Morocco is a country located in Africa and one of the top tourist destinations on the continent. On the south side of the country, you will encounter dunes since the desert has passed through there but on the north side, it’s green and mountains. It is a unique country and in this article, you are going to know all about it just in case you are interested to visit or you just want to know more about the country. Morocco borders Algeria to the east, Spain to the north, and Mauritania to the south. Morocco has an elected parliament and it is a constitutional monarchy that has been ruled by different families since 788 AD. It is estimated that morocco has a GDP of 332.358 billion dollars and the per capita stands at 9339 dollars. Morocco covers an area of 274 460 square miles with a population of about 38 million.
The Basics About Morocco
- The capital city of Morocco is Rabat.
- Casablanca is the largest city in the country and one of the most visited.
- The official languages in the country are Arabic and Berber.
- Most spoken languages include Berber, Hassaniya Arabic, and Moroccan Arabic.
- The most common foreign languages include English, Spanish, and French.
- Morocco’s ethnic groups include Arab-Berber who are 99 percent of the population and others.
- The most dominant religion in the country is Sunni Islam and it is also the official language.
- The government is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy.
- The current king is called King Mohammed VI and the prime minister is called Saadeddine Othmani.
- The currency used in Morocco is called the Moroccan dirham.
- Just like in many countries, the driving side is the right side.
The English name” Morocco” is a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese and it refers to Marrakesh, the former capital of the country. Up until now, morocco is still called Marrakesh in Urdu Persian, and Hindi. Morocco is also referred to as Fas in Turkish and the word comes from the former capital of Idrisid and Marinid Fes.
History of Morocco
Prehistory and Antiquity
Morocco has been in existence and been inhabited since 190, 000 BC during the Paleolithic times which lasted between 190, 000 to 90, 000 BC. The is a recent publication that shows homo sapiens stayed in morocco and it is estimated that they were living in morocco 315, 000 years before the present. The country was more green and fertile compared to how it is nowadays. Some studies show that there is a close link between Saami and Berbers. Morocco became a realm during ancient Carthage as a part of the empire. The earliest known empire was called the Kingdom of Mauretania under a king was called King Baga. The kingdom should not be confused with modern-day Mauritania because they are not the same thing. Modern-day Mauritania has its history dating back to around 225 BC.
Roman and Berber
The kingdom of Mauretania became a client kingdom of the great Roman Empire in 33 BC. Roman Empire was expanding territories to different parts of the world including North Africa and that’s how Mauretania became under Roman rule. Mauretania was directly annexed as a Roman province in 44 AD. Some parts of the Mauretania kingdom were reconquered by Berber during the crisis of the 3rd century. During the time, direct Roman rule was confined to just a few coastal cities which included Cueta and Cherchell in Mauretania Caesariensis. The Roman Empire lost its last grip of Mauretania during the fall of the Roman Empire in 429 AD.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Mauretania became a subject of the Vandals who had defeated the Romans. After the Vandals, there were the Visigoths and then the Byzantine Empire. Each of those empires did not take long before being defeated by the other. In the 7th century, that’s when there came a power to reckon when the Islamic expansion began. Islam came with their language and that’s when the Berbers converted and up until today, almost all the Berbers are Muslim. Berbers got their independence back in 739 AD and they formed kingdoms and states. Ties with Abbasid caliphs were cut and Fes became the capital of the kingdom. The kingdom took a positive route and it grew rapidly and by the 11th century, Morocco was a kingdom that was respected and a center for learning.
Banu Hilal tribes migrated to morocco in the 13th century. Their arrival brought the fall of urbanization fell and Morocco became more Arabized. The kingdom of Morocco grew into a force to reckon and under several dynasties, Morocco was ruling many parts of Northwest Africa and parts of Iberia. Jews and Muslims run back to Morocco after Iberia was reconquered.
