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Kingdom of Morocco

Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah

Morocco is located at the extreme northwestern part of Africa. It is bordered on the north by the Mediterranean Sea and on the west by the Atlantic. It touches only two other countries: Algeria to the east and Mauritania to the south. It is separated from Spain by the Straits of Gibraltar which are only 14 km long.

Morocco's strategic location has shaped its history. Beginning with the Phoenicians, many foreigners were drawn to this area. Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, and Byzantine Greeks successively ruled the area. Arab forces began occupying Morocco in the seventh century A.D., bringing their civilization and Islam. The Alaouite dynasty, which has ruled Morocco since 1649, claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad.Morocco's location and resources led to early competition among European powers in Africa, beginning with successful Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. Following recognition by the United Kingdom in 1904 of France's "sphere of influence" in Morocco, the Algeciras Conference (1906) formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco to France and Spain jointly. The Treaty of Fez (1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern (Saharan) zones.France's exile of the highly respected Sultan Mohammed V in 1953 and his replacement by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French protectorate. France allowed Mohammed V to return in 1955, and the negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year. The Kingdom of Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956. Through agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958, Morocco restored control over certain Spanish-ruled areas. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on October 29, 1956. The Spanish enclave of Ifni in the south became part of Morocco in 1969. Spain, however, retains control over the small coastal enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the north.

Land Area: 446,300 square kilometers (172,272 sq mi).

Coast: 1,835 km (1,140 mi) of Atlantic coast and 500 km (310.5 mi) of Mediterranean coast.

Climate: Southern Morocco is subtropical and receives a yearly average of more than 8 hours of sun per day with a temperature of 21° C (73° F). The Mediterranean north has a more moderate climate, with an average temperature of 19° C (66° F).

Population: Over 30 million inhabitants, of which approximately 50% are younger than 20, and 70% are younger than 30.

Language: In addition to classic Arabic -- the language used in education, government and the media -- the basic everyday spoken languages are the Moroccan Arabic dialect, and Tamazight, a regrouping of many Berber dialects spoken in the Rif and Atlas Mountains. Most Moroccans also speak French (usually) or Spanish (in the northern former Spanish-held territories), and some speak a little English.

Religion: Islam is the official religion of Morocco, although other religions are officially recognized and practiced.Christian 1.1%.

Government: Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a constitution that was adopted in 1971 and reformed in 1992. There are ministers appointed by the king and a 333-seat parliament, two-thirds of which is directly elected, with the remainder being chosen by local councils, chambers of commerce and salaried workers. The next elections are expected in 2000.

Executive (President or King): King Mohamed VI

Environmental Issues: Land degradation/desertification (soil erosion resulting from farming of marginal areas, overgrazing, destruction of vegetation); water supplies contaminated by untreated sewage; siltation of reservoirs; oil pollution of coastal waters.

Currency: The Moroccan currency is the Dirham (DH) which is divided into 100 centimes. There are 10, 50, 100 and 200 Dirham notes and 1 and 5 Dirham coins, as well as 5, 10, 20 and 50 centime coins. It is illegal to import or export Dirhams from Morocco. The exchange rate for the period of the BikeAbout visit was approximately 9.5 DH for every $1.
Find out how many Dirhams there are in your local currency!

Resources and Industry: Morocco is the world leader in producing phosphates, with 75% of the world's reserves. There are 3 million date palm trees and the production of 800,000 tons of oranges every year. Between Agadir, Safi and Tan Tan, Morocco has the world's most important ports for sardines. There are approximately 3 million tourists per year.

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