The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and Morocco have a long-shared history: Moroccanborn Amsterdammers and Amsterdammers of Moroccan descent make up more than 9% of the city’s population. Almost half of them were born in the Netherlands; many others came to the country as part of a family reunification. Today, Moroccan businesses such as restaurants and specialty shops form an important part in many Amsterdam streetscapes. This is especially prevalent in areas such as Amsterdam West and Amsterdam Nieuw-West, the latter of which was described by the Dutch-Moroccan writer Abdelkader Benali in an interview with Words without Borders as: ‘a suburb that has a kind of strange mix of urban normality (…) and this great pleasant lake [Sloterplas], where you feel like you’re in the ‘50s. People who live there come from every corner of the world and give it the atmosphere of being in Istanbul or Tangier or Paramaribo. It’s one of the most exciting places in town.
Morocco and the Netherlands enjoy close business ties as well as social ones, with numerous Moroccan companies present in the Dutch capital. Eberhard van der Laan, the mayor of Amsterdam from 2010 to 2017 headed a trade mission to Morocco in November 2015, visiting Tangier and Casablanca. The Chaabi Bank, the Attijariwafa Bank and, most recently, OCP Group have all set up their international presence in Amsterdam. As the world’s leading producer and exporter of phosphate in all forms, as well as a major player in the global fertiliser industry, OCP Group may act as a catalyst for many other businesses from the country, encouraging them to follow to the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. But it’s not all about business: Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum Junior is currently showing an exhibition about life in Morocco, where visitors young and old can join four well-known Dutch-Moroccans on a trail through a medina and discover mosaics, calligraphy, fashion and culinary secrets.
With firm social, cultural and commercial ties, Amsterdam-Morocco relations are stronger than ever, and Amsterdam’s Moroccan community, with their knowledge of the language and culture of both the Netherlands and Morocco, are in a unique position to build further bridges between the two countries.