural traditions that both united them with the country's larger Jewish community but also set them apart. The vast majority of American Jews are of Ashkenazi descent, meaning that their ancestors had settled in Germany and Eastern Europe. These groups developed cultural traditions that differed from those observed by the Sephardim. Sephardic Jews, for example, spoke Ladino and Arabic rather than Yiddish or German, pronounced Hebrew words differently from the Ashkenazim, used different melodies in religious services, and served North African or Iberian versions of kosher foods during holidays. Some Sephardic Jews in America have felt that their culture is little appreciated, and resent the fact that Ashkenazi traditions have largely determined American conceptions of Jewishness. In addition, some have felt that their relatively dark skin has caused them to be treated with prejudice. Yet their shared Jewish identity still connected Sephardic immigrants with those of Ashkenazi descent and helped them adapt to life in the United States, where the Jewish community has worked hard to combat anti-Semitic attitudes and to achieve social and economic success.

Arabs in the United States have also had to deal with prejudice. Americans have been less exposed to Islam than to Judaism or Christianinty, and have sometimes been suspicious of Muslims. In addition, the country's strong political ties to Israel have also fostered mistrust of Arabic groups—in particular the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which for decades perpetrated terrorist acts against Israel. The activities of other extremist Islamic groups, such as the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, have created negative stereotypes of Arabs in the United States. Although Moroccans' history has differed dramatically from that of Middle Eastern Arabs, Americans have tended to view all Arabs as a monolithic group. Because Moroccans typically entered the United States with high levels of education and job skills, however, the Moroccan American community has generally encountered a positive environment.


Situated on the route of the Arabia-North Africa spice trade, Morocco developed traditional foods enhanced by such exotic flavorings as cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, saffron, cumin, cayenne, anise, and sesame seed. Native crops of mint, olives, oranges, lemons, prickly pear, pomegranates, almonds, dates, walnuts, chestnuts, barley, melons, and cherries further increased available ingredients. Fish was plentiful along the Atlantic coast, whereas inland areas produced lamb and poultry as well as honey.

In Morocco, the main meal is eaten at mid-day (except during the holy month of Ramadan, in which the Muslim faithful fast until sundown). A typical main meal begins with hot and cold salads. Among the most commonly served are a tomato and green pepper salad, similar to Spanish gazpacho. Other popular salads are made with mixed herbs, with eggplant, or with greens and oranges. Tabbouleh, a cracked wheat salad flavored with parsley and popular throughout North Africa and the Middle East, is commonly served in Morocco, as are hummus, a spicy chick-pea pate, and falafel, spicy fried fava bean patties.

Following the salad course, Moroccan cooks typically serve main dishes that include meat and vegetables, followed by couscous. One of the most familiar Moroccan foods in American supermarkets, couscous is made from grains of very fine semolina (wheat) and is steamed until barely soft. It has a delicate, rather bland taste that sets off the spicier flavors in the dishes that accompany it.

Other dishes include chicken with lemon and olives, a traditional Moroccan favorite. Another popular dish is chicken tagine, which includes butter, onions, pepper, saffron, chick peas, almonds, and

The wide and  varied tastes that Americans have developed for  foreign cuisine has sparked many different ethnic restaurants all around the country. This Moroccan restaurant is newly opened in  New York City.
The wide and varied tastes that Americans have developed for foreign cuisine has sparked many different ethnic restaurants all around the country. This Moroccan restaurant is newly opened in New York City.
lemon. Chicken is also stuffed with raisins, almonds, rice, or eggs. Moroccans often use fish in stews, but also serve it fried or stuffed. A popular recipe that suggests a strong Spanish influence combines fish with tomatoes, green peppers, and potatoes. Lamb, which has been called the "king of the Moroccan table, " is served in a variety of ways. Mechoui is a holiday dish in which lamb is seasoned with paprika, cumin, butter and salt and then roasted. Lamb is also roasted on skewers as shish kebab, or can be braised, browned, or steamed. Kefta is a mixture of spicy lamb or beef that is rolled into a sausage shape and then cooked on a skewer or broiled. It is also rolled into meatballs that are used in tagines.