Morocco was able to repulse the incursions of the Ottoman Empire and the Portuguese rule and this brought grace and prestige to the kingdom which was under the Saadi dynasty. The period marked wealth and success of the Saadi dynasty was even able to expand its territories by crushing the Songhay Empire in the year 1549. However, after the death of Al-Mansur (the king), Sahara proved to be too difficult and the country was divided among his sons. In 1631 however, the kingdom reunited under the Alaouite dynasty and ever since then, the dynasty has been in power. The kingdom was smaller than most kingdoms in the region but it managed to stabilize its position and was among the richest kingdoms back then.
Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States of America as an independent state in 1777 during the American Revolution. The Sultan said that the American ships were to be under his protection and this lead to the signing of the Moroccan-American treaty of friendship. The treaty still stands and it is one of the oldest US non-broken peace treaties.
The strategic position and the wealth of morocco led to European interests. The Portuguese tried their luck but they did not manage to conquer the kingdom (that was back in the 15th century). The only way to approach the country was through friendship and in 1904 France had a good relationship with the country. The Germans were also interested in Morocco and this led to a crisis. The crisis was resolved in 1906 though. In the First World War, the Moroccan soldiers fought alongside French soldiers and so did they in the Second World War.
Resistance from The French Rule
France took advantage of their position and they started denying the Moroccans their basic rights which led to resistance. The French built sections of their cities next to the slums that existed and this lead to the apartheid system. The Moroccans were not allowed to pass through the French sections even though they lived just close to them. The education system established by the French did not care about the Moroccans as it only taught French history, art, and culture. The culture of the Moroccans was disregarded and this led to the start of a nationalist movement to restore Morocco to power.
An independence party manifesto in 1944 became the first to demand Moroccan independence in public. Sultan Mohammed V was exiled to Madagascar and the latter was replaced by Mohammed Ben Arafa. Ben Arafa was quite unpopular and this sparked the start of active opposition. The Moroccans attacked the residence of the Europeans. In 1955, a group of Moroccans met in Egypt as the resistance movement and their main goal was to make sure Mohammed V returned to Morocco and back to power. French allowed Mohammed V to return and from there independence talks began.
It did not take long before the independence talks became successful. By 1956, Morocco earned political independence. They regained control over Spanish-ruled areas through an agreement made in 1956. In 1958, they tried to regain independence for other areas but the attempts were unsuccessful. In 1961, Hassan II became the first king of the independent state. However, there was political unrest during his first years of ruling. Western Sahara was annexed in the 70s but there is still an issue about the annexation up until today. In the 1990s Morocco became a bicameral legislature and in 2004 it became a non-NATO all and it has free trade agreement with the European Union and the United States of America.
Politics in Morocco
As you might have gathered from the basics of Morocco, the country is a constitutional monarchy. The open parliament is elected just like in most countries and opposition parties are allowed to exist, a couple of them do exist in the current government. The parliament is a bicameral house as we already highlighted so it contains a national assembly of representatives of Moroccans and the assembly of councilors. The judiciary is an independent arm of the government and the executive cannot overrule its decision in any way.
The king is a secular leader and he is a direct descendant of Mohammed the prophet of God. The people elect the house and the king selects the prime minister from the people voted in. The prime minister then helps the king appoint the other government members. The king has the powers to fire ministers, suspend the constitution and dissolve the parliament if need be. No king has exercised the powers since they were last exercised in 1965. The king is also the commander of the armed forces.
As we stated, the first king of independent Morocco was rose to power in 1961 and ruled up until 1999 when he died. After his death, his son, Mohammed VI assumed power and he is still the king up until now. A coalition government was first established in 1998 and it was headed by the opposition socialist called Abderrahmane Youssoufi. It is the first government drawn from the opposition in the past years. It was also the first time the Arab world assumed power after a successful election.
The members of the national assembly are 325 and they are elected after every 5 years. The assembly of councilors is made up of 270 members. Unlike their counterparts, the assembly of the councilors is elected after every 9 years. The parliament doesn’t have much power like in most democracies but a vote of no confidence from the lower chambers can dissolve the government.
Supreme Court is the highest court in the judicial system of the country. The judges for the Supreme Court are appointed by the king himself. Any reforms in the judicial system mostly happen through a program by the judiciary.
