Morocco Morocco Flag

In 788, about a century after the Arab conquest of North Africa, successive Moorish dynasties began to rule in Morocco. In the 16th century, the Sa'adi monarchy, particularly under Ahmad AL-MANSUR (1578-1603), repelled foreign invaders and inaugurated a golden age. In 1860, Spain occupied northern Morocco and ushered in a half century of trade rivalry among European powers that saw Morocco's sovereignty steadily erode; in 1912, the French imposed a protectorate over the country. A protracted independence struggle with France ended successfully in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier and most Spanish possessions were turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature, which first met in 1997. Lower house elections were last held held in September 2002 and upper house elections were last held in September 2006.



Great dive locations in Morocco :

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Understand

Morocco's long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier was turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997.

Electricity and voltage
Morocco uses the metric system for weights and measures. Newer buildings use 220 V / 50 Hz power supplies, while older buildings use 110 V / 50 Hz. Some buildings have a mix of both, so if you're unsure, ask before plugging something in. The sockets are similar to those used in France and other parts of Europe.

Eat


Moroccan cuisine is often reputed to be some of the best in the world, with countless dishes and variations proudly bearing the country's colonial and Arabic influences. Unfortunately as a tourist through Morocco, especially if you're on a budget, you'll be limited to the handful of dishes that seem to have a monopoly on cafe and restaurant menus throughout the country. Apart from major cities, Morocans do not generally eat out in restaurants so choice is generally limited to international fare such as Chinese, Indian and French cuisine.

Traditional cuisine
  • Tagine, a spicy stew of meat and vegetables that has been simmered for many hours in a conical clay pot (from which the dish derives its name) is probably the best known Moroccan meal. Restaurants offer dozens of variations (from Dh 25 in budget restaurant) including chicken tagine with lemon and olives and prawn tagine in a spicy tomato sauce.

  • Couscous made from semolina grains and steamed in a colander-like dish known as a couscoussière is the staple food for most Moroccans. It can be served as an accompaniment to a stew or tagine, or mixed with meat and vegetables and presented as a main course.

  • A popular Berber contribution to Moroccan cuisine is kaliya, a combination of lamb, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion and served with couscous or bread.

  • A popular delicacy in Morocco is Pastilla, made by layering thin pieces of flakey dough between sweet, spiced meat filling (often lamb or chicken, but most enjoyably pigeon) and layers of almond-paste filling. The dough is wrapped into a plate-sized pastry that is baked and coated with a dusting of powdered sugar.


  • A Dh 3 - Dh 5 serve of harira or besara will always include some bread to mop the soup up and will fill you up for breakfast or lunch:
  • Moroccans often elect to begin their meals with warming bowl of harira (French: soupe moroccaine), a delicious soup made from lentils, chick peas, lamb stock, tomatoes and vegetables. Surprisingly, among Moroccans harira has a role of nourishing food for "blue-collars" rather than a high-flying cuisine.

  • Soup is also a traditional breakfast in Morocco. Besara, a thick glop made from split peas and a generous wallop of olive oil can be found bubbling away near markets and in medinas in the mornings.


  • Many...



    Morocco (المغرب al-Maghreb) is a North African country that has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Western Sahara to the south, Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast in the north. It is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Gibraltar.

    Cities

  • Agadir - Agadir is all about the beach! The town is a nice example of modern Moroccan, but not much in the way of history or culture. Take the local bus for a few cents and go 2 or 3 villages North. The beaches are much better there and there are no burglars at all.
  • Amizmiz - With one of the largest Berber souks in the High Atlas Mountains every Tuesday, Amizmiz is a popular destination for travelers looking for a day trip that is easily accessible (about an hour) from Marrakech.
  • Asni - Starting point for treks into the High Atlas Mountains.
  • Casablanca - This modern city by the sea is a starting point for visitors flying into the country. If you have the time, both the historical medina and the contemporary mosque (the second largest in the world) are well worth an afternoon.
  • Chefchaouen - A mountain town just inland from Tangier full of white-washed winding alleys, blue doors, and olive trees, Chefchaouen is clean as a postcard and a welcome escape from Tangier reminding a Greek island.
  • Essaouira - An ancient sea-side town newly (re)discovered by tourists. From mid june to august the beaches are packed but any other time and you'll be the only person there. Good music and great people. Nearest Coast from Marrakech.
  • Fez - Fez is the former capital of Morocco and one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world.
  • Marrakech - Marrakech is a perfect combination of old and new Morocco. Plan to spend at least a few days wandering the huge maze of souqs and ruins in the medina. The great plaza of Djeema El Fna at dusk is not to be missed.
  • Meknes - A modern, laid back city that offers welcome break from the tourist crush of neighbouring Fez.
  • Midelt
  • Ouarzazate - Considered the Capital of the South, Ouarzazate is a great example of preservation and tourism that hasn't destroyed the feel of a fantastic and ancient city.
  • Rabat - The capital of Morocco; very relaxed and hassle-free, highlights include a 12th-century tower and minaret.
  • Rissani - This small oasis town lies near the northwest edge of the Sahara.
  • Tangier - Tangier is the starting point for most visitors arriving by ferry from Spain. An enigmatic charm which has historically attracted numerous artists (Matisse), musicians (Hendrix), politicians (Churchill), writers (Burroughs) and others (Malcolm Forbes)
  • Taza
  • Tenerhir - This town is the perfect point of access to the stunning Todra Gorge.
  • Tetouan - Capital of the North of Morocco, has very beautiful beaches and is the gateway to the Rif Mountains.