Other traditional Moroccan dishes include bisteeya, a savory pastry with possible Persian or Chinese origins. In this dish, layers of shredded chicken, eggs curdled in lemon-onion sauce, and sweetened almonds are wrapped in a paper-thin pastry called warka, then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Moroccans also enjoy both Arab-style bread and pita bread. Though desserts are not frequently served, sweetened green tea flavored with fresh mint traditionally ends the meal on a sweet note.


The kaftan, a long, loose-fitting long robe, is still worn throughout much of Morocco in both rural and urban areas. It is a garment well suited to Morocco's climate, protecting wearers from the harsh sun and allowing for ventilation, but also providing warmth for chilly nights. The traditional headgear for Moroccan men is the fez, named after the Moroccan city of the same name. It is a close-fitting red felt hat with a flattened top and a tassle worn to the side. The fez became common throughout much of the Islamic world but is thought to have originated in Morocco. In earlier years, Moroccan women, like those in other Islamic countries, wore veils to cover their faces in public. Although this custom has largely disappeared in urban parts of the country, women in rural areas sometimes still wear full or partial veils.


An Arabic dance tradition that has become familiar to many Americans is belly dancing. The term refers to the closely-controlled abdominal movements the female dancers make to achieve a rapid rhythmic swaying of the belly and hips. Belly dancers wear a tight garment similar to a brassiere, and wide, flowing trousers gathered at the ankle. They use coordinating long scarves or shawls to accentuate their graceful arm and hand movements, and often ornament their brows with headbands decorated with jewels or old coins. Belly dancing is often offered as entertainment at Moroccan American restaurants. During the 1970s and 1980s, many non-Arabic American women became interested in learning how to do belly dancing. They noted that it requires a surprising degree of athleticism and artistic skill.

Moroccan music reflects the country's hybrid culture, blending Arabic, African, and European influences. Gnaoua music, which includes strenuous acrobatic dancing, combines religious Arabic songs with African rhythms. Andaloussi music is traced to Abu Hassan Ali Ben Nafi, who fled Baghdad in the ninth century to settle in Cordoba, in the part of Spain then ruled by Morocco. More popular, or folk, music is called Chaabi. Many contemporary Moroccan singers record in this style. Instruments used in traditional Moroccan music include the tbal, a double-headed drum, and the querqbat, or metal castanets. Others are the tambour (tambourine); the oudh, or lute; the buzuq, a larger and deep-toned stringed instrument; the rebab, a stringed instrument something like a dulcimer and played with a bow; the tablah, a small hand drum; and the qanun, similar to a zither. Two reed instruments are also used: the ney, a single reed pipe; and the maqrum, a double-reed clarinet.


Moroccan Americans who are Muslims celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Occurring late in the calendar year, Ramadan is a period of fasting and purification. During the 30 days of Ramadan, nothing—no food, drink, or cigarette smoke—is allowed to pass the lips from daybreak to sunset. This 12-hour fast is then broken each night with the iftar, a celebratory family meal. During Ramadan, the faithful donate food and money to the needy, and spend time in prayer. Although non-Muslims might consider Ramadan a period of hardship, for many Muslims it is the favorite time of year. They enjoy the sense of community it brings, and note that it heightens their awareness of the plight of others. They point out that the fast provides physical benefits and helps focus mental attitudes. Ramadan ends with the Eid el-Fitr, a special feast during which holiday foods are served and presents are given.


Arabic is the official language of Morocco, although French is still widely used in business. Spanish is also frequently spoken, particularly in the northern regions of the country. Standard Arabic, used in newspapers and broadcasts, speeches, and correspondence, is the language of the Qur'an (or Koran, the sacred book of Islam), and is understood throughout the contemporary Arab world. There are, however, many different dialects of the language spoken in Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa. Spoken Arabic contains sounds and patterns that differ significantly from those of English or other European languages.

Words in Arabic are composed of the root, usually made up of three consonants which establish the word's basic lexical meaning, and the pattern, which adds the vowels that give the word its grammatical sense. There are three short and three long vowels (a, I, u; a, I, u). The vowel pattern –I-a, for example, makes the root ktb into the word kitab, or book; the pattern –a-I creates the word katib, meaning "one who writes." Arabic verbs are always regular. There are two tenses: the perfect, which expresses past time by adding suffixes; and the imperfect, which expresses present or future time by adding prefixes.

