Morocco is part of the Maghreb. It took its current name only in the 19th century. It does not belong to the US State Department's list of the seven countries of the "axis of evil". Morocco is a very popular destination with Westerners.

A country of ancient Mediterranean civilization, Morocco constantly sought to preserve its independence. The history of Morocco is not the topic of these pages. It is outlined briefly to try to understand the particularisms of this country.

A land of contrasts open to Western influences, Morocco was called by Arab geographers, the Al-Maghreb Al-Aqsâ, the Far west. The geography of Morocco is presented in broad maps to locate the journeys.



The history of Morocco is presented in great phases.
Ancient Morocco: At the dawn of historical times, it was populated by Berbers. As of the 12nd century BC, Phoenicians established trade posts in Lixus (Larache), Mogador (Essaouira) and Sala (Rabat). The synthesis of Berber and Phoenician civilization gave rise to an important kingdom with Sala its capital. The king Juba II, then his son Ptolemy developed cities. In 40 AD, king Ptolemy was assassinated in Rome and the kingdom became a Roman province. It was known under the name of Mauritania Tingitan with Tingis (Tangier) its capital. The most famous city was Volubilis. Pax Romana was shaken in 429 by the Vandals, then restored precariously by Byzantium in 533.
Arab Morocco, In 681 the Arabs arrived at the land's end of the Maghreb. In 711, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, a Berberman, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to found Islam in Iberia. In the 8th century, the Kharidjite revolt drove out the Arabs of the area durably.
The Morocco of the Idrissides: In the 8th century, Moulay-Idris founded the Idrissid dynasty and the independence of Morocco as of the 9th century. The capital was set up in Fez. At the death of Moulay-Idris the kingdom was divided into several rival kingdoms.
The Morocco of Berber dynasties: Five dynasties shared the power from 11th to the 17th century: the Almoravids from 11th to the 12th century, the Almohads from the 12th to the 13th century, the Merinids and the Ouattassids from the 13th to the 16th century and Saadiens from 16th to the 17th century. Coming from Tafilalet and descendants from Ali, Alaouits founded the dynasty which still reigns nowadays. The penetration of France and the Spain in Morocco, the financial crises involved the installation, in 1904, of French controllers in Moroccan harbours.
French protectorate (1906-1956): In 1906, the conference of Algeciras recognized particular rights to France and Spain. In 1912, General Lyautey became the first Resident General of France. After World War II, the Moroccan opposition became harder.
Independent Morocco: The rebellion in Algeria obliged France to make political choices. Morocco became independent on March 2, 1956. In 1958, Morocco entered in modernity.

Morocco has two seacoasts, on the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic. Its surface is equal to 82% that of France and 130% with Western Sahara.
It borders with Algeria in the east and Mauritania in the south.

It can be presented in four great sets of areas:

In the north and the west, the seacoast of 3,500Km is narrow and abrupt on the Mediterranean sea and is prolonged by plains and plateaus on the Atlantic coast.
In the west, the coastal plains of Rharb Chouïa, Haouz and Under are largely open on the Atlas mountains.
In the centre, the Atlas mountains give Morocco its originality with its snow-capped tops. They are composed of four massifs from north to south. The rif prolongs the Algerian Tell. Then the Middle Atlas and the High Atlas are oriented southwards. Toubkal is the highest summit of the Maghreb, 4,165m high. In the southern end, the Anti-Atlas curves towards the west and its southern slope is bordered by the Saharan Draa river.
In the east, two zones of high plateaus rise more 1,000m high, Meseta is between the High and the Middle Atlas, the other prolongs Oranian Tell.

Consequently on the climatic level, Morocco is characterized by three types of climates:

Mediterranean, the septentrional part is mild and wet in winter and in spring, then dry in summer and autumn.
Desert, the southern part close to the Sahara is characterized by rainfalls lower than 100 mm a year and temperatures +46°C.
Mountainous, the High Atlas is covered with snow and the temperatures can go down to -20°C.

Vegetation is of Mediterranean type, in the mountains thuya, holm oak, cedar and various Alpine plants. In plain, cork oak, olive-tree and argan grown in the parts well watered by the rivers coming down from the mountains. In the steppy high plateaus, esparto, as in Algeria, is the food plant of the herds. The oases of the south and western Sahara are planted with palm trees.

Economic facts


Morocco's economy moves under the impulse of the World Bank, privatization and deregulation. Bad climatic conditions have thwarted the awaited results.

Agriculture is 17% of the GDP with 50% of the working population. Fishing and breeding are traditionally important. Morocco is a net exporter.

Mineral Resources: It is the third world phosphate producer and the first exporter. Iron and non-ferrous metals are also exploited.

Industry is developed, 28% of the GDP. The country lacks basic industry. Agrofood, textile, construction industries are growing. Diversification to electronics, paper, fertilizers is important. Motor-car industries are being set up.

Trade is negative by importation of consumer goods. Tourism is important due to the artistic patrimony and the welcome of the population. The transfers of the expatriates are 10% of the GDP.

The Moroccan currency is Dirham (Dr.).

The official name is Kingdom of Morocco whose capital is Rabat. The population is +29 million inhabitants. The official language of Morocco is Arabic as well as Berber, French, Spanish and English. The population is 55% Arabic, 44% Berber and the remainder is foreigners.

Morocco is a constitutional multi-party monarchy. The king belongs to the dynasty of the sherifs of Alaouits, direct descendants of the Prophet.

Moroccans are 98% Moslems, 1% Christians and 1% Jews. Islam has the same origin as Judaism and Christianity. The faithful of these three religions belong to the "people of the Book".

It is common to say that hospitality is the corner stone of the Arab culture. This tradition is the consequence of the hardness of life in the desert and the habits of the Bedouins tribes who accommodate strangers by offering them water, food and lodging.

The GNP is US$3,200 per capita.

In the history of Arab conquests, Morocco is a singular case. The people preserved the Islamic religion, but rejected the Arab invaders. After the interludes of the protectorate of France and Spain, Morocco recovered its independence. It is one of the specificities of this country, its independence resulting from its ethnic unity.

Information of the traveller


Nationals of Western countries do not need visas to enter Morocco. Three-month visitor's stamps can be extended by immigration officers.

On the health plan it is recommended to consult specialized websites, in France the website of the Foreign Ministry. No particular precaution is needed, it is necessary to be up to date with the usual vaccinations

The traveller's budget depends on his choices, Morocco offers opportunities for small budgets.

The geographical situation of Morocco, the climatic variety offer travellers multiple possibilities of activity in the archaeological sites as well as in the mountains of the High Atlas.

They offer all opportunities to sportsmen. Sports activities are possible in all areas expeditions, excursions, skiing, rafting, surfing and windsurfing.

I made two journeys to Morocco, a package tour in 1972 and an excursion in 1995.

Neuilly, le 2004/01/17