Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco is the land of Berbers the indigenous people of North Africa and Arab Muslims coming from the Near East. It is a nation of ethnic variety and rich culture and Morocco’s identity has been likened by King Hassan II to the desert palm: rooted in Africa, watered by Islam and rustled by the winds of Europe. The kingdom has a population of over 33.848 million inhabitants and an area of 710,850 km2. Its political capital is Rabat and the largest major cities include Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, Ouarzazate, Agadir, Essaouira, Tetouan, Nador, Kenitra, Salé, Fes, Meknes, Oujda, Beni Mellal and Laayoune. For historical references, the medieval Arab historians and geographers sometimes referred to the country as al-Maghrib al-Aqṣa meaning the land of the furthest West to distinguish it from the neighbouring historical regions called al-Maghrib al-Awsaṭ meaning the Middle West.
The English name of the kingdom originates from the Spanish name Marruecos. This derived from Marrakesh the Medieval Latin name for the former Almoravid dynasty and Almohad Caliphate capital from ancient Morocco. Moroccan history is essentially the tale of a conservative society which has managed to triumph against all attempts at conquest. The area of present-day Morocco has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times and the first great change was from 1000 BC when Phoenician traders established trading colonies and brought achievements of settled agriculture and urban civilisation to Morocco. The second change was in 670 AD when the cavalry armies of the Muslim Caliphates conquered the North African coastal plain under Uqba Ibn Nafi, a general serving under the Omayyads of Damascus – the second of the four major Arab Caliphates established after the death of the prophet Mohammad. The Omayyad Muslims brought the Arabic language and culture of the Near East, their system of government, and Islam to Morocco. Many of the Berbers slowly converted to Islam, mostly after Arab rule had receded.
The third great change was in the twentieth century when the French showed a strong interest in Morocco, not only to protect the border of its Algerian territory, but also because of the strategic position of the kingdom on two oceans. In 1904, France and Spain carved out zones of influence in Morocco. Thousands of colonists entered Morocco, some bought up large amounts of the rich agricultural land, others organised the exploitation and modernisation of mines and harbours. Interest groups that formed among these elements continually pressured France to increase its control over Morocco. In 1953 France exiled the Sultan Mohammed V to Madagascar and his replaced him by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Arafa sparked active opposition to the French and Spanish protectorates. The most notable violence occurred in Oujda where Moroccans attacked French and other European residents in the streets. In 1955 France allowed Mohammed V to return and the negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year. In March 1956 Morocco regained its independence from France as the “Kingdom of Morocco” and the French protectorate was ended. A short time later Spain ceded most of its protectorate in Northern Morocco to the new state but kept its two coastal enclaves Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. Upon the death of his father Mohammed the fifth, King Hassan II succeeded to the throne in 1961 and he ruled the kingdom for the next 38 years, until he died in 1999. His son, his Majesty King Mohammed VI, assumed the throne in July 1999. The Prime Minister of the country is the head of government and executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the Assembly of Representatives and the Assembly of Councillors. The Assembly of Representatives has 395 members elected for a five-year term while the Assembly of Councillors has 120 members, elected for a six-year term. The country is officially divided into 12 regions.
Morocco’s predominant religion is Islam Sunnite and the official languages are Classical Arabic and Tamazight – Berber language. Moroccan Arabic known as Darija is a language derived from a variety of Arabic spoken in the country. It shows a very strong historical and linguistic Amazigh influence on it. Foreign languages are also spoken in Morocco, French is widely spoken and Spanish is also spoken in Northern cities such as tangier, Nador, Ceuta… Many Moroccans speak English, Italian and Germany but still far behind French and Spanish in terms of number of speakers. In addition, about 12 million Moroccans, mostly in rural areas, speak Berber dialects, which exist in the country in three different local dialects known as Tarifit, Tashelhit and Tamazight. The Hassaniyya dialect is a form of an Arabic language spoken in Southern Morocco by roughly 40000 people.
Economy of Morocco
The economy of Morocco is considered a relatively liberal economy governed by the law of supply and demand. Morocco’s economy is a fairly stable with continuous growth over the last 15 years and Morocco has become a major player in the African economic affairs and the economy became much more robust compared to a few years ago. Since 1993, Morocco has followed a policy of privatisation of certain economic sectors which used to be in the hands of the government. The industries that recorded the highest growth are tourism, manufacturing, solar energy, telecoms, finance, insurance, information technology, mining, agriculture and textile.
Tourism is one of the most important sectors in Moroccan economy, it is well developed with a strong tourist industry focused on the country’s coast, culture and history. Morocco has attracted more than 10 million tourists in 2014. Tourism remains the second largest foreign exchange earner in Morocco after the phosphate industry. Agriculture, another important sector in Moroccan economy employs about 40% of Morocco’s workforce. Morocco is one the few Arab and African countries that has the potential to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. In the rainy sections of the northeast, barley, wheat and other cereals can be raised without irrigation. On the Atlantic coast, there are extensive plains where olives, vegetables, citrus fruits, and wine grapes are grown. A large variety of fruit trees growing in the Atlas Mountains and lower valleys benefit from longer and more intense hours of sunlight.