After the Latin alphabet, the Arabic alphabet is the most widely used writing system in the world. It was created for writing the Arabic language, but has been adapted to such diverse languages as Persian, Turkish, Spanish, Hebrew, Urdu, Berber, Malay, and Swahili. The Arabic alphabet, which was likely derived from Aramaic and Nabataean scripts, probably originated in the fourth century AD. Arabic is written from right to left and contains 28 letters, all of which represent consonants. The letters alif, waw, and ya (representing glottal stop, w, and y) represent the long vowels a, u, and i. The shapes of letters depend on whether they are placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. Another form is used for each letter when it is written alone.


In Moroccan Arabic, the word for "hello" is ahlan. "Goodbye" is beslama. "How are you?" is " Labass alaik "? "Please" and "thank you" are affak and shoukran, respectively.

Family and Community Dynamics

In Islamic cultures, family dynamics were strictly patriarchal, with the husband accorded power and the wife relegated to a subordinate status. Families tended to be large because of Muslim opposition to birth control. However, Berber attitudes tended to mitigate some of Islam's more misogynistic qualities in Morocco, and as the country modernized, family dynamics also changed. Divorce laws in Morocco, for example, still generally favor husbands but have been used with increasing effectiveness by wives who seek better material conditions or who wish to convince their husbands to agree to divorce. Statistics show that divorce is more common among Moroccan families of lower income than of higher income. Certainly, access to education has changed family relationships throughout much of the country as women have entered the workforce and gained more autonomy. Among Moroccan families in the United States, many women work outside the home and balance careers with family obligations.

The Moroccan American community has adapted relatively easily to America's secular urban society. But their small numbers and their dispersal throughout cities across the country have presented challenges to the maintenance of ethnic unity. Moroccans in the United States, who are scattered across the country in many different urban areas or college towns, have increasingly used the Internet to share information about themselves and keep in touch with others who share their background.


Schooling in Morocco is compulsory for both girls and boys from ages seven through 15, but the country's literacy rate is only 50 percent. The figure is closer to 60 percent for males, and just above 30 percent for females. Moroccans who have settled in the United States, though, generally had relatively levels of education and skills. Many arrived as students and furthered their education at American colleges and universities. The Moroccan American community values education as an important means of acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in a commercial and high-tech economy.


Although Moroccan culture was heavily influenced by Arabic traditions, Berber customs generally accorded women more freedoms than they enjoyed in Middle Eastern Arab countries. Moroccan American women, who enjoy a relatively high level of education, are likely to work outside the home. Though women tend to enter traditionally "feminine" professions, such as teaching, increasing numbers are training in more competitive fields, such as computer science or business.


Muslim children are not baptized, although male children are circumcised. Among Arab cultures, this custom predated the arrival of Islam, but later became incorporated into Islamic tradition. There are varying opinions among different schools of Islam on the proper importance of ritual circumcision ( khitan ). Some consider it obligatory, while others consider it recommendable but not required. The age at which it is performed varies from country to country.


Weddings in Morocco are festive affairs, and often last for several days. Special garments are painstakingly woven and embroidered for the bride and groom. So important are these costumes that wedding garments from the city of Fez are exhibited on poles during parades on national holidays. Often, the bride orders several garments to be worn during the course of a long wedding. For the ceremony itself, the groom wears a long, loose-fitting garment called a jellaba and the bride wears the traditional long head shawl and kaftan. Special textiles are also used during the bride's henna ceremony, in which intricate patterns are traced on her hands with henna, a red dye. Traditionally, a set of velvet gold-thread embroidered accessories is used for this custom. The mendil, a large rectangular cloth, is placed on the bride's lap while two pillows support her arms. Two special mitts protect her decorated hands. A special domed canopy, also decorated with gold thread, is used to cover the bride and groom while they are carried on trays above their guests.


