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Published July 03, 1996 Updated November 18, 2022

Playing cards in Morocco

The earliest literary references to playing cards in Europe refer to the game having been introduced by a 'Saracen', and also to Moorish and Damascene varieties of playing card.

Algeria Morocco Arabic Add to Collection

MOROCCO & ALGERIA

The earliest literary references to playing cards in Europe refer to the game having been introduced by a 'Saracen', and also to Moorish and Damascene varieties of playing card. We do not know for sure what these fourteenth century cards looked like… but for an idea click here and here.

It might be logical to assume that North Africa has always been supplied with Spanish suited cards, and that these came primarily from France or Spain.

The cards found in Morocco today are faithful replicas of the old “Spanish National Pattern,” a style of playing cards which emanated from Barcelona during the 17th century and was also made in Marseille. In most other countries where Spanish-suited cards are used the more Modern Catalan or Castilian patterns are usually found.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries playing cards were imported into Morocco and Algeria from Spain and France by manufacturers such as Camoin, La Ducale, B.P. Grimaud and others. These were of the Spanish National pattern, based on the Félix Solesio designs produced by the Real Fábrica de Madrid at Macharaviaya (1776-1815).

Caballero de Copas from pack made by Imprimerie Royale, Casablanca

The Camoin firm closed down in 1971, but many clones of Camoin's cards have been, and still are being produced by a succession of Moroccan printers and cardboard manufacturers, usually from Casablanca. These include:

Malka Frères
Imprimerie Royale
Imprimerie de L'Entente
Imprimerie Litho-Type Marocaine
Maroc Cartes
Imprimerie Belles Impressions, S.A.

  …and other anonymous manufacturers or brands such as Cartes Lion, L'Elephant, L'Aigle or Sindibad. Morocco is now one of the last remaining countries to use the old Spanish National pattern.

What is noticeable about all these imitations is that, with one or two exceptions, they are all virtually identical, showing a strong adherence to tradition. Apart from a gradual simplification in the outlines, the main change has been the disappearance of the tethered goat in the background of the Sota (Jack) of coins in some of the lowest grade examples. With the modernisation of Morocco, perhaps traditions will loosen further…

See also: Maroc Souvenir.

Camoin for Morocco Grimaud for Algeria B.C.M.I. B.C.M.I.

Moroccan card wrappers

Malka Frères
A. CAMOIN & Cie
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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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