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