The experience of Arabized Berbers who came to the United States from Morocco has been similar in some ways to that of Moroccan Jews. Arriving in the country much later than the Sephardim, who made their way here after World War II, Moroccan immigrants found only limited common ground with the existing Arab American community, which, until the influx of Palestinians and other Middle Eastern Arabs after the creation of Israel, had been overwhelmingly Christian. These earliest groups of Arab Americans were the descendants of Syrian Christians, mostly merchants and traders, who had moved to the United States in the late 1800s. The newer Palestinian immigrants, however, were Muslim. Moroccans shared a linguistic tradition with both these groups, and shared a religious affiliation with the Palestinians, but much in Moroccan history and culture differed from the Middle Eastern Arab experience. Moroccan Americans have not been excluded from the many Arab American associations that emerged to counteract prejudice and advocate for better access to jobs and social services in the United States. However, few Moroccan immigrants have allied themselves with such organizations because their focus is emphatically on the conditions that affect Arab immigrants from the Middle East.


Islam was founded in the seventh century A.D. by the Arabian prophet Muhammed and is the religion of the overwhelming majority of Moroccans. The faith quickly spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and was established in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Balkan Peninsula, Turkey, and Malaysia. By the late twentieth century, Islam was the second largest religion in the world (after Christianity), with approximately 950,726,000 followers worldwide. Those who practice Islam are known as Muslims. The principal sects of Islam include the Sunni, Shi'ah, Sufi, and Ismaili Muslims. Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims of the Malakite order.

Islam, which is Arabic for "submission to the will of God," is based on the Qur'an (also spelled Koran), the holy book considered God's revelation to humankind. Muslims believe that the Qur'an confirms and replaces earlier books of revelation, such as the Bible, and that the Prophet Muhammed is the last and most perfect of several prophets sent by God, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Though Muslims consider Jesus a prophet, they reject the Christian belief that he is the Messiah. Muslims believe in one omnipotent God (Allah), angels, revealed books (sacred texts handed down to people from Allah), the prophets, and the Day of Judgment. Muslims also believe strongly in predetermination—sometimes interpreted as fatalism.

Muslims are expected to practice the Five Pillars of Islam: to recite the profession of faith ("There is no God but God, and Muhammed is the prophet of God"); to observe public and collective prayers five times a day; to pay a purification tax ( zakat ) to help support the poor; to abstain from food from sunup to sundown every day during the holy month of Ramadan; and to perform the hajj, or pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. The most important religious concept of Islam is the Shari'ah, or the Law. The Shari'ah was formulated by Muslim theologians during the eighth and ninth centuries, and encompasses teachings that address the entire way of life as commanded by God. These include such things as dietary restrictions, sexual mores, and other matters of conduct. Though some traditional Islamic countries have adhered to a very strict interpretation of these laws, such as those requiring women to cover and veil themselves in public or punishing adultery by death, more secular Islamic countries tolerate a broader range of behaviors. Morocco has historically allowed women a degree of freedom relatively high in the Islamic world.

Employment and Economic Traditions

During the 1980s and 1990s, many Moroccans entered the United States to attend colleges, universities, graduate schools, and medical schools. After completing their education, some remained to begin careers in such professions as banking, engineering, computer science, medicine, architecture, journalism, research, and teaching. Other Moroccan immigrants have set up small businesses such as retail establishments or restaurants. Shops dealing in textiles (especially rugs), pottery, jewelry, and other handcrafts from Morocco have found a receptive clientele in the United States, as have restaurants featuring traditional Moroccan foods and entertainment.

Politics and Government

Moroccan citizens enjoy universal adult suffrage and are familiar with the principles and processes of representative government. The Moroccan American community is still relatively new, however, and has not had sufficient time to develop extensive political networks or to lobby for particular legislation or programs in this country.


Many Moroccan Americans who have founded retail establishments maintain close business ties with Morocco, from which they obtain many goods for sale in the United States (these include rugs, other textiles, and crafts). Such trade is favorable to Morocco, and organizations in both Morocco and the United States facilitate increased reciprocal business between the two countries. In addition, many Moroccan Americans have close family members in Morocco and maintain frequent contact with them.

