Morocco is one of the most culturally active countries in the North African region, demonstrated by its broad ethnic and social diversity as well as its significant position between the west and the east. Moroccans descend primarily from Arab-Berber ancestry, but a smaller Jewish community still resides in the country. The rich cultural life of Morocco is primarily manifested in architecture, clothing, handicrafts, traditional music, folklore and gastronomy. These various expressions of culture are commonly celebrated through festivals and various cultural events, under the patronage of the King or in partnership with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture.
The Moroccan government, with ultimate authority in the hands of the King, established the Ministry of Culture in 2006, replacing the earlier Ministry of Cultural Affairs established in 1994. The Ministry of Culture has the mandate and mission to protect Moroccan national cultural heritage, to promote Moroccan culture and to establish relations with cultural institutions in Morocco and abroad. Cultural tourism has become an increasingly important part of the Moroccan economy and aimed to attract 10 million tourists in 2010, a mission reflected in the recently presented vision of the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft ‚Vision 2010. The objectives of this vision include the preservation and enhancement of Moroccan cultural heritage, to utilize the rich cultural diversity in the Moroccan society, as to promote the sustainability of Moroccan cultural tourism for generations to come.
Even though cultural tourism is a growing source of income for the Moroccan economy, cultural and inter-cultural activities promoted by the Moroccan government are challenged by a lack of funding for the Ministry of Culture, whose budget constitutes just 0.28% of the total national budget. The general lack of official information sources about Moroccan culture and cultural activities is another challenge facing the success of cultural diplomacy activities in Morocco. Furthermore, even though Moroccan society has become increasingly open and tolerant towards various minority groups, cultural activists increasingly draw attention to the apparent invisibility of Berber and Jewish culture within Morocco.
The Moroccan examples of cultural diplomacy projects presented in this report focus mainly on government-sponsored activities that were initiated or organised in recent years. Furthermore, it is important to note that the protests of the Arab Spring of 2011 affected Moroccan society, something that may impinge on recent cultural diplomacy activities undertaken by the Moroccan government.