  • Other destinations
  • Merzouga and M'Hamid - From either of these two settlements at the edge of the Sahara, ride a camel or 4x4 into the desert for a night (or a week) among the dunes and under the stars.
  • Taroudannt - Market town.
  • Asilah - A small beach town about an hour south of Tangier. This was the birthplace of current Morrocan president, and home of a great festival in August, with music and bazaars.
  • The Atlas Mountains - Visit the Atlas Mountains in summer for a day long hike or a week of trekking.
  • Aït Benhaddou


  • Understand

    Morocco's long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier was turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997.

    Electricity and voltage
    Morocco uses the metric system for weights and measures. Newer buildings use 220 V / 50 Hz power supplies, while older buildings use 110 V / 50 Hz. Some buildings have a mix of both, so if you're unsure, ask before plugging something in. The sockets are similar to those used in France and other parts of Europe.

    Get in

    All visitors to Morocco require a valid passport but visitors from
    the following countries do not need to obtain visas before arrival:
    Algeria,
    Andorra,
    Argentina,
    Australia,
    Austria,
    Bahrain,
    Belgium,
    Brazil,
    Bulgaria,
    Canada,
    Chile,
    Côte d'Ivoire,
    Croatia,
    Cyprus (except Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus),
    Czech Republic,
    Republic of Congo,
    Denmark,
    Estonia,
    Finland,
    France,
    Germany,
    Greece,
    Guinea,
    Hong Kong SAR,
    Hungary,
    Iceland,
    Indonesia,
    Ireland,
    Italy,
    Japan,
    Kuwait,
    Latvia,
    Libya,
    Liechtenstein,
    Lithuania,
    Luxembourg,
    Mali,
    Malta,
    Mexico,
    Monaco,
    Netherlands,
    New Zealand,
    Niger,
    Norway,
    Oman,
    Peru,
    Philippines,
    Poland,
    Portugal,
    Qatar,
    Romania,
    Russia,
    Saudi Arabia,
    Senegal,
    Singapore,
    Slovakia,
    Slovenia,
    South Korea,
    Spain,
    Sweden,
    Switzerland,
    Tunisia,
    Turkey,
    United Arab Emirates,
    United Kingdom,
    United States,
    Venezuela

    For tourists from countries that need a visa to enter Morocco, the Moroccan Embassy is usually the first port of call. They charge the equivalent of £17 for a single entry and £26 for double or multiple entries. (Double or Multiple entries will be issued at embassy discretion). Visas are usually valid for 3 months and take around 5-6 working days to process.
    Visa requirements are completed application forms, four passport-size photos taken within the previous six months, Valid passport with at least one blank page, and with a photocopy of the relevant data pages; Fee, payable by postal order only, a photocopy of all flight bookings and a photocopy of hotel reservation.

    Tourists can stay for up to 90 days and visa extensions can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. (You may find it easier to duck into the Spanish-controlled Ceuta or Melilla and then re-enter Morocco for a new stamp). Anti-cholera vaccination certificates may be required of visitors coming from areas where this disease is prevalent and pets need a health certificate less than ten days old, and an anti-rabies certificate less than six months old.
    By plane
    There are flights from New York, Montreal, and various European cities to Casablanca as well as seasonal charter flights to Agadir.

    Easyjet — now fly at budget prices from London to Marrakech and Fes.

    British Airways — also offer promotional fares.

    Ryanair — has signed an agreement with the Moroccan government and flies to Morocco from Barcelona and London. Flying to Fez 3 times per week from Luton..

    Royal Air Maroc — the state airline, which drastically needs a price cut.

    Atlas Blue — a so-called budget airline owned by Royal Air Maroc, but is just as expensive.

    Jet 4 You — a new low cost carrier with extremely cheap tickets from France and Belgium.

    Many visitors also fly to Gibraltar or Malaga (which are often considerably cheaper to get to) and take a ferry from Algeciras, Tarifa or Gibraltar to Tangier. This is not recommended in summer as literally millions of Moroccans living in Europe use this passage during the summer holidays.

    By car

    The only open border posts on land are the ones at the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. The frontier with Algeria has been closed for ten years. For the closest maritime connection you head for Algeciras or Tarifa in southern Spain. At Algeciras there are ferry services to Ceuta and Tangier that carry cars. Tarifa has a similar service to Tangier and this is the shortest and fastest route, just 35 minutes.

    It's possible also to enter Mauritania by car from Dakhla. Most countries citizens need a visa to get in Mauritania which is available for 20 Euros at the border for EU passport holders.

    By boat

    Summary

    There are several ferry connections to Morocco, mainly from Spain. Algeciras is the main port and serves Ceuta and Tangier. A ferry between Algeciras and Ceuta takes 40 minutes, and less than 2 hours to get to Tanger. You can also get to Tangier from the small port of Tarifa, on the southernmost tip of mainland Spain. This will need 35 minutes. Some companies run buses between Tarifa and Algeciras for free (25 minutes), so you will have no problems getting to the train station. Other Spanish ports that have connections to Morocco are Malaga and Almeria who connect to Melilla and its Moroccan neighbor town of Nador.

    Ferries from France also go to Tangier, from the port of Sète near Montpellier and Port Vendres near Perpignan. But these ferries are rather expensive. The Italian towns of Genoa and Naples also have direct connections to Tangier. The British crown colony of Gibraltar connects to Tangier through a high-speed boat service.

