Morocco

Experience the wonders of Morocco with our trusted Morocco travel agency. This enchanting country, situated in Africa, showcases a unique blend of landscapes, ranging from the breathtaking dunes of the desert in the south to the verdant mountains in the north. With its rich cultural heritage, elected parliament, and constitutional monarchy, Morocco offers a captivating journey through time. Immerse yourself in the vibrant markets of ancient medinas, visit traditional Berber villages, indulge in the tantalizing flavors of Moroccan cuisine, and explore the diverse and stunning landscapes that make this country truly remarkable. Trust our Morocco tour operator to provide you with an unforgettable and personalized travel experience that will leave you with cherished memories of this extraordinary destination.

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 the Arab-Berber, who make up 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.

Name

The English name” Morocco” is a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese and refers to Marrakesh, the former capital of the country. Up until now, Morocco was still called Marrakesh in Urdu, Persian, and Hindi. Morocco is also referred to as Fas in Turkish, and the word comes from the former capitals of Idrisid and Marinid Fes.

History of Morocco

Prehistory and Antiquity

Morocco has been in existence and has been inhabited since 190, 000 BC during the Paleolithic times, which lasted between 190, 000 and 90, 000 BC. There 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 named King Baga. The kingdom should not be confused with modern-day Mauritania because they are not the same thing. Modern-day Mauritania has a history dating back to around 225 BC.

Roman and Berber 

The historical journey of Mauretania is intertwined with the expansion of the Roman Empire, which included territories in various parts of the world, including North Africa. In 33 BC, Mauretania became a client kingdom of the Roman Empire, and by 44 AD, it was fully annexed as a Roman province. However, during the crisis of the 3rd century, the Berber people reclaimed parts of the Mauretania kingdom. Despite this, direct Roman rule remained limited to coastal cities such as Cueta and Cherchell in Mauretania Caesariensis. Eventually, in 429 AD, the Roman Empire relinquished its last hold on Mauretania during its own downfall. Discovering the fascinating historical connections of Mauretania is made possible by professional Morocco travel agencies or tour operators, who can guide you through the remnants of this Roman legacy in the region.

Islamic Era

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, when the Islamic expansion began, there was a power to reckon with. Islam came with their language, and that’s when the Berbers converted, and up until today, almost all the Berbers are Muslims. Berbers got their independence back in 739 AD, and they formed kingdoms and states. Ties with the Abbasid caliphs were cut, and Fes became the capital of the kingdom. The kingdom took a positive route and grew rapidly; 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, and Morocco became more Arabized. The kingdom of Morocco grew into a force to be reckoned with, and under several dynasties, Morocco was ruling many parts of Northwest Africa and parts of Iberia. Jews and Muslims ran back to Morocco after Iberia was reconquered.

Morocco was able to repel the incursions of the Ottoman Empire and Portuguese rule, and this brought grace and prestige to the kingdom, which was under the Saadi dynasty. The period marked the wealth and success of the Saadi dynasty, which 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, which led 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.

European Influences

The strategic position and 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, Moroccan soldiers fought alongside French soldiers, and so did they in the Second World War.

Resistance to The French Rule

France took advantage of their position and 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 led to the apartheid system. The Moroccans were not allowed to pass through the French sections, even though they lived just near 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 returned to power. The French allowed Mohammed V to return, and from there, independence talks began.

Independent Morocco

It did not take long before the independence talks became successful. By 1956, Morocco had earned political independence. They regained control over Spanish-ruled areas through an agreement made in 1956. In 1958, they tried to regain independence in 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 rule. Western Sahara was annexed in the 1970s, but there is still an issue about the annexation today. In the 1990s, Morocco became a bicameral legislature, and in 2004, it became a non-NATO country with free trade agreements 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 an assembly of councilors. The judiciary is an independent arm of the government, and the executive cannot overrule its decisions 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 those who voted for him. The prime minister then helps the king appoint the other government members. The king has the power 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 rose to power in 1961 and ruled until 1999, when he died. After his death, his son, Mohammed VI, assumed power, and he has been the king up until now. A coalition government was first established in 1998, and it was headed by the opposition socialist Abderrahmane Youssoufi. It is the first government drawn from the opposition in the past few 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 every 5 years. The assembly of councilors is made up of 270 members. Unlike their counterparts, the assembly of councilors is elected every nine 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.

The 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 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 Moroccan rule in Polisario, which fought for its independence from Spanish rule but has been under Moroccan rule since 1991.

The Geography and Topography of Morocco

The geography of Morocco starts at 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 up 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 in the north of the country.

The Rif Mountains border 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 of the country. Sahara covers much of the southeast part 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 Mediterranean, and then there is the southern part, where the climate is mostly desert (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 in the Atlas Mountains, where 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 these areas during the summers.

The rainfall in Morocco is also different in different regions. The northeastern parts of the country receive between 350 and 600 mm of rain, while the northwestern parts receive between 500 and 1200 mm. The central parts of 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 priorities because of its concentration of endemic species. If you love wildlife, you will most definitely enjoy your time in the country. There are 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. The 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 a few.

Economy of Morocco

The economic freedom score of Morocco currently stands at 62.9, making it the 75th freest country in the 2019 index. The score improved by 1.0 because of different advancements in the country, including judicial effectiveness, property rights, and improvements in fiscal health, which outpaced lower scores in labor and trade freedom. The country is ranked sixth 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.

Demographics

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 up 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 genetically closer to the Iberians than Bantu. Over a million Moroccans live 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.

Languages

Modern Standard Arabic is the most used language in the country, and it is also the official language. 60 percent of the population speaks Berber as their first language or Arabic. French is taught in schools curricula, 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 more common among educated youth, 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 it in 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 contributed to the Moroccan overall culture. One of the top priorities of the country is to protect Moroccan culture.

Cuisine

When it comes to exceptional cuisine, Morocco is second to none. Most people who visit the country always have good things to say about its 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 popular in Morocco, and they have been importing them for thousands of years to make their cuisine even better. Moroccans love 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 because it is expensive, so most people settle for beef. Couscous is the most famous dish in the country.

Music

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 is played in celebrations such as weddings and meetings. Another type of music that is widely listened to is Andalusian classical music, which is based in Morocco but is widespread in other regions of North Africa.

Education

Education is mandatory in Morocco, and it is illegal not to attend school if you are under the age of 15. Education is also free for those under the age of 15. However, many in rural areas still find it difficult to attend school for 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 21 percent.

Literature

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 in the 1950s and 1960s.

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 children attended primary school, and only 5 percent managed to further their education in secondary schools. The girls were not even attending school at the time. The universities could have as few as 350 students. Within nine years of education, 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 about 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 up 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 the ages of 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 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 some point fade away, but 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 existed in Morocco between 190, 000, and 90, 000 BC!
  • The cuisine in Morocco is very diverse, and it features some aspects of European, Turkish, Middle Eastern, Arabic, and African cuisine. 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 listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest university.
  • The shrine of Sidi Yahya, which is located in Oujda, 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 symbols of love, as most countries do. The symbol of love in Morocco is the liver.
  • There was a time when a person caught selling a date tree could be arrested because it was illegal. This is because it was considered 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.
 
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