The antithesis of economic development: an inside look in to Morocco's archaic, yet alive, class system

Published September 24th, 2014 - 04:55 GMT

Morocco may technically be in the 21st century, but in some respects it remains in the Middle Ages. Individuals are not recognized for their knowledge, experience and contribution but for their tribal identity: to which big and influential family they belong.

Indeed, when you meet people for the first time, in many instances, they will ask you who you are and if you give them your first name only, they will look disappointed and dismayed because you did not satisfy their curiosity about your tribal position in the Moroccan social cartography.

The classification of influential family groups of Morocco are as follows:

1. Makhzen (government and official) families:

These families were traditionally in the service of the Sultan and his government as civil servants or political, financial or military advisers. They were living in the palace precinct because the Sultan could ask for them anytime. The make up of these families saw a dramatic change after the fall of Grenada in 1492 following thereconquista and the exodus of the Andalusians to Morocco and neighbouring countries. On their arrival to Morocco, they immediately offered their services to the Sultan who could not refuse such an offer, so he integrated them in his permanent royal staff instead of the Amazigh (Berber) personnel and this was the beginning of the animosity between the two ethnic groups that is still going on today. Besides the Andalusians, the other ethnic group that rose to prominence, then, were the Jews, who became the financiers and the businessmen of the Sultan. They were to be known as Tujar Sultan (Sultan’s businessmen).

2. Tujar (merchants) families:

These families controlled trade and commerce with the Europeans and had permanent agents in Madrid, Paris and London and also owned ships and financial institutions. They had the money and the power and the friendship of the Europeans, so in a way they wielded lots of power and had access directly to the Sultan. There were times when thy did not see eye to eye with the Makhzen and, as a result, withdrew staple products from the market such as flower, sugar, oil and tea, which led to riots in the cities that were quelled in blood and fire and led in some cases to the deposition of the Sultan.

3. 9ouyad (governors) families:

They comprised the governors of the Sultan in the provinces, who wielded lot of power and ruled these areas ruthlessly by the sword and by organized racket. They often amassed colossal fortunes through corruption and coercion. This group included, also, the military chiefs who racketed the population in the name of the Sultan and considered this to be a privilege of their profession and position.

4. Amghar (Berber tribal chiefs) families:

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