    Details
    From Tarifa to Tangier the ferry costs about 25 Euros each way. From Algeciras it costs £28 single.

    Get around

    Trains are usually most preferred recommended transport because of speed and comfort; they are far less cramped and stressful alternative to local buses. Train network links Marrakech and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat, a branch line near Meknes goes to Oujda.

    Many Moroccans also take luxury buses between towns usually run by CTM, Supratours and smaller companies. These offer comfort and a reliability (the train service is not good in this), are inexpensive and provide much better coverage. When using CTM services, keep in mind they charge a small fee per bag (~7dh).

    A shared taxi service (grande taxi) also operates between towns; fares are fixed and shared equally between passengers. Grande taxis are often the cheapest way of traveling between towns and cities in Morocco.

    By plane
    Domestic flying is not a popular mean of transportation, however, Royal Air Maroc, the national flag carrier, has an excellent but expensive network to most cities.

    By train
    People are incredibly sociable and friendly on the trains in Morocco and you will find yourself perpetually talking to strangers about your journey. Each new person will advise you on some new place you should go or invite you to their home for couscous. Stations in smaller cities are often poorly marked, and your fellow passengers will be more than happy to let you know where you are and when you should get off.

    Train network is operated by ONCF .
    Availability
    The major cities, Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, etc are all linked by reliable (if not very fast) rail links. There are usually several trains every day to or from every major town. There is also a night train between Marrakech and Tangier.

    Cost
    The trains are very cheap (compared to Europe). For example, a single from Tangier to Marrakech costs about 200 dh (£15) second class, or 300dh (£20) first class.

    By bus
    Nearly every city has a central bus-station where you can buy tickets to travel from region to region. You can either choose the buses for tourists with air-condition and TV. Or you can take the local buses which cost only 25% - 50% and are much more fun. These ones aren't really comfortable, but you can get in contact to the local people and learn a lot about the country. The buses often take longer routes than the big ones, so you can see villages you would never get to as a "normal" tourist. The route from Rissani, Erfoud, and Er Rachidia to Meknes and Fez, while long, runs through the Middle and High Atlas and is particularly scenic.

    Luxury buses operated by CTM are also inexpensive and offer a better travelling experience than local buses.

    Supratours , major rival of CTM, complements train network to Essaouira and all major Atlantic-coast towns south to Marrakech.

    By taxi
    Travel by taxi is common in Morocco. There are two sorts:
  • petite taxi used only within the area of the town
  • the grande taxi can be used only for trips between towns


  • Prices for petite taxi are reasonable and it's the law that taxis in town should have a meter - although are not always on. Insist that the driver starts the meter. If not, ask the fare before getting in (but it will be more expensive).

    Grande taxi is shared long-distance taxi, with a fixed rate for specific route; the driver stopping and picking up passengers like a bus. Grande taxis usually can be found near main bus stops. Negotiate on price if you want a journey to yourself and this will be based on distance traveled and whether you are returning--but price per taxi should not depend on the number of passengers in your group. When sharing grand taxi with others, drivers may cheat tourist-looking passengers charging higher--look how much locals around you pay; don't worry to ask other passengers about the normal price, before boarding or even when you're in.

    Grande Taxis are usually a ~10-years-old Mercedes regular sedans that in Europe are used for up to 4 passengers plus driver. For grand taxi, it is normal to share a car between up to 6 passengers. Front seat is normally given to two women (as local women are not allowed to be in contact with a man, they rarely take rear seats). Travellers often pay for 2 seats that remain unoccupied to travel with more space inside, and hence comfort.

    Taxi owners vie with each other to add extras such as sunshades. A clean vehicle and smart driver is usually a good sign of a well maintained vehicle.

    By car
    The main road network is in good condition. Roads have good surface, although very narrow, in most cases only one lane in each direction.

    The main cities are connected by toll expressways still being extended.
  • The expressway between Casablanca and Rabat (A3) was finished in 1987.
  • It was extended from Rabat to Kénitra in 1995 and today reaches the northern port of Tangier (A1).
  • Another expressway (A2) goes eastwards from Rabat to Fez some 200 km down the road. It comprises part of the planned transmaghrébine expressway that will continue all the way to Tripoli.
  • South from Casablanca runs the A7. It is planned to reach Agadir in December of 2009 but currently only goes as far as Marrakech 210 km south of Casablanca.
  • Around Casablanca and down the coast is the A5 expressway which connects Mohammedia and El Jadida.
  • Construction started in 2006 for the A2 between Fez and Oujda on the Algerian border which will be completed by 2010.


  • Fuel is not so common in the countryside so plan ahead and get a good map. Roads are varied and mixed with many cyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.

    Roadsigns are in Arabic and French and the traffic law is as in much of Europe but you give way to the right. Be very careful as many drivers respect signs only if a policeman is nearby. This means that traffic on a roundabout gives way to that entering itю There are numerous Police checks on the main roads where you must slow down to allow them to see you. The speed limit is enforced especially the 40kph in towns and on dangerous intersections where fines are imposed on the spot. General rule is that vehicles larger than yours should be given a priority: trucks, buses and even grand taxis.

    Driving safely in Morocco takes practice and patience but can take you to some really beautiful places.
    Renting a car
    Rental firms abound in the large cities. Most worldwide rental networks have their offices in Morocco. Also there are several local rental companies (5-7 have rep offices in Casablanca airport). They offer lower prices, but be sure to check the vehicles condition, spare tyre, jack etc. Local companies may be less proficient in English--but if you are ready for higher risk, when you rent in an airport try to negotiate with them first; if failed you always have worldwide rivals to go next.