The country has 16 administrative regions that were created back in 1977. The regions are further divided into 62 provinces and prefectures. Western Sahara is viewed as a case of unfinished decolonization by the United Nations. In short, the United Nations and the international community do not recognize Morocco as the ruler of the region. The international community also doesn’t recognize the Moroccan rule in Polisario which fought for its independence from the Spanish rule but has been under Moroccan rule since 1991.
The Geography and Topography of Morocco
The geography of Morocco starts from the Atlantic Ocean and goes all the way to the top of the mountains located in the country. Then, there is the Sahara desert which takes a good portion of the southern part of the country. The mountains span a large part of the central and northern sides and they are mostly inhabited by the Berbers. The Canary Islands are controlled by Spain and the north of Madeira is controlled by Portugal. Gibraltar is also to the north of the country.
The Rif Mountains borders the Mediterranean from the northeast to the northwest. The Atlas Mountains which are well-known all over the world are the backbone of the country. The mountains run from the northeast to the southwest sides of the country. Sahara covers much of the southeast parts of Morocco and Western Sahara covers a good portion of the southern part.
Climate in Morocco
The climate in Morocco is a bit unique as it is not evenly distributed throughout the whole country. There is the north side and in the mountains where the climate is mostly the Mediterranean climate and then there is the southern part where the climate is mostly the desert climate (hot and dry). The country is covered by 18 percent arable land and 12 percent of the land is covered by forests. The climate is also a bit different on the Atlas Mountains whereby you can experience the Mediterranean climate or Maritime temperature. In the eastern parts of the Atlas Mountains, the temperature is different. This is because the shelter of the mountain changes the climate. It is dry and warm in the areas during the summers.
The rainfall in Morocco is also different in different regions. The northeastern parts of the country receive between 350 mm and 600 mm of rain while the northwestern parts receive between 500 and 1200 mm. The central parts in the north receive between 700 mm and 3500 mm. Casablanca and its surroundings receive between 300 mm and 500 mm.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
Morocco has a wide range of biodiversity. It is considered a hotspot for conservation priority because of its concentration of endemic species. If you love wildlife, you will most definitely enjoy your time in the country. There is a total of 454 birds 5 of which were introduced artificially and 156 are rarely seen. The Barbary Lion that went extinct could be found in Morocco. Atlas bear existed in Morocco and the Barbary Leopard still exists but it is critically endangered. There are plenty of animals that exist in Morocco and the above is to mention just but a few.
Economy of Morocco
The economic freedom score of Morocco currently stands at 62.9 and it is the 75th freest in the 2019 index. The score improved by 1.0 because of different advancements in the country including judicial effectiveness, property rights, improvement in fiscal health which outpaced lower scores in labor and trade freedom. The country is ranked at position 6 out of 14 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Its overall score is above average so we can say their economy is pretty good especially if compared with other economies in Africa.
As we already highlighted, 99 percent of Morocco’s population is made up of Arab Berbers. Islam is the common and official religion and most Moroccans practice Sunni Islam. The other one percent of the population is made of mixed races including blacks, Gnawa, and Haratin. There are also foreign residents who are mostly French and others who are Spanish. Some studies suggest that Moroccans are closer to the Iberians than Bantu genetically. Over a million Moroccans are living in France making France the country with the highest number of Moroccans living outside the country. Most of the population lives west of the Atlas Mountains because that’s where the country is insulated from the harsh weather conditions of the Sahara desert.
Modern Standard Arabic is the most used language in the country and it is also the official language. 60 percent of the population speak Berber as the first language or with Arabic. French is taught in school’s curriculums and it is also widely used in the country. French is the unofficial second language in the country. Spanish also has a good number of speakers with over 2 million people speaking the language. English is also used but it is not as widely spoken as French and Spanish. However, English is becoming common with educated youths and most of them are using it as a second language. The Berber language is the oldest and it is spoken by an unknown number of speakers. The language is mostly spoken in rural areas but there is a small percentage that uses the language in the urban areas.
