Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rabat
Juergen Teller at Alison Jacques Gallery | Courtesy of Alison Jacques Gallery
While there are several contemporary art museums and galleries around Morocco, Rabat’s Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI) was the country’s first public museum to achieve international museum standard. It is part of the National Foundation of Museums in Morocco, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to preserve and promote the arts and cultures of Moroccan heritage. Housed in a modern building that reflects Arab-Moorish designs, you can take a visual journey through the ages, beginning at the start of the 20th century and finishing at the present day. The artwork is well presented, and you’ll find pieces by international artists as well as Moroccan artists.
The Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca is the only museum dedicated to Jewish history and heritage across the whole of the Arabic-speaking world. The museum tells the story of Moroccan Jews, following their journey from Spain and Portugal to Morocco, and their subsequent desertion of North Africa. It shows the influences the Jewish community had on Moroccan culture and how, for many years, Jews and Muslims lived alongside each other. The museum shows life from times gone by in the mellahs (Jewish quarters around Morocco’s medinas). Exhibits include religious items like menorahs and scrolls, clothing and jewellery, documents, photographs, tools and a reconstructed synagogue.
Dar-el-Makhzen in Tangier was previously used as the city’s royal palace. It is therefore no surprise that the elegant building features numerous ornate touches and displays fine architectural designs and craftsmanship. There are two independent museums within the complex: the Museum of Antiquities and the Museum of Moroccan Arts. The former is within the old kitchens. It contains an array of ancient objects and antiquities discovered all around Morocco. Items date from prehistoric times to the medieval ages. The Museum of Moroccan Arts boasts a large art collection, with pieces gathered from different parts of the nation. The displays are in the former royal bedrooms.
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Musée du Patrimoine Amazigh, Agadir
Though Agadir is often associated with beautiful beaches and a lively nightlife, it is also home to one of the country’s best museums dedicated to Amazigh (Berber) culture and heritage. The Musée du Patrimoine Amazigh tells the story of Berbers from the Souss Massa Draa area, an area in southern Morocco that incorporates Agadir, Ouarzazate, Zagora, Tiznit, Sidi Ifni and other nearby areas. The numerous exhibits include jewellery, silverwork, pottery, rugs, tools and household implements. It’s a top place to learn more about the Berber way of life through the ages.
The building that contains the Museum of Marrakech has an interesting history. Prior to French colonialism, the ornate palace was the home of the nation’s minister of defence. It became a girls’ school, and then was turned into a museum. It contains a large collection of Moroccan art, as well as objects that span the ages. Themes include history, archaeology and ethnography. The diverse items on display include documents, coins, pottery, clothing, calligraphy, and, perfect for fans of the macabre, old gravestones.
The Tiskiwin Museum is another of Marrakech’s top museums. It occupies two neighbouring traditional riads. You can take a journey through Morocco’s trading history as you explore the different rooms, with each room dedicated to a particular theme, period or area. See the ancient route that merchants took through the mighty Sahara from Marrakech to Timbuktu, and learn more about the peoples and their lives from different places along the route. There are many tribal artefacts on display, along with carpets, tents and other crude shelters, baskets, tools, home items, jewellery and art.
Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah Museum is housed within the former grand residence of a local dignitary. The museum was named after the founder of Essaouira. Although fairly small, a visit is recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about the region’s traditions and culture. Of particular interest are items related to the Gnawa ethnic group. Items on display include weapons, rugs, pottery, coins, musical instruments, clothing, jewellery and wooden carvings. The architecture of the building itself is also impressive.
Ouarzazate’s Musee du Cinema is a favourite with film lovers. It is often combined with a trip to the spectacular nearby Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO-listed old kasbah that has been used as a shooting location for several movies. Contained within a former filming studio, the Musee du Cinema has a variety of old sets from different productions, cinematic props, retro movie posters, and old cameras and other filming equipment. The nearby Atlas Studios offer even more movie magic.
Located next to the famous tanneries of Fes, the Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts is a good stop for anyone interested in the skill of wood carving. There are large doors with intricately carved patterns, wooden boxes of all sizes, musical instruments and more. You can also see the tools that are used by craftsmen. The rooftop terrace provides nice views over the medina. The building is an old fondouq, a place for travelling traders to stay with their goods and animals.
Perched on a hill overlooking the former imperial city of Fes, the Borj Nord Museum is dedicated to military history. A relatively new museum, having opened in 2016, it contains numerous old weapons, such as firearms, jewel-encrusted daggers, and swords, shields, coats of arms, powder kegs and photographs from the past. Items come from all around the world. The museum is in an old 16th century fortress that was constructed on the orders of Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour. Its strategic position provides sweeping vistas over the surrounding areas.