    Multinational companies seem to easily share cars with each other (although prices and service level may vary), so if your company of choice doesn't have what you need they may ask from another company.

    Check where you can drive - some rental companies won't allow travel on unmade roads.

    =Alamo=
    All Alamo offices are shared with National Car Rental in Morocco.

    During low season (November) expect at least 20% discount from the list price if you come without a reservation--at least for economic class (Peugeot 206, Renault Logan Dacia).

    Deposit is taken as a paper slip of credit card; Alamo is unable to transfer your slip to the city of your destination if it's different from your starting point.

    Some economy-class cars (like Peugeot 206) are as old as 4 years, with mileage up to 120,000 km.

    =National Car Rental=
    See #Alamo.

    Renting a vehicle with driver/guide
    Some tour operators will arrange for you to hire a 4x4 or SUV with a driver/guide, and offer customised itineraries, including advanced booking in hotels, ryads, etc.

    =Blue Men Of Morocco Tour Company=
    Customised tours. English-speaking driver/guide in A/C auto. Imperial Cities, Sahara Desert.

    Languages
  • :WikiPedia:Moroccan arabic|Moroccan Arabic is a dialect of Maghreb Arabic. The language is fairly different from the Arabic traditionally spoken in the Middle East and is also slightly influenced by French or Spanish, depending on where in the country you are. This dialect is also related to Spanish, as Spanish was heavily influenced by Arabic from Morocco before the expulsion of 1492.
  • :WikiPedia:Berber|Berber, or the Amazigh Language, is spoken by Morocco's Berber population in the mountainous regions of the north, where the dialect is Tarifit, center, where the dialect is Tamazight, and south of the country, where the dialect is Tachelheet.
  • Despite having freed itself from colonial rule, French is still widely understood in Morocco, and it is the most useful non-Arabic language to know.
  • Although you will find people who speak English and Spanish in tourist centres, many of these will be touts and faux guides, who may become a burden. Many shop owners and hotel managers in urban centers also speak English.


  • Buy

    Money
    The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (Dh or MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes (c).

    £1 is worth Dh 16.55, US$1 is worth Dh 8.47 and 1 Euro is worth Dh 11.15 (as of 5 Jan 2007).

    There are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, Dh 1, Dh 2, Dh 5, Dh 10 coins, although coins smaller than 20c are rarely seen these days. Notes are available in denominations of Dh 10, Dh 20, Dh 50, Dh 100, and Dh 200.

    Only local currency is officially accepted in Morocco, although some hotels may accept your EUR/USD unofficially.

    Money Exchange: It's forbidden to bring local currency out of the country, so it's virtually impossible to obtain local currency outside Morocco. Exchange rates are the same at all banks and official exchanges, as required by law.

    Don't expect to see many banks in the souqs or medinas, but plenty of "helpful" people will exchange dollars or euros for dirhams. Unofficial exchange on the streets outside souqs or medinas doesn't seem to exist.

    Besides banks and dedicated exchange offices, major post offices provide exchange, and work untill late hours. There are several exchange offices in Casablanca airport.
    ATMs can be found near tourist hotels and in the modern ville nouvelle shopping districts. Make sure that the ATM accepts foreign cards (look for the Maestro, Cirrus or Plus logos) before you put your card in.

    Try to have as much small change as possible and keep larger bills hidden separately.
    What to buy?
    Apart from classical tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are some things from this region that are hard to find elsewhere, or even unique:
  • dates: 10 Dhm for an orange box seems an adequate price after some bargaining
  • leatherware: Morocco has really huge production of leather goods. Markets are full of mediocre models and designer shops are hard to find.
  • argano oil and products made of it: soap, cosmetics


  • If you're looking for T-shirts, consider designer items by Kawibi--they look much more inspiring than boring traditional set of themes. Available in duty-frees, Atlas Airport Hotel near Casablanca and probably many other places.

    Eat


    Moroccan cuisine is often reputed to be some of the best in the world, with countless dishes and variations proudly bearing the country's colonial and Arabic influences. Unfortunately as a tourist through Morocco, especially if you're on a budget, you'll be limited to the handful of dishes that seem to have a monopoly on cafe and restaurant menus throughout the country. Apart from major cities, Morocans do not generally eat out in restaurants so choice is generally limited to international fare such as Chinese, Indian and French cuisine.

    Traditional cuisine
  • Tagine, a spicy stew of meat and vegetables that has been simmered for many hours in a conical clay pot (from which the dish derives its name) is probably the best known Moroccan meal. Restaurants offer dozens of variations (from Dh 25 in budget restaurant) including chicken tagine with lemon and olives and prawn tagine in a spicy tomato sauce.

  • Couscous made from semolina grains and steamed in a colander-like dish known as a couscoussière is the staple food for most Moroccans. It can be served as an accompaniment to a stew or tagine, or mixed with meat and vegetables and presented as a main course.

  • A popular Berber contribution to Moroccan cuisine is kaliya, a combination of lamb, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion and served with couscous or bread.

  • A popular delicacy in Morocco is Pastilla, made by layering thin pieces of flakey dough between sweet, spiced meat filling (often lamb or chicken, but most enjoyably pigeon) and layers of almond-paste filling. The dough is wrapped into a plate-sized pastry that is baked and coated with a dusting of powdered sugar.


