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Morocco Historical Flags

(from 1062 to 1912)

Last modified: 2007-06-09 by antónio martins
Keywords: scimitar | scissors | zulfikar | arm | sword | falchion | chequy (white-black) | chequy 8×8 | chequy 5×5 | swallowtail | error | moor | almoravid | alawit | marinid | rub el hizb | star: 8 points (yellow) | octagram |
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Pre-Arab flags (before 8th cent.)

The first inhabitants of Morocco were nomadic Berber tribes. The Phoenicians established counters on the coast around the XIIth century BP and founded Carthage (now in Tunisia). The Romans destroyed Carthage in 146 BP, but the romanisation of Morocco remained very weak. In 429, the Vandals from Spain invaded Morocco, which was eventually incorporated to the Byzantine Empire by Justinian in 534.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

Early Arab flags (8th to 9th cent.)

In the beginning of the VIIIth century, the Arab chief Musa bin Nosayr seized Tangiers, established a governor in the city, and introduced Islam on Morocco. The Berbers were converted to Islam but revolted in 740 and founded independant principalities in the Rif mountains. Princes Idris I (d. 791) and Idris II (d. 828) ruled all the Berber tribes and spread Sunni Islam among them. The Idrisids (789-985) founded the city of Fes, which was their religious, political and economical capital city. However, the Idrisid power declined after Idris II’s death and Morocco was disputed between the Fatimids of Ifrikiya (now Tunisia and eastern Algeria) and the Spanish Umayyads during the Xth century.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

White flags (9th to 17th cent.)

In 1062, the Almoravid Berbers from Upper-Atlas mountains invaded the plains of southern Morocco. The Almoravids (from Al-Mourabitoun, “the peoples of the ribat”, a ribat being a military monastery) brotherhood was founded by Sheik Abdallah Ibn Yasin and its first ruler was Yusuf Ibn Tashfin, who founded the city of Marrakesh in 1062. The Almoravids ruled over northern Africa and Andalusia from 1061 to 1147. Initially, they imposed a very strict Islam, but they progressively relaxed their discipline.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

The use of the flag in Morocco as a symbol of the state dates way back to the Almoravide dynasty (1062-1125 AD). Prior to this time, white silk banners were often carried in battle, sometimes with Koranic inscriptions written on them. The Almoravides institutionalized this practice. They gave one banner to every unit of 100 soldiers; the leaders always carried one inscribed: «There is no god but god, and Mohammad is His Prophet». The two following dynasties (the Merinides and the Saadiens) continued the use of the White flag as the symbol of the State.
Dov Gutterman, 17 Apr 1999, quoting from History of Moroccan flags

The Almohad Berbers from Upper-Atlas fought the Almoravids in the name of orthodoxy. The Almohads (Al-Muhawidun, "partisans of the divine unity") were ruled by Ibn Tumart and later by Abd-al-Mumin. They conquered all northern Africa and Almoravid Spain, where they ruled from 1147 to 1269.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

The Zanata Berbers from the Banu Marin tribe revolted and founded a dynasty which ruled from 1269 to 1465, claiming to be the Almohads’ heirs. They reused on their banners the two interlaced squares cherished by the Almohads. This emblem was used in Morocco until the XXth century.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

The Banu Watta Berbers expelled the Marinids and ruled from 1470 to 1554. The Portuguese seized Ceuta in 1415 and Tangiers in 1471, whereas the Catholic Kings of Aragon and Castile seized Granada in 1492. The Sa’adid chorfa (plural of "cherif", descendants of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, or of Hasan, the Prophet’s son) took the power and attempted to expell the Christian invaders. In 1578, they defeated the Portuguese army led by King Dom Sebastião in Alcazar Kibir.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

Red flags (17th cent. to present)

The flag of Morocco was originally plain red, despite the numerous fanciful designs attributed to the country by european flag chart publishers.
Jorge Candeias, 23 Aug 1999, quoting from [cra90]

The book [noh71] shows as flag #251, captioned «Morocco», a red flag with a red pennant, forked ca. 1/6th.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 21 Jan 1999

After a troubled period, Mulay-al-Rashid subjugated the Berbers of Atlas and the whole of Morocco. He was the son of the founder of the Alawiyya dynasty (Hassanid chiefs) and descendant of the Prophet. The Hassanid reformed the country and established commerce treaties with Sweden, England, France and Denmark. The Alawits have been ruling Morocco since 1666.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

The Alaouites (beginning in the 17th Century), which are the ruling dynasties and the ancestors of His Majesty King Hassan II, were the first to introduce the red flag. It was raised every morning and lowered every evening on the fortresses at Rabat and Sale. The green Sulayman star on the flag was introduced in 1912, when Morocco was put under the French protectorate, in order to distinguish the nation’s flag from the others.
Dov Gutterman, 17 Apr 1999, quoting from History of Moroccan flags

In the end of the XIXth century, there were a lot of revolts in Morocco and the European powers decided to solve the “Moroccan problem”. France occupied Ujda and Casablanca in 1907, whereas Spain occupied Salwan and other strategic places in 1909. In spite of German protest, the French Protectorate over Morocco was established on 30 March 1912. The Sultan kept a nominal sovereignty. The Spanish zone was completely autonomous (treaty from 27 November 1912). During the “pacification” campaigns, the war flags captured to Moroccan tribes were based on the Marinid emblem, a red field with two yellow interlaced squares forming a star.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

