At 7 in the evening in Casablanca, Morocco's fabled city, the streets become empty as everyone is watching their favourite Indian soap on television. It is a sign of the influence of India's soft power on a country and region with which it has enjoyed civilisational links.
Moroccan envoy Larbi Reffouh said the Maghreb countries of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia "know India very well".
"There is a lot of affection for India. Indian music and civilisation is present in the whole of the Maghreb."
In Morocco, there is a lot of interest in Indian television serials, said Reffouh. "At 7 p.m. in Casablanca you will find nobody on the road, everyone is watching an Indian serial," said the envoy, who was speaking at a recent conference on "Maghreb and India".
He said many people in the Maghreb region are fond of Hindi film songs. "Many people will be singing Hindi film songs without knowing the language," said Reffouh, adding that "Indian culture and civilisation is present in the whole of Maghreb".
The Marrakech international film festival held recently celebrated the first century of Bollywood films even before the Hindi film industry has done so, said the envoy.
Bollywood superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan as well as other leading lights of the industry had been honoured at the Marrakech festival.
Emphasising the "civilisational interaction" between India and the North African region, Sheel Kant Sharma, a former Indian diplomat who has served in the region, said: "Before the advent of the video recorders, cinema halls in Maghreb used to run dubbed versions of hit films from Mumbai and the film music very popular with the townsfolk. Genres of the Maghrebian music and the Berber folk have also made their way into the pop scene in India."