Music, Healing and Pilgrimage in Morocco

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Arts & Department of Music

Module overview

Most of Morocco’s Jewish population emigrated in the twentieth century, but Morocco remains a crucial pilgrimage site for Moroccan Jews, who visit saints’ tombs and shrines every year.

Indeed, Morocco is one of the few places in the Middle East and North Africa where Jewish life remains active today, both through its remaining population and through an active tourist network that supports a wider cultural economy of festivals, healing rituals and saint veneration.

This module introduces students to the wide variety of healing and pilgrimage rituals in Morocco today, from the Gnawa lila to hip hop festivals hosted by the monarchy, the hillula as a paradigm for saint veneration, and Andalusi music festivals that attract mass tourism from France.

We consider the way the government supports musicians and religious minorities through the programming of festivals, and the way life in cities changes with the patronage of pilgrims and tourist. We also examine the relationships that Muslim custodians of Jewish cemeteries retain with their former neighbours, and the special role of Morocco as a pilgrimage site for Jews. In the process, we also delve into some sensitive cultural issues like censorship, belonging, and the way that the memory of Jewish life in Morocco changes with shifting political ideologies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to

  • Critique the way that tourism, travel and pilgrimage shape cultural production in North Africa.
  • Examine the debates around the role of Jewish musicians in North African society.
  • Analyse a variety of syncretic religious rituals in North Africa.


  • Lectures: 1 hour per week  
  • Seminars: 1 hour per week 

Method of assessment

  • 250-word abstract (worth 20% of marks)
  • 750-word annotated bibliography (worth 30%)
  • 1,500-word (10-minute) podcast or video essay (worth 50%)

Suggested reading

  • Glasser, Jonathan. 2016. The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Gottreich, Emily. 2020. Jewish Morocco: a History from Pre-Islamic to Postcolonial Times.
  • Moreno-Almeida, Cristina. 2017. “Reporting on Selective Voices of ‘Resistance’: Secularism, Class, and ‘Islamist’ Rap. International Journal of Cultural Studies 21(4): 343-358.
  • Salime, Zakia. 2015. “‘I Vote I Sing’: The Rise of Aesthetic Citizenship in Morocco.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 47(1): 136-139.
  • Salois, Kendra. 2014. “Make Some Noise, Drari: Embodied Listening and Counterpublic Formations in Moroccan Hip Hop.” Anthropological Quarterly 87(4): 1017-1048.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules