You may not know it but Morocco is home to some pretty famous people. From athletes to scientists, politicians, and more, many celebrities have Moroccan roots. Here are 13 Moroccan famous people you should know about.
Famous Moroccan people in history
Though little known outside the Islamic world, Battuta is a famous Moroccan traveler. Born in Tangier, Morocco, Ibn Battuta came of age in a family of Islamic judges. In 1325, at age 21, he left his homeland for the Middle East.
He intended to complete his Hajj but he ended up spending half his life tramping across vast swaths of the Eastern Hemisphere.
Moving by sea, by camel caravan, and on foot, he ventured into over 40 modern-day nations, to please his wanderlust.
When he finally returned home after 29 years, he recorded his escapades in a hulking travelogue known as the Rihla.
Born in Charleston in 1810, Robert Purvis is a famous American nineteenth-century abolitionist.
Robert Purvis was one of the most committed American abolitionists in the nineteenth century.
The activist cause came from the story of his grandmother Dido. His grandmother was a Moroccan freeborn woman that was enslaved and transported to the United States at the age of twelve.
Famous people in science
Merieme Chadid is a Moroccan Explorer and Astronomer.
She is the first astronomer in the world to have been committed to installing a large astronomical observatory in Antarctica. And the first to place an Arab flag (Moroccan) at the South Pole.
Merieme received her Ph.D. in Astronomy and Space from Paul Sabatier University. She also completed several executive education programs at Harvard University.
After several years of astonishing achievement, Chadid was listed as one of the 30 most fascinating workers in the world by Forbes Magazine.
Slaoui is a Moroccan Belgian American researcher who served as the Head of Operation Warp Speed (OPWASP) under President Donald Trump from 2020 to 2021.
Slaoui is also the former head of the vaccines department at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). He worked at the company for thirty years, retiring in 2017.
On May 15, 2020, President Donald Trump announced that Slaoui would manage the U.S. government’s development of a vaccine used to treat coronavirus disease in OPWASP.
Slaoui resigned on January 12, 2021, after successfully having helped introduce a number of vaccines to the US and global markets.
Famous Moroccan people in sports
Hakimi is a famous Moroccan footballer who plays for French Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and the Morocco national team.
Known for his speed, runs, and goal-scoring ability, he is one of the best right-backs in world football.
His performances sparked the interest of several European clubs, with Paris Saint-Germain signing him in 2021 for a reported fee of €60 million.
Born in Spain to Moroccan parents, Hakimi represented Morocco at various youth levels, before making his international debut in 2016 aged 17.
Later, he was chosen in Morocco’s squads for the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019 and 2021.
Hakim Ziyech is another famous professional footballer from Morocco. He is nicknamed “The Wizard”, a title given to him by Ajax supporters.
Ziyech started his professional career at Dutch club Heerenveen in 2012 and signed for fellow Dutch club Twente two years later.
Originally eligible to play for the Netherlands or Morocco at an international level, he represented Morocco at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Ziyech is known for his finishing, dribbling, long passes, technique, and ability from free kicks.
In 2019, he was selected as one of the 20 best players in the UEFA Champions League for the 2018–19 season.
At the end of the same year, he was ranked 29th in The Guardian’s list of “The 100 best footballers in the world”.
Medhi Amine El Mouttaqi Benatia (aka Medhi Benatia)
Benatia is a former professional footballer who played as a center-back. He was born in Courcouronnes, France, to a Moroccan father and an Algerian mother.
The famous Moroccan footballer player is known for his tenures throughout France, Italy, and Germany.
He represented Morocco at the international level and made 66 international appearances, and most notably captained Morocco to its first World Cup in 20 years.
In 2019, Benatia announced his retirement from international football, having earned 66 caps.
Hicham El Guerrouj
El Guerrouj is a retired Moroccan middle-distance runner and the current world record holder of the outdoor 1500 meters, mile, and 2000 meters events.
El Guerrouj is widely regarded as the greatest middle-distance runner in history and is also viewed as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
El Guerrouj has also won the world championship in the 1500 meters six times. Four consecutive times outdoors in 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2003, twice indoors in 1995 and 1997 and has won the World Athlete of the Year awards three times.
In November 2014, he was inducted into the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Born on 8 December 1984, Badr Hari is a famous Moroccan-Dutch kickboxer.
He is a former K-1 Heavyweight World Champion (2007–2008), It’s Showtime Heavyweight World Champion (2009–2010), and K-1 World Grand Prix 2008 and 2009 finalist. Hari was born and raised in the Netherlands, but he fights under the Moroccan flag.
His parents are Moroccans from the Houara Berber tribe of the Sous region who moved to the Netherlands.
Taarabt is another great Moroccan footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder or winger for the Emirati club Al-Nasr and the Morocco national team.
Taarabt was born in Fez, Morocco. At a young age, his family moved to a small town called Berre-l’Étang, Bouches-du-Rhône, France.
He began his career at Lens in 2004 and played 14 matches for RC Lens B in the Championnat de France amateur.
Taarabt began his playing career in France at Lens before moving to the English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in 2007.
He then moved to Queens Park Rangers on loan in July 2009.
The Moroccan player was signed permanently in August 2010 and quickly established himself at Loftus Road.
Famous Moroccan people in politics
Mohammed VI king of Morocco
We can’t talk about Moroccan famous people without mentioning a few from the royal family.
Mohammed VI is the King of Morocco. He belongs to the ‘Alawi dynasty and acceded to the throne on 23 July 1999, upon the death of his father, King Hassan II.
Upon ascending to the throne, Mohammed introduced a number of reforms and changed the family code, Mudawana, which granted women more rights.
Mohammed has vast business holdings across several economic sectors in Morocco.
The Moroccan’s king net worth is estimated at between US$2.1 billion and over US$8.2 billion. And according to the American business magazine Forbes, he was the richest king in Africa and the fifth wealthiest monarch in the world.
Hassan II king of Morocco
Another famous Moroccan king is Hassan II (9 July 1929 – 23 July 1999). He ruled the country from 1961 until his death in 1999.
Hassan II king was the eldest son of Sultan Mohammed V, and his second wife, Lalla Abla bint Tahar. He was also a member of the ‘Alawi dynasty.
Hassan II was the first commander-in-chief of the Royal Armed Forces and was named crown prince in 1957.
Hassan’s reign was marked by the start of the Western Sahara conflict and the Sand War.
He was also the target of two failed coup d’états that were opposed to the absolute monarchy in Morocco: one in 1971 and the other in 1972.
Hassan’s conservative rule reportedly strengthened the ‘Alawi dynasty’s rule over Morocco and Western Sahara.
Famous Moroccan people in literature and art
Mohamed Choukri was a notorious Moroccan author and novelist. Choukri is best known for his internationally acclaimed autobiography For Bread Alone (al-Khubz al-Hafi), which was described by the American playwright Tennessee Williams as “A true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact”.
Choukri was born in 1935 in Ayt Chiker, a small village in the Rif mountains in the Nador province, Morocco.
He was raised in a very poor family until he ran away from his tyrannical father to the city of Tangier.
At the age of 20, he decided to learn how to read and write and became later a schoolteacher. In the 1960s, in the cosmopolitan Tangier, he met Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, and Tennessee Williams.
Choukri’s International success came with the English translation of Al-khoubz Al-Hafi (For Bread Alone, Telegram Books) by Paul Bowles in 1973. The book was later translated into 30 languages.
Mohamed Choukri died of cancer on 15 November 2003 at the military hospital of Rabat.