Country Profiles:
Morocco

Morocco is a mountainous country located in the Maghreb region of North Africa and lies directly across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. Strait of Gibraltar, Latin Fretum Herculeum, channel connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, lying between southernmost Spain and northwestern most Africa. The strait is an important gap, averaging 1,200 feet (365 meters) in depth in the arc formed by the Atlas Mountains of North Africa and the high plateau of Spain, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Morocco borders Algeria to the east and southeast, Western Sahara to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. It is the only African country with coastal exposure to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Its area—excluding the territory of Western Sahara, which Morocco controls.

Controlled by Carthage from an early date, the region was later the westernmost province of the Roman Empire. Following the Arab conquest of the late 7th century. Subsequent Moroccan kingdoms enjoyed political influence that extended beyond the coastal regions, and in the 11th century the first native Amazigh dynasty of North Africa, the Almoravids, gained control of an empire stretching from Andalusian (southern) Spain to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.  In 1912, Morocco became a French protectorate. On August 20th 1953, the French who were occupying Morocco at the time forced Mohammed V and his family into exile on Corsica. His uncle, Mohammed Ben Aarafa, was placed on the throne. His full name was Sidi Mohammed ben Yusef, or Son of (Sultan) Yusef, upon whose death he succeeded to the throne. He was a member of the Alaouite Dynasty. Mohammed V and his family were then transferred to Madagascar in January 1954. Mohammed V returned from exile on 16 November 1955, and was again recognized as Sultan after active opposition to the French protectorate. In February 1956 he successfully negotiated with France and Spain for the independence of Morocco, and in 1957 took the title of King.

UNESCO Heritage sites in Morocco include:

1. Archaeological Site of Volubilis.

The important Roman outpost of Volubilis was founded in the 3rd century BCE to become the capital of Mauretania. It contained many buildings, the remains of which have survived extensively to this day.

  2. Historic City of Meknes.

The former capital was founded in the 11th century and turned into a city with Spanish-Moorish influence during the 17th and 18th centuries.

3. Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou.

Is an ighrem (fortified village in English) (ksar in Arabic), along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. Most citizens attracted by the tourist trade live in more modern dwellings in a village on the other side of the river, although there are four families still living in the ancient village. Inside the walls of the ksar are half a dozen (Kasbahs) or merchants houses and other individual dwellings, and is a great example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture.

Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

4. Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador)

The fortified seaport built during the late 18th century has a mix of North African and European architecture, and was a major trading hub between the Sahara and Europe.

5. Medina of Fez

The former capital was founded in the 9th century and features the world’s oldest university. The urban fabric and main monuments date from the 13th and 14th centuries.

6. Medina of Marrakesh

The town was founded in the 1070s and remained a political, economic, and cultural centre for a long time. Monuments from that period include the Koutoubia Mosque, the kasbah, and the battlements. The city also holds newer features, including palaces.

7. Medina of Tétouan (formerly known as Titawin)

Morocco’s most complete medina served as the main point of contact between Morocco and Andalusia during the 8th century. The town was rebuilt by Andalusian refugees following the reconquista.

8. Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida)

The fortification, akin to Renaissance military design from the early 16th century, was taken over by Morocco in 1769. Surviving buildings include the cistern and a Gothic church.

9. Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage.

Rebuilt under the direction of the French from 1912 to the 1930s, the city blends historic and modern features, such as botanical gardens, the Hassan Mosque, and the remnants of Moorish and Andalusian settlements from the 17th century.

Although the country is rapidly modernizing and enjoys a rising standard of living, it retains much of its ancient architecture and even more of its traditional customs.

Morocco’s largest city and major Atlantic Ocean port is Casablanca, an industrial and commercial center. The capital, Rabat, lies a short distance to the north on the Atlantic coast. Other port cities include Tangier, on the Strait of Gibraltar, Agadir, on the Atlantic, and Al-Hoceïma, on the Mediterranean Sea. The city of Fès is said to have some of the finest souks, or open-air markets, in all of North Africa. Scenic and fertile, Morocco well merits the praise of a native son, the medieval traveler Ibn Baṭṭūṭah, who wrote that “it is the best of countries, for in it fruits are plentiful, and running water and nourishing food are never exhausted.”

With its acquisition of Western Sahara, Morocco came to possess some two-thirds of the world’s reserves of phosphates, used for the manufacture of fertilizers and other products. Low world prices for phosphates, however, have hindered production. Other minerals include iron ore and coal, mined for Morocco’s domestic use, and barite, manganese, lead, and zinc, which are exported in small quantities. Its hydroelectric potential is considerable and now being tapped. The services sector accounts for just over half of GDP and industry, made up of mining, construction and manufacturing, is an additional quarter. The industries that recorded the highest growth are tourism, telecoms, information technology, and textile.

Morocco is composed mainly of Arabs (Arab-Berber,) and Imazighen or an admixture of the two. Sizable numbers of Imazighen live mainly in the country’s mountainous regions—long areas of refuge for them where they can preserve their language and culture. Some segments of the population are descendants of refugees from Spain who fled from the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century. Jews constituted a fairly large minority until the mid-20th century, when, in the aftermath of the foundation of Israel and the start of the Arab-Israeli conflict, many felt compelled to leave the country; most emigrated to Israel, Europe, and South and North America, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Morocco’s official languages are Arabic and Berber. The country’s distinctive group of Moroccan Arabic dialects is referred to as Darija. French is widely used in governmental institutions, media, mid-size and large companies, international commerce with French-speaking countries, and often in international diplomacy and is also taught as an obligatory language at all schools. Moroccans spoke a foreign language other than French. English, while far behind French in terms of number of speakers, is the first foreign language of choice, since French is obligatory, among educated youth and professionals. Spanish is mostly spoken in northern Morocco and the Spanish Sahara because Spain had previously occupied those areas. Moroccans in regions formerly controlled by Spain watch Spanish television and have interactions in Spanish on a daily basis.

One of the great cuisines of the world, Moroccan cooking abounds with subtle spices and intriguing flavor combinations. Most popular  dishes includes: Fish chermoula, Kefta tagine, B’ssara, Zaalouk, B’stilla,Tagine,  Harira, Makouda, Couscous, Mint tea.

From the ancient folk pieces of the Berber mountain communities, to the Arab-Andalusian music of the cities, to the roots-fusion that you’ll hear blaring from taxi radios and café ghetto blasters, music is the ultimate expression of Morocco’s culture. Musical styles includes; Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam,  Milhun, a semi-classical sung poetry associated with artisans and traders. Gharnati, this kind of Arba Andalusian music is mainly played in Algeria but is also hear in the Moroccan centers of Rabad and Oujda, The Berber Music, Berbers are the first known inhabitants of Africa’s north-western corner, The Gnawa are descendants of slaves, brought across the Sahara by the Arabs, who claim spiritual descent from Sidi Bilal, the first muezzin, Rwais are Cheuh Berber musicians from the Sous valley who perform ancient musical theatre involving poetry, fine clothes, jewels and elaborate rwais. Nuba, originally there was a nuba for every hour of the day, but most have been lost, Andalous Music, Morocco’s Arab-Andalusian classical tradition evolved 1000 years ago in Moorish Spain and can be heard, with variations, throughout North Africa.

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