Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Morocco
One of the unique aspects of the ICANN community is its truly global nature and the opportunity to meet and work with people from across the world. We’re getting that chance again here in Morocco – a country with a rich history, diverse culture, and a growing Internet community.
- Green Giant: Morocco is a world leader in renewable energy deployment with an aggressive strategy to provide more than 50% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The Noor Complex near the town of Ouarzazate on the edge of the Sahara is the largest concentrated solar plant in the world, which produces enough electricity for more than a million people.
- Literary Pedigree: Moroccan novelist Tahar Ben Jelloun has been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize twice and won France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for his works about Moroccan culture and identity. Another Goncourt winner, “Chanson Douce” (known as “The Perfect Nanny” in English) from Moroccan-born author Leïla Slimani, was recently an international bestseller. Morocco’s status as a crossroads for various cultures, religions, and languages has long been an inspiration for European and American writers like Paul Bowles (“The Sheltering Sky”), Jean Genet (“Our Lady of the Flowers”), and Tennessee Williams (“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”).
- Ancient Library: One of the world’s oldest working libraries can be found in Fez, Morocco. The Al-Qarawiyyin library holds a collection of texts dating back to the 7th century. The library is part of an educational complex and mosque founded in 859 by Fatima Al-Fihri, the devout daughter of a wealthy Tunisian merchant. Another woman, Fez native Aziza Chaouni, directed the extensive renovations that brought Al Qarawiyyin back to its former splendor, reopening to the public in 2016.
- Digital Development: Morocco is building its digital economy to help boost economic growth. The Kingdom recently signed on to a new framework with the World Bank which includes an initiative to “accelerate Morocco’s adoption of digital technology as a source of improved services, growth, and jobs.” One startup that has seen some success is “Ville Propre” or Clean City, a mobile social networking app where users post pictures of uncollected trash or potholes and the app sends the information to authorities for cleanup. The World Economic Forum and the Bahrain Economic Development Board recognized Clean City as one of the 100 top Arab startups shaping the region’s digital future.
- Hollywood in the Desert: Some of the most famous movies in the world have filmed in Morocco, including “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Gladiator”, and “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Atlas Studios, located south of Marrakech, claims to be the largest movie studio in the world, occupying 322,000 square feet of desert near Ouarzazate. Most recently, the dramatic ksar (fortified town) of Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was featured in hit television show “Game of Thrones”.
- Argan Oil: For hundreds of years, Moroccans have used argan oil to fade scars and treat skin ailments like eczema. Arduously extracted from the seed of the thorny argan tree, the oil has recently become one of Morocco’s most important exports. Dozens of women’s argan oil cooperatives have sprung up, providing jobs and helping the economies of Berber communities.
- Adventure Rally: The Africa Eco Race features cars, bikes, trucks, and experimental vehicles racing from Europe, through Morocco, to Senegal. This rally, a successor to the famous Dakar Rally, seeks to add eco-awareness to the adventurous off-road race. The 2020 Africa Eco Race will start in Monaco, with five stages in Morocco, six stages in Mauritania, and finish at the famous Lac Rose near Dakar, Senegal.
- Delicious History: Marrakech’s signature dish is tanjia, beef or lamb slow cooked with preserved lemon and herbs in a distinctive earthenware pot. The tanjia pot is traditionally cooked in communal furnaces within the medina, and the dish has become known as a working man’s lunch.
- Modern Art Pioneer: Mohammed Melehi is one of the most influential Moroccan artists of the modern era. Known for bright geometric wave motifs, his art links the American Pop Art and European Bauhaus movements with Islamic art. His work is in many international museum collections including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar.
- Cat Culture: As you walk around Marrakech, you will see a striking number of cats everywhere from souks, to restaurants, to sleeping in doorways.