Chequered flag (11-13 c.)

square version

Flag w/ sq. ch.b.
image by Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003

The oldest known flag of Morocco is shown in the Libro de Conoscimiento de Todos los Reynos [e9s50]. This flag is supposed to have been used by the rulers in Morocco in XI-XIIIth century. The flag is red with a 64-square chessboard placed in the middle of the flag. The upper left square of the chessboard is white. Red might refer to the Fatimids, white to the Umayyads and black to the Abasids, who had established a protectorate over Kairuan and Fes.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

round version

Flag w/ rd. ch.b.
image by Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003

In [neu39a], captioned «Marokko 1367» a squarish red flag with a swallowtail at the top only. In the center is a circle of blue/white checkerboard.
John Niggley, 25 Jan 1996

«Marokko 1367», the date being probably that of a portulano showing that flag. Neubecker’s [neu39a] statement leaves little doubt as to the reliability of medieval portulanos as a flag source:

Flags in the pattern of attributed arms were straightaway assigned even to exotic lands whose flags were certainly unknown, as e.g. Marocco.
Santiago Dotor, 18 Jun 2003

The so-called Charles V’s Atlas [vchXX] shows a similar flag, which ended with a triangle and has a circular chessboard placed in the middle.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

That is not the flag of the Kingdom of Morocco, it is the flag of the city of Marrakech.
Jaume Ollé, 09 Oct 1998

I believe it is very difficult to ascertain the identity of those flags, which are probably variant or erroneous copies of a single archetypal flag.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003

“Scissors” flag (17-19 c.)

with triangles orle

19th c. Morocco flag
image by Jorge Candeias, 21 Aug 1999

This flag can be found on several old flag charts.
Jarig Bakker, 21 Aug 1999

Morocco had around 1884 a red flag, with a border of red and white triangles, in the center two white scimiatrs crossed.
Josh Fruhlinger, 11 May 1996

The book [noh71] shows as flag #250, captioned «Emperor of Morocco», with slightly more triangles and in black details in the "scissors": an eye in each handle, and a circle and a pin in the circle in the centre. [bel63], as shown in [sie63], has nearly double the triangles, and open eyes.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 21 Jan 1999

It might be note here that the Zulfikar flags were commonly misinterpreted by mideval European painters (and flag authorities) as flags showing (tailor’s) scissors! [or crossed scimiatrs].
Željko Heimer, 20 Aug 1999

On this chart [bel56], the flag is labelled "Morocco" and consists of a red field with a border made of red and white triangles and with white open scissors centered. Thus, the Moroccoan flag should then be a red flag with the zul-faqar centered and a red/white border of triangles, all these elements white.
Jorge Candeias, 21 Aug 1999

with simple orle

19th c. Morocco flag
image by Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003

The Piemontese Chronicles report that, in 1781, a vessel flying a red flag «with two white scissors» moored in the port of Villafranca (now Villefranche-sur-Mer, in France). The vessel came from «the Sultanate of Morocco». Lux-Wurm [lux01] says that these “scissors” were in fact two misinterpreted sabers. But he himself fails to interpret these sabers as the famous zulfikar.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003

The dhu-ul-fiqr or thul fuqar or zul-faqar or zulfikar (or any of a number of transliterations from the Arabic) has been used as a symbol of Morocco because the ruling Alaouite dynasty claims legitimacy by virtue of descent from the Prophet’s son-in-law, Ali. Dhu-ul-fiqr was Ali’s sword, the blade of which was split in half.
Joseph McMillan, 21 Aug 1999

See also:

“Moor” flag as of 1848

Moor flag
image by António Martins, 27 Jun 2004

The book [noh71] shows as flag #251, captioned «Moors», a red flag, upper 1/4th green.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 21 Jan 1999

War flag as of 1848

The book [noh71] shows as flag #250, captioned «Morocco War», a blue flag, near the hoist an arm holding a sword, all white detailed black. Upper-arm horizontal, lower arm bare and upward, even a bit back towards the hoist, sword (a falchion?) almost level towards the hoist. (This is either a sinister hoist or a sinister arm.)
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 21 Jan 1999

Battle flags with Marinid emblem (18-20 c.)

18th c. Morocco flag
image by Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003

During the “pacification” campaigns in the early XXth cent., French and Spanish troops captured war flags from Moroccan tribes; these were based on the Marinid emblem, a red field with two yellow interlaced squares forming a star.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

On 16 April 1908 on Menaba, Lieutenant-Colonel Perron captured a 2:3 flag based on the Marinid pattern, with a yellow crescent placed in each angle of the flag. On 6 September 1912, General Mangin captured in Sidi Bu Othman a similar flag, with a small crescent and full moon iside the Marinid emblem. Those two flags are kept in the Army Museum in Paris.
Ivan Sache, 15 Jun 2003, based on [lux01]

The refered eight pointed blue star seems to be the symbol "Start of Rub el Hizb", found in Unicode under U+06DE. This is an islamic sign and is found in other emblem and flags. For instance:

It is an 8-pointed star consisting of two crossed squares.
António Martins, 17 Dec 2002

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