Individual and Group Contributions

Because Moroccan Americans have had such a brief history in the United States, it is not yet possible to provide a comprehensive list of their achievements in various fields. The following limited list represents only the beginning of their contributions to American culture:


Ruth Knafo Setton, a Sephardic Jew born in Said, Morocco, has established herself as a significant voice in American letters. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in numerous publications. Setton has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and two Pennsylvania Council of Arts fellowships. She is the author of Suleika, and teaches at Lafayette College. Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhran, editor of two anthologies of writing by men of color, is of mixed North African Sephardic and Arab descent. His book Yerbabuena/Mala Yerba (All My Roots Need Rain: Mixed Blood Poetry and Prose ) is forthcoming. Born in New York City, he now lives in Oakland, California.

Organizations and Associations

American Moroccan Forum.

The American Moroccan Forum was established to serve the Moroccan American community. The organization maintains a website with useful links to news and other information.

Address: 4200 Cathedral Ave N.W. Suite 408, Washington, DC 20016.

Telephone: (202) 686-1171.


Online: .

Association of Moroccans in America.

Contact: Majid Fentas, Acting President.

Address: 1448 Boston Post Road, Larchmont, New York 10538.

Telephone: (914) 833-0329.

Friends of Morocco (FOM).

Established in 1988 with the intention of "promoting educational, cultural, charitable, social, literary and scientific exchange between Morocco and the United States of America." Maintains a "yellow pages" of organizations of interest to Moroccan Americans.

Contact: Tim Resch, President.

Address: P.O. Box 2579, Washington, DC 20013-2579.

Telephone: (703) 660-9292.

Fax: (202) 219-0509.


Online: .

Moroccan American Business Council Ltd. (MABC).

MABC was created to strengthen business ties and friendly relations between Morocco and the United States.

Contact: Ron Leavell, Executive Director.

Address: 1085 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Massachusetts 02215.

Telephone: (617) 439-5658.

Fax: (617) 923-3725.

Moroccan American National Association (MANA).

Contact: Aziz Abbassi, President.

Address: P.O. Box 2189, Washington, DC 20013.

Telephone: ( 512) 258-1573.

Museums and Research Centers

American Museum of Moroccan Art.

Address: P.O. Box 50472, Tucson, Arizona 85703-0472.

Telephone: (602) 529-0232

Fax: (602) 529-2791.

Moroccan Studies Society.

Contact: c/o Dr. Harvey Munson, Jr.

Address: Anthropology Dept., Stevens Hall South, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469.

Sources for Additional Study

Bibas, David. Immigrants and the Formation of Community: A Case Study of Moroccan Jewish Immigration to America. New York: AMS Press, 1998.

Mackie, Louise W. "The Threads of Time in Fez, Morocco." The Magazine of the Royal Ontario Museum. Winter 1991, pp. 18-23.

Marks, Copeland. The Great Book of Couscous: Classic Cuisines of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. New York: Primus, 1997.

Miller, Susan Gilson. "Kippur on the Amazon." Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries: History and Culture. Jewish Theological Seminary, 1996.

Pratt, Ruth Marcus. The Sephardim of New Jersey. Jewish Historical Society of Central New Jersey, 1992.

User Contributions:

