Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the most westerly of the North African countries. It has Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, and a rugged mountain interior. Morocco is an ethnically diverse country with a rich culture and civilization. Morocco's economy is considered a relatively liberal economy governed by the law of supply and demand.
The Kingdom of Morocco, located at Africa's most northwestern point, is a study in contrasts. Separated from the rest of the continent by the Atlas Mountain and the Sahara Desert, the north part of the country is characterized by an unexpected Mediterranean composition in terms of climate, geography and history. As travelers head southeast into the mountains and away from the south's beaches and lush valleys, the Sahara--and a more conventional African experience--unfurls ahead. Bordering both Spain and Algeria, Morocco abuts the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. At nearly 450,000 sq km of land, the country is just smaller than Spain, and slightly bigger than California, with a population exceeding 32 million.
Morocco's geography is variable, comprising formidable mountain ranges, dense river valleys, breathtaking coasts--showing off beaches as well as cities--and endless swathes of desert. Sunny, pleasant weather with cool ocean breezes make Morocco a desirable tourist destination. While cities like Marrakech, with its bustling main square; Fes, Morocco's oldest imperial city full of magnificent mosques and piquant tanneries; the coastal town Essaouira, known for its beaches and seafood; and the mountain town of Chefchaouen all add to Morocco's sense of intrigue, glamour and old-world charm.
Morocco is divided into 16 regions, which are subdivided into 62 prefectures and provinces. The current head of the government is Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, and the executive role of head of state is occupied by King Mohammed VI.
For over 20 years, Morocco has functioned according to the privatization of certain economic sectors formerly under government control. The country is the fifth-rated African economy, according to GPD, and achieves consistently high ranking in the World Economic Forum's African Competitiveness Report. Additionally, Morocco has held the top African spot in the Economist Intelligence Unit's quality-of-life index. Morocco's economy relies on agriculture, tourism, and phosphates. In fact, it is the world's biggest of phosphorus. Industry and mining account for a third of Morocco's GDP, while seafood sales are also important. The textiles and clothing industry is part of the rapidly developing manufacturing sector.
While the majority of Morocco's population is Arab by identity, Morocco's rich culture is determined by its multiethnic society. The many occupants of Morocco--from the indigenous Berbers to Arabs, Sub-Saharan Africans, Romans and Andalusians. Each of Morocco's regions has a distinct flavor, all adding up to a unique national culture. The country strives to protect and preserve its diverse cultural heritage. Food plays a big role in Moroccan culture, and parallels the richness of the country itself through aromatic scents, signature spice combinations, exotic specialties and timeless traditions celebrated the whole world over.
Essential Facts about Morocco
- Located at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg on the Atlantic, Morocco's capital is Rabat, also its third-largest city.
- While Arabic is Morocco's official language, French dominates the business world--particularly in central and southern region. Spanish, English and several Berber languages are also spoken.
- A meaningful color in Moroccan history, red is heavily featured on its flag, serving as background for the centrally featured green pentagram.
- Morocco achieved independence from French colonial rule on November 18, 1956.
- Morocco's largest city, Casablanca, was featured in the eponymous 1942 American film.
Morocco is consistently arid, with minor rainy seasons in the months between November and March. Because of the diversity of Morocco's geography, temperatures fluctuate according to season and local. Summer months swelter in the desert region, and can exceed 100 degrees. Refreshing ocean breezes and cool nights make the high temps tolerable. The mountain ranges remain cool during the warm season, but reach extremely low, freezing temperatures during winter. Skiing is even possible in the snow-covered, mid-range Atlas Mountains. Despite these variations across its geography, Morocco can typically be described as moderate and sub-tropical--making it a desirable tourist destination. Because of its generally warm temperatures and diversity of geography, Morocco is an ideal four-season destination for visitors: Wherever you are in Morocco, an appealing climate is within easy reach.
Morocco's current is the dirham or Dh. Issued by Morocco's central bank, the Bank Al-Maghrib, the currency is made up of 100 centimes. The Moroccan Dirham dates back to the drachm of the Byzantine Empire. The name “Dirham” has Roman origins in the word, “denarius.”
Religion in Morocco
As the state religion of Morocco, Islam dominates; nearly the entire population is Sunni Muslim. Just one percent of the population is Christian, with an even more negligible Jewish population.