  • A Dh 3 - Dh 5 serve of harira or besara will always include some bread to mop the soup up and will fill you up for breakfast or lunch:
  • Moroccans often elect to begin their meals with warming bowl of harira (French: soupe moroccaine), a delicious soup made from lentils, chick peas, lamb stock, tomatoes and vegetables. Surprisingly, among Moroccans harira has a role of nourishing food for "blue-collars" rather than a high-flying cuisine.

  • Soup is also a traditional breakfast in Morocco. Besara, a thick glop made from split peas and a generous wallop of olive oil can be found bubbling away near markets and in medinas in the mornings.


  • Many cafes (see Drink) and restaurants also offer good value petit déjeuner breakfast deals, which basically include a tea or coffee, orange juice (jus d'Orange) and a croissant or bread with marmalade from Dh 10.

    Snacks and fast food
    Snackers and budget watchers are well catered for in Morocco. Rotisserie chicken shops abound, where you can get a quarter chicken served with fries and salad for around Dh 20. Sandwiches (from Dh 10) served from rotisserie chicken shops or hole-in-the-wall establishments are also popular. These fresh crusty baguettes are stuffed with any number of fillings including tuna, chicken, brochettes and a variety of salads. This is all usually topped off with the obligatory wad of French fries stuffed into the sandwich and lashings of mayonnaise squeezed on top.

    You may also see hawkers and vendors selling a variety of nuts, as well as steamed broad beans and BBQ'd corn cobs.

    Drink

    As a deeply Muslim country, Morocco is mostly dry.

    Alcohol is available only in restaurants, bars, supermarkets, hotels and discos. Make no mistake, many Moroccans enjoy a drink although it is disapproved in public places.

    As a rule, do not drink tap water at all in Morocco, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of minerals than the water in Europe. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for travellers from places such as Europe drinking the tap water will usually result in illness. Generally this is not serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it is enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday.

    Bottled water is widely available. Popular brands of water include Oulmes (sparkling) and Sidi Ali, Sidi Harazem (both still). The latter has a slightly mineral and metallic taste. Nothing with a high mineralization produced (so far?).

    Any traveller will be offered mint tea, or as locals like to call it 'Moroccan whiskey', at least once a day. Even the most financially modest Moroccan is equipped with a tea pot and a few glasses. Although sometimes the offer is more of a lure into a shop than a hospitable gesture it is polite to accept. Before drinking look the host in the eye and say 'bi saha raha'. It means enjoy and relax and any local will be impressed with your language skills.

    Note that a solo women may feel more comfortable having a drink or snack at a pastry shop or restaurant as cafes are traditionally for men. This doesn't apply to couples, of course.

    Sleep

    Morocco has hotels to suit all budgets. High end chain hotels (Sheraton, Hyatt, etc) can be found in the ville nouvelle regions of all major tourist centres, while in smaller cities classy guesthouses--essentially palatial Moroccan townhouses (riads) converted into boutique hotels--will satisfy your desires.

    With an only exception to high end large hotels, expect that hot water supply in hotels is not as stable as in more established countries. In Marrakech, MHamid, near Ourzazate and possibly other places, hot water temperature is varying dramatically while you take shower.

    On the lower end of the budget scale, HI-affiliated youth hostels can be found in the major cities (dorm beds from around Dh 50) while the cheapest budget hotels (singles from around Dh 65) are usually located in the medina. These hotels can be very basic and often lack hot water and showers, while others will charge you between Dh 5 and Dh 10 for a hot water shower. Instead, consider public hammams that are quite alot in medina and rural areas.

    Newer, cleaner and slightly more expensive budget (singles from around Dh 75) and mid-range hotels that are sprinkled throughout the ville nouvelles.

    Many hotels, especially those in the medina have delightful roof terraces, where you can sleep if the weather's too hot. If you don't need a room, you can often rent mattresses on the roof from Dh 25.

    For those looking to camp, almost every town and city has a campground, although these can often be some way out of the centre. Many of these grounds have water, electricity and cafes. In rural areas and villages, locals are usually more than happy to let you camp on their property; just make sure you ask first.

    Learn

    Most foreigners looking to study in Morocco are seeking either Arabic or French language courses. All major cities have language centres, and some will even arrange homestays with an Arabic family during your course.
  • The Institute for Language Communication Studies, 29 Oukaimeden St, Agdal in Rabat (Tel: (37) 67 59 68; Fax: (37) 67 59 65; Email: ilcs.adm@ilcs.ac.ma; Web: www.ilcs.ac.ma) is one such centre with accelerated and intensive courses starting from Dh 3,000.
  • The Arabic Language Institute in Fez (ALIF), language school offering a variety of coursework in both Moroccan Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic, www.alif-fes.com, email: info@alif-fes.com, B.P. 2136, Fez 30000, Morocco, Tel: (212/35) 62 48 50, Fax: (212/35) 93 16 08
  • Dar Loughat (Website: www.cclc-morocco.org, email: info@cclc-morocco.org, Tel: ++212 66 68 77 88) which literally means "the house of langauges", offers classes of 20 hours per week divided into daily 4 hour classes (from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), from Monday to Friday. The classes start EVERY Monday. Besides the classes, the students benefit from a program of excursions and cultural activities. To register, please ask for the application form by e-mail to: info@cclc-morocco.org


  • Cope

    Some Moroccans that you meet on the streets have come up with dozens of ways to part you from your money. Keep your wits about you, but don't let your wariness stop you from accepting any offers of generous Moroccan hospitality.
  • Faux guides and touts congregate around tourist areas and will offer to show you around the medinas, help you find accommodation, take you to a handycraft warehouse, or even source some drugs. While these men can often be harmless, never accept drugs or other products from them. Make it clear if you're not interested in their services, and if they get too persistent, head for a taxi, salon de the, or into the nearest shop - the shopkeeper will shoo the faux guide away.


