Morocco grows into international cultural magnet

Rapper Pitbull performing during last year's Mawazine World Rhythms International Music Festival in Rabat

Morocco is witnessing a cultural boom thanks to its renowned international festivals and large projects launched by Moroccan King Mohammed VI to make the North African kingdom an important artistic destination.
Morocco gained international attention by attracting world famous acts to its numerous festivals, such as Mawazine and Jazzablanca.
Rabat opened the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in October 2014 in line with the king’s desire to make culture a catalyst for human, social and economic development and to provide Morocco with top-notch cultural facilities that foster creativity and cultural democratisation.
The $20 million Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is the first in Morocco entirely dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The museum seeks to create bridges with various international institutions and foundations to serve a wider audience.
Also in October 2014, the king launched the construction of grand theatres in Casablanca and Rabat.
Located at the Bouregreg Valley, near Hassan Tower and Mohammed V Mausoleum, the $167 million Rabat Grand Theatre is a symbol of Morocco’s cultural and artistic renewal.
The $150 million Grand Theatre of Casablanca — Casarts — is part of the 2015-20 Greater Casablanca Region Integrated Development Plan.
Casarts, which is to be completed by October, is a major cultural project that will help revive Casablanca’s cultural life by improving access to cultural and artistic facilities with the aim of developing intellectual potential, talents and creativity.
“Morocco has become a regional cultural hub thanks to King Mohammed VI’s efforts to put culture at the forefront of his aspirations,” said Mehdi Qotbi, president of the National Museums Foundation (FNM).
Qotbi praised the king for making culture one of his priorities since ascending the throne in 1999.
Morocco has set up a programme to restore its museums to strengthen their identity and revive activities.
The Kasbah Museum in Tangier, which was renamed the Kasbah Museum of Mediterranean Cultures, opened its doors last July after several months of renovation.
“More than 20,000 people visited the Kasbah Museum of Mediterranean Cultures in the first three months of its reopening to the public,” said Qotbi. “This means that Moroccans are culture thirsty.”
Qotbi pointed out that the cultural sector has become an important contributor to Morocco’s economy in terms of job creation and attracting foreign tourists.
“A few months ago, we had an exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s works that drew visitors and media coverage from all over the world,” he said.
The Mohammed VI Museum in Rabat had a retrospective exhibition of Giacometti’s sculptures, paintings and drawings, the first of its kind in Africa. Giacometti is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
Qotbi said FNM is in talks with the Moroccan flag carrier Royal Air Maroc to tailor special packages for visitors of the exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s artworks, which is scheduled for April.
“Culture is a means of communication and builds bridges between peoples. As a person responsible for museums, I saw how the monarch set out an Africa-oriented political and economic policy and accompanied it culturally,” he said.
King Mohammed VI tasked Qotbi with organising an exhibition in which Rabat would be Africa’s cultural capital.
“Rabat will wear the colours of Africa next April,” Qotbi said, adding that the exhibition will be titled L’Afrique en Capital — Africa in Capital.
“We will be the first country in the world to pay homage to Senegalese sculptor Outman Sow, who died recently.”