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Nov 29, 2006 @ 11:11 am
thanks to all that give ther time to create this importance informations about moroccan culture thank you again
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Nov 30, 2007 @ 12:12 pm
This is such an amazing article. It made me want to learn more about my Moroccan Heritage. Thanks you guys. You will never unverstand just how much this meant to me.
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Jul 14, 2008 @ 4:16 pm
Thank you very much for this information about Moroccan Americans.
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Mar 17, 2009 @ 10:10 am
Thank you for taking the time to do this. Unfortunately, you have inadvertently made a couple of common mistakes (not your fault) when non-Moroccans try to explain Moroccan language and culture. The pre-Arab people of Morocco were called Berbers (varvaros, or barbarian) by the ancient Greeks, but they call themselves Imazighen, or the free people and they find the word "Berber" to be offensive. Their language is Amazigh. They do not speak Berber or Berber dialects. They speak Shelha, or Tashelhit, Tarifit, Taqel'it, etc. Since you mentioned that 75% of Moroccans are Imazighen, it makes sense to include a little information about their language. Also, there were Jews in Morocco before the Sephardic Jews of Spain were expelled by Ferdinance and Isabella. These Jews are referred to as Amazigh Jews in Morocco, or by Jewish scholars as Mizrahim. The two communities have since blended quite a bit, but there are still Jews who do not speak Ladino (Ladino is a mixture of Spanish and Hebrew) in Morocco but are fluent in one of the Amazigh languages. Thanks again for doing this!
Dogopo Geta
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Apr 24, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
this was a very good site to do my report thank you.
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Jun 9, 2009 @ 11:11 am
It's good that you made an article about Marocco. I'am from Holland and I wanted to now more about Maroccan people that are living in America. So Thanks!!
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Dec 17, 2009 @ 7:07 am
HI !!
I am Ahmed from Morocco, a student of the third years of the university. As you know I am encountering the academical research, and I've chosen as a thesis, Morocco-Americans.That's why I found out that your website would be a precious source of information and I terribly want to get more information that would help me make up my research this is my e-mail if you want to contact me:
Address: Ayat ,Bloc 1 N: 185 Beni Mellal, Morocco
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Oct 22, 2010 @ 7:19 pm
Thank you for a complete synthesis of Morocco and its people. I'm sorry this did not exist at the time I came to Morocco - it sould havehelped me tremendously! Keep up the good work and, please, up-date it once in a while.
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Mar 25, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
I love all the info I was able to find about morroco even tough I already knew all about it and I would like to confirm about the "Berber" comment cause I am Berber, both of my parents are. I was able to visit Morroco and visit the north part of Morroco.
Reading this made me a little prouder of my country even though I was born and raised in Belgium and now live in the United States. Now my kids are Morrocan-American and I would like for them to know how beautiful and rich Morroco is.

By the way if you didn't visit Morrocco yet, Well think about it.
Beautiful Beaches, Delicious food, Rich Culture, Amazing entertainments and of course Beautiful girls like Me ;)

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May 11, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
I guess I am the 100th person to say thanks for this very clear article.

It's always been an idea in my mind, a dream, but soon maybe I'll go studying in America. Right now, I still go to school in Belgium. But I guess I'd miss my family, who live here in Europe.

I can't imagine a small Moroccan community as you've got in America, since Belgium's got it's fair number of Moroccans, both Arabs and Amazigh, hehe. As for me, I'm half Riffi and half Taqel'it. I already knew alot of this, but this article really taught me a thing or two I didn't know yet. So, thx again.
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Jun 11, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
It's really nice to see that somebody made all this efforts to end up with a such interesting article, I'm one of the Moroccan students in United States and I'm very proud to belong to Morocco with it's rich civilization and diversity that never was a problem but contributed in furging our great history and civilization, as Moroccan intelectuals here in the States we have to work more on making Americans aware of our contribution in the the U.S history and how important can we draws a brighter future for the U.S and Morocco as well.
Thanks again for your efforts.
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Aug 29, 2011 @ 9:21 pm
Thank you for taking the time to provide such a well composed synthesis of the history of Morocco written without the biases that often tend to overwhelm such conversations...
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Aug 26, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
first thank you for that article about my precious country.I've founded it very clear and useful .
i would really wich to visit USA for a chance to make my future better, 'cause meanwhile in Morocco, we have lots and lots of problems such as corruption and poverty,if you don't belong to an old famous family you will be ignored, so you will quit all your dreams and ambitions :( thats a shame 'cause we moroccans have a big potential to make our lives as well as our country very good to live in.Im still young now,I'm 17 I live in Agadir and this year I have baccalaureat.and then I wich to do French law at Marrackech university,but we all know that moroccan universities are a bad environment to study in,thats why I'm afraid for my future,I really want to at least sign in a private school but they need at least 17 or even 18/20 to be accepted or a very high price that my family can't afford.thats why i desesperatly need to go to USA to finish my studies.
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Jan 29, 2013 @ 10:22 pm
All my moroccans come to Seattle there is thousands of jobs in the fishing industry and the pay is really good.Jobs at:
Thousands of jobs just check Craig's list Seattle.
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Mar 11, 2013 @ 2:14 pm
Great article ... Very informative and I learnt a little bit more about this beautiful country and its wonderful people
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Dec 8, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
thank-u for the article /I wish to all moroccans berbers and arabes who immigrate in every part of the world / must united for there counry morocco to became a civil governement without religion like U.S.A and europpe / then we can do business togther without using religions as racisme or an obstacle between us /all for " moroccan together hand in hand forever "

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