  • :The best way to avoid Faux guides and touts is to avoid eye contact and ignore them, this will generally discourage them as they will try to invest their time in bothering another more willing tourist. Another way is to walk quickly; if eye contact happens just give them a smile, preferably a strong and beaming one rather than a shy one (they are very clever in judging human emotions and will bother you if they feel a weakness). The word La ( Arabic for No ) can be particularly effective, since it doesn't reveal your native language. Just another is to pretend you only speak some exotic language and don't understand whatever they say. Be polite and walk away. If you engage in arguing or a conversation with them, you will have a hell of time getting rid of them, as they are incredibly persistent and are masters in harassment, nothing really embarass them as they consider this being their way of earning their living.
  • Some of the more common tactics to be aware of are as follows.

  • :Expect to be told that anywhere and everywhere is 'closed'. Invariably, this is not the case, but a con to get you to follow them instead. Do not do this.
    :Do not accept 'free gifts' from vendors. You will find that a group of people will approach you accusing you of stealing it, and will extort the price from you.
    :Always insist that prices are fixed beforehand. This is especially true for taxi fares, where trips around a city should cost no more than 20 Dirham, in general, or be done on the meter.
    :When bargaining, never name a price that you are not willing to pay.
    :At bus/train stations, people will tell you that there have been cancellations, and that you won't be able to get a bus/train. Again, this is almost always a con to get you to accept a hyped-up taxi fare.
    :In general, do not accept the services of people who approach you.
    :Never be afraid to say no.
  • Drugs are another favourite of scam artists. In cities around the Rif Mountains, especially Tetouan and Chefchaouen, you will almost certainly be offered kif (dope). Some dealers will sell you the dope, then turn you in to the police for a cut of the baksheesh you pay to bribe your way out, while others will get you stoned before selling you lawn clippings in plasticine.
  • Ticket inspectors on trains have reportedly attempted to extricate a few extra dirham from unsuspecting tourists by finding something 'wrong' with their tickets. Make sure your tickets are in order before you board, and if you find yourself being hassled, insist on taking the matter up with the station manager at your destination.
  • Moroccan toilets, even those in hotels or restaurants, generally lack toilet paper. It is worth buying a roll (or bringing one with you). Toilet paper can be bought in many of the small shops in the medinas of almost all cities. (If your French or Arabic isn't very good, try to be subtle when miming what you want... )


  • Try to learn at least a phrasebook level of competency in French or Arabic (Spanish may help you in the North - but not largely). Just being able to say "Ith'hab!" ("Go Away!") may be useful to you... Many locals (especially the nice ones who are not trying to take advantage of you) will speak limited English. If you can at least verify prices in French with locals, you could end up saving a lot of money.
    What to wear
    You won't need high and heavy mountain boots unless you go in coldest time of the year like February: it's quite warm in the country even when it's heavy raining in November. Even in medinas, streets are paved if not asphalted--just be sure your footwear is not toeless in medina, as it may be dirty or unsanitary.

    For trekking in valleys, low trekking shoes will be likely enough.

    For a desert trip to dunes, ensure your pockets can be easily shaked out as sand gets there really fast.

    Stay Safe

    All the usual common-sense travel safety applies:
  • Avoid dark alleys
  • Travel in a group whenever possible
  • Keep money and passports in a safety wallet or in a hotel safety deposit box
  • Keep backpacks and purses with you at all times. Make sure there is nothing important in outside or back pockets.


  • Women will experience almost constant harassment if alone, but this is usually just cat-calls and (disturbingly) hisses. Don't feel the need to be polite--no Moroccan woman would put up with behavior like that. Dark sunglasses make it easier to avoid eye contact. If someone won't leave you alone, look for families, a busy shop, or a local woman and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you are so inclined, you could wear a hijab (headscarf), but this is not necessary. Morocco can be a very liberal country and most Moroccan women do not wear headscarves. However, women should always dress conservatively (no low-cut tops, midriffs, or shorts) out of respect for the culture they are visiting. In cities, women can wear more revealing clothing but as a general rule they should follow the lead from local women. Locals will also assume that Moroccan women venturing into ville nouvelle nightlcubs or bars alone are prostitutes in search of clientele but foreign women entering such places will be not be so considered but will be thought of as approachable.

    Hustlers can be a big problem for people travelling to Morocco, and Tangier in particular. It's often difficult to walk down the street without being accosted by somebody offering to give you directions, sell you something, etc. Your best bet is to politely refuse their services and keep walking, as all they are after is money. There are some legitimate tour guides, but just know that your guide will receive a commission on anything you buy while you're with them, so don't let yourself be pressured into purchasing anything you don't want.

    Armed fighting in the disputed areas of the Western Sahara are less frequent now, but clashes between government forces and the Polisario Front still occur. Don't wander too far off the beaten path either, as this region is also heavily-mined.