The Moroccan culture
Morocco is a very diverse country that is rich in culture and civilization. The civilization in the country has positively contributed to the Moroccan social structure and the regional differences have had their contribution to the Moroccan overall culture. One of the top priorities of the country is to protect the Moroccan culture.
When it comes to exceptional cuisines, Morocco is second to none. Most people who visit the country always have good things to say about their cuisine. The cuisine in the country is pretty diversified as it borrows from the Berbers, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and African. Spices are also highly entertained in Morocco and they have been importing them for thousands of years to make their cuisine even better. Moroccans love to fish and chicken. The two are the most eaten animals. Beef is also widely consumed and it is the most common source of red meat. However, lamb meat is preferred only that it is expensive so most people settle for beef. Couscous is the most famous dish in the country.
The music enjoyed in the country is more cultural unlike what most people listen to nowadays. It is called Chabbi music and is listened to all over the country. Chabbi music originates from folk music and it is played in celebrations such as weddings and it can also be played in meetings. Another type of music that is widely listened to is Andalusian classical music which is based in Morocco but has widespread in other regions of North Africa.
Education is mandatory in Morocco and it is illegal not to attend school if you are below the age of 15 years. Education is also free for those who are below 15 years. However, many in rural areas still find it difficult to attend school because of different reasons. There is a big gap between the literacy levels of boys and girls as only 6 percent of boys drop out of school at primary levels but the percentage of girls who drop out of school at the same level is at 21 percent.
Most literature in the country is in Arabic, Berber, and French. During the Almohad dynasty, a period of learning was experienced in the country. The Marrakech Koutoubia accommodated more than 25, 000 people and had books and manuscripts. Abu Yakub founded the great library. Modern libraries for literature were established in the 1930s and they thrived from the 1950s and 60s.
Literacy Rates in Morocco
After independence, the main goal of the government was to fight illiteracy. At that time (1959) only 10 percent of the boy child used to attend primary school and only 5 percent managed to further their education in secondary schools. Girls were not even attending school at the time. The universities could have as low as 350 students. Within 9 years of education in the country drastically improved for basic education but the literacy level was still pretty low. There were many schools but many students could end up dropping out and many secondary schools failed to produce candidates eligible for secondary education. In 1999, the expenditure on education was 4.9 percent of the GDP showing how serious the country was to fighting illiteracy.
Today, literacy rates stand at 52 percent. There is a great discrepancy between men and women with men being more literate than women. Programs are being set to combat this situation and more and more learning centers are being established. Currently, there have been more than 100 learning centers established in mosques across the country where reading and writing are taught plus classes in social studies and hygiene. The learning centers offer education to both men and women between ages 15 and 45.
There is also a great difference between people living in urban areas and those living in rural areas when it comes to literacy. The people in the urban areas are more educated and it is very rare to find an educated woman in rural areas. Illiteracy is not an inheritance so it will at one time fade away but as for now, it is still a big problem for the country. Morocco scores poorly when compared with other countries in North Africa with some of the countries being 30 percent more literate than Morocco.
Interesting Facts About Morocco
- Morocco is believed to have been inhabited since the Paleolithic era in pre-historic times. It is believed that humans were existing in Morocco between 190, 000, and 90, 0000 BC!
- The cuisine in Morocco is very diverse and it features some aspects of Europeans, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Arabic, and African. Probably the most diverse cuisine in the world.
- The University of Fes is the oldest university in the country that still operates. The university was established in 859 AD and it continues to offer the first degree. It is even in the Guinness book of records as the oldest university.
- The shrine of Sidi Yahya that is located in Oujda city in Morocco is believed to be where John the Baptist was laid to rest (his tomb).
- Moroccan culture does not recognize the heart and the liver as a symbol of love as most countries do. The symbol of love in Morocco is the liver.
- There was a time when if a person was caught selling a date tree could be arrested coz it was illegal. This is coz it was considered as a source of food for the families in the country.
- Unlike most countries where black is the mourning color, white is the mourning color in Morocco. A widow in Morocco wears white for 40 days after the death of her husband.