Today in Disney history, in 1984, the Morocco Pavilion officially opened as part of the World Showcase at EPCOT in Disney World.
On this date in 1984, the very first new World Showcase pavilion to be added to the roster had its own big debut. The Morocco Pavilion allowed guests to explore and experience the architecture, entertainment, and cultural traditions of a new country. And unlike the rest of the World Showcase, Morocco was the only pavilion to have a country as its sponsor!
EPCOT’s World Showcase
World Showcase was inspired by one of Walt Disney’s original concepts for EPCOT as a planned community which called for a World’s Fair-type concept featuring experiences from countries around the world.
When World Showcase opened, the neighborhood included pavilions for Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the American Adventure. Today, you can visit 11 countries, thanks to the addition of the Morocco Pavilion in 1984 and the Norway Pavilion in 1988. Along with the pavilions themselves, World Showcase boasts several attractions, shops, and restaurants, all fitting the theme of each locale.
Morocco Pavilion Joins World Showcase
The Morocco Pavilion became the first new addition to the World Showcase when it opened on September 7, 1984. And itt was the first and only pavilion to have its origin country as its sponsor. With Morocco sponsoring the EPCOT pavilion, special consideration was made to ensure the authenticity of the details that guests would see. Skilled crafters from Morocco were brought to EPCOT to create the mosaics and carved plaster artwork seen throughout the pavilion.
The country’s sponsorship also ensured that the pavilion’s shops and other offerings would make sense for promoting the real Morocco as a destination to visit. As such, the early years of the Morocco pavilion included a visitor center by the Moroccan National Tourist Office.
Intricate Details of the Pavilion
In addition to the intricate mosaics and brasswork seen around the Morocco Pavilion, this area of the World Showcase features some of the most realistic replicas of landmarks from the North African country. The Koutoubia Minaret, as seen in EPCOT, could easily be mistaken for the real landmark in Marrakesh. Of course, the interior of this building serves a more practical purpose in EPCOT. The real-world version of the structure is part of the Koutoubia Mosque, whereas the theme park version houses merchandise and quick-service dining locations.
In addition to the Koutoubia Minaret, the opening of the Morocco Pavilion featured belly dancers both outside and inside Restaurant Marrakesh. And it also featured multiple forms of Moroccan architecture in the pavilion’s two major areas: the Ville Nouvelle (new city) and Medina (old city.) The pavilion, like many others in World Showcase, also came with exhibit space inside the Gallery of Arts and History and the Fez House, which would be used to feature rotating displays in the years to come.
The Morocco Pavilion Today
The Morocco Pavilion has undergone several major changes over the years. When the pavilion first opened, Restaurant Marrakesh served guests table-service meals, and Tangierine Cafe offered quick-service eats. In 2013, Spice Road Table opened. This location serves up small plates and delicious specialty cocktails and desserts with waterfront views of the Lagoon.
Disney Assumes Full Control of the Morocco Pavilion
In 2020, Disney assumed full control of the pavilion following a mutual decision to end sponsorship between the Resort and the Morocco Tourism Board. This decision is likely the reason for recent updates to the pavilion, including the closure of Restaurant Marrakesh. The location had been used as a lounge and charging station during select events, but the future of the table-service restaurant remains unclear.
Various musical acts have come and gone over the years as well, along with character meet and greets typically featuring Aladdin and Jasmine. Recent updates to the pavilion have included some exterior renovations. Now, we just hope to see Restaurant Marrakesh reopen in the future!