    Stay Healthy
  • Inoculations No particular inoculations are needed for Morocco under normal circumstances, but check with the CDC's travel Web pages for any recent disease outbreaks. As with most travel, it makes good sense to have a recent tetanus immunization. If you plan to eat outside the circle of established restaurants, consider a Hepatitis A inoculation.
  • Food and Drink Avoid uncooked fruits and vegetable that you can not peel. Avoid any food that is not prepared when you order it (i.e. buffets, etc). Usually fried and boiled foods are safe. Some travellers have also had problems with unrefrigerated condiments (such as mayonnaise) used in fast food outlets.
  • Water It is advisable to drink bottled water (check that the cap is sealed - some people might try to sell you tap water in recycled bottles). Be wary of ice or cordials that may be made with tap water. Some hotels provide free bottled water to guests and its wise to keep a supply in your room so as not to be tempted with tap water.
  • Shoes Keep wearing sandals/tevas etc on the beach. Moroccan streets double as garbage disposal areas and you do not want to wade though fish heads and chicken parts with open-toe shoes.
  • Malaria is present in the northern, coastal areas of the country but is not a major problem. Take the usual precautions against being bitten (light coloured clothing, insect repellent, etc) and if you are really worried see your doctor about anti-malarial medication before your departure.


  • Respect
  • Clothing should be conservative; avoid skimpy clothing off the beach. Locals do not want to see your knees and armpits any more than you want to see someone in thong underwear walking around your neighborhood. Long sleeves and loose pants or a long skirt will be more comfortable in the heat anyway.
  • Greetings among close friends and family (but rarely between men and women!) usually take the form of three pecks on the cheek. In other circumstances handshakes are the norm. Following the handshake by touching your heart with your right hand signifies respect and sincerity.
  • Left hands are considered 'unclean' in Arabic cultures, as they may be used to handle bodily excretions. Avoid doing anything with your left hand, even if you are left-handed. Offering money with the left hand is especially insulting.
  • Despite mixed feelings about the new king and his reign, Moroccans are required to show absolutely loyalty and devotion. Omnipresent photos adorn many shops and homes, and insulting the king is a criminal offense, punishable by imprisonment. Keep your anti-monarchy sentiments in check during your Moroccan travels.
  • Avoid talking about these topics: Israel, Homosexuality, Sex, Women's rights, Democracy if you don't want to be awkward.


  • Contact

    Telephone
    Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used. The international dialling prefix (to dial out of the country) is 00, but international rates are comparatively expensive. If you have a lot of phone calls to make, it may be worth ducking into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta or Melilla.

    Useful Numbers
    Police: 19;
    Fire Service: 15;
    Highway Emergency Service: 177;
    Information: 160;
    International Information: 120;
    Telegrams and telephone: 140;
    Intercity: 100.

    The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel (www.meditel.ma) or Maroc Telecom (www.iam.net.ma). Prepaid cards are available. More infos on available services, coverage and roaming partners are available at: (GSMWorld)

    It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numberous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign. The SIM card (carte Jawal) costs only 30 DH (3 €) with 10 DH (1 €) airtime. The rate is national: 3-4 DH, to Europe ca. 10 DH, SMS 3 DH. The card is valid 6 month after the last recharge.

    Post
    The Moroccan postal service is generally reliable and offers a post restante service in major cities for a small fee. You will need some identification (preferably your passport) to collect your mail.

    Items shipped as freight are inspected at the post office before they are sent, so wait until this has been done before you seal the box.

    Email & internet
    Moroccans have really taken to the internet. Internet cafes are open late and are numerous in cities and smaller towns that see significant tourist traffic. Rates are about 4 - 10 dirhams per hour and they are often located next to, above, or below the telekiosque offices. Speeds are acceptable to excellent in the north, but can be a little on the slow side in rural areas. Most internet cafes will allow you to print and burn CDs for a small charge.




    Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco (المملكة المغربية), is a country in North Africa with a population of 33,241,259. It has a coast on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco has international borders with Algeria to the east, Spain to the north (a water border through the Strait and land borders with two small Spanish colonies, Ceuta and Melilla), and Mauritania to the south.

    Morocco is the only African country that is not currently a member of the African Union. However, it is a member of the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mediterranean Dialogue group, and Group of 77, and is a major non-NATO ally of the United States.

    Name

    The full Arabic name of Morocco, Al-Mamlaka al-Maghribiya, translates to "The Western Kingdom". Al Maghrib (meaning "The West") is commonly used. For historical references, historians used to refer to Morocco as Al Maghrib al Aqşá ("The Farthest West"), disambiguating it from the historical region called the Maghreb. The name "Morocco" in many other languages originates from the name of the former capital, Marrakech.

    History


    Berber Morocco
    The area of modern Morocco has been inhabited since Neolithic times, at least 8000 BC, as attested by signs of the Capsian culture, in a time when the Maghreb was less arid than it is today. Many theorists believe the Amizhgt commonly referred to as Berber language probably arrived at roughly the same time as agriculture (see Berber), and was adopted by the existing population and the immigrants that brought it. Modern genetic analyses have confirmed that various populations have contributed to the present-day population, including (in addition to the main Berber and Arab groups) Jews and sub-Saharan Africans. The Berbers, often referred to in modern ethnic activist circles as "Amazigh," are more commonly known as "Berber" or by their regional ethnic identity, such as Chleuh. In the classical period, Morocco was known as Mauretania, although this should not be confused with the modern country of Mauritania.

    Roman and sub-Roman Morocco

    North Africa and Morocco were slowly drawn into the wider emerging Mediterranean world by Phoenician trading colonies and settlements in the late Classical period. The arrival of Phoenicians heralded a long engagement with the wider Mediterranean, as this strategic region formed part of the Roman Empire, as Mauretania Tingitana. In the fifth century, as the Roman Empire declined, the region fell to the Vandals, Visigoths, and then Byzantine Greeks in rapid succession. During this time, however, the high mountains of most of modern Morocco remained unsubdued, and stayed in the hands of their Berber inhabitants.

    From the Idrisid to the Saadi dynasty (670-1559)
    By the seventh century, Arab expansion was at its greatest. In 670 AD, the first Arab invasions of the North African coastal plain took place under Uqba ibn Nafi, a general serving under the Umayyads of Damascus. His delegates went to what is now Morocco, which he called "Maghreb al Aqsa" or "The Far West," in the year 683. The delegates supported the assimilation process that took about a century.

    What became modern Morocco in the seventh century, was the area influenced by the Arabs, who brought their customs, culture, and Islam, to which most of the Berbers converted, forming states and kingdoms such as the Kingdom of Nekor and Barghawata, sometimes after long-running series of civil wars. Under Idris ibn Abdallah who founded the Idrisid Dynasty, the country soon cut ties and broke away from the control of the distant Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad and the Umayyad rule in Al-Andalus. The Idrisids established Fes as their capital and Morocco became a centre of learning and a major regional power.

    After the reign of the Idrisids, Arab settlers lost political control within Morocco. After adopting Islam, several Berber dynasties formed their own Islamic dynasties and reigned over the country. This situation lasted until the Arab Saadi dynasty took over in the 16th century.

    Morocco would reach its height under a series of Berber origin dynasties that would replace the Arab Idrisids after the 11th century. First the Almoravids, then the Almohads would see Morocco rule most of Northwest Africa, as well as large sections of Islamic Iberia, or Al-Andalus. Under Islamic rule, Spanish cities such as Sevilla and Granada as well as Fes and Marrakech in Morocco became places where the citizenry prospered under a tolerant rule which also focused on scholarly advances in science, mathematics, astronomy, geography as well as medicine.

    However, Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula ended with the fall of Granada to the forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Under the Catholic Inquisition, troops pillaged Granada amongst other Islamic cities and persecuted its citizens, Muslims and Jewish. Rather than face persecution and possible execution, many Muslims and Jews fled to Morocco. The Inquisitors, eager to abolish any trace of Islamic culture, destroyed the libraries in Muslim Spain, where thousands of priceless texts were kept.

    Alaouite Dynasty 1666–1912

    The Alaouite Dynasty eventually gained control. Morocco was facing aggression from Spain and the Ottoman Empire that was sweeping westward. The Alaouites succeeded in stabilizing their position, and while the kingdom was smaller than previous ones in the region it remained quite wealthy. In 1684, they annexed Tangier.

    Morocco was the first nation, in 1777, to recognize the fledgling United States as an independent nation. In the beginning of the American Revolution, American merchant ships were subject to attack by the Barbary Pirates while sailing the Atlantic Ocean. At this time, American envoys tried to obtain protection from European powers, but to no avail. On 20 December 1777, Morocco's Sultan Mohammed III declared that the American merchant ships would be under the protection of the sultanate and could thus enjoy safe passage.

    The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship stands as the U.S.'s oldest non-broken friendship treaty. Signed by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, it has been in continuous effect since 1786. Following the reorganization of the U.S. federal government upon the 1787 Constitution, President George Washington wrote a now venerated letter to the Sultan Sidi Mohamed strengthening the ties between the two countries. The United States legation (consulate) in Tangier is the first property the American government ever owned abroad. The building now houses the Tangier American Legation Museum.

    European influence

    Successful Portuguese efforts to invade and control the Atlantic coast in the fifteenth century did not profoundly affect the Mediterranean heart of Morocco. After the Napoleonic Wars, Egypt and the North African maghreb became increasingly ungovernable from Istanbul, the resort of pirates under local beys, and as Europe industrialized, an increasingly prized potential for colonization. The Maghreb had far greater proven wealth than the unknown rest of Africa and a location of strategic importance affecting the exit from the Mediterranean. For the first time, Morocco became a state of some interest in itself to the European Powers. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. Recognition by the United Kingdom in 1904 of France's sphere of influence in Morocco provoked a German reaction; the crisis of June 1905 was resolved at the Algeciras Conference, Spain in 1906, which formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco to France and Spain jointly. A second Moroccan crisis provoked by Berlin, increased tensions between European powers. The Treaty of Fez (signed on March 30, 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 on November 27 that year.

    Many Moroccan soldiers (Goumieres) served in the French army in both World War I and World War II, and in the Spanish Nationalist Army in the Spanish Civil War and after (Regulares).

    Resistance
    Nationalist political parties, which subsequently arose under the French protectorate, based their arguments for Moroccan independence on such World War II declarations as the Atlantic Charter (a joint U.S.-British statement that set forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they live). A manifesto of the Istiqlal Party (Independence party in English) in 1944 was one of the earliest public demands for independence. That party subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement.

    France's exile of Sultan Mohammed V in 1953 to Madagascar and his replacement by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French protectorate all over the country. The most notable occurred in Oujda where Moroccans attacked French and other European residents in the streets. Operations by the newly created "Jaish al-tahrir" (Liberation Army), were launched on October 1, 1955. Jaish al-tahrir was created by "Comité de Libération du Maghreb Arabe" (Arab Maghreb Liberation Committee) in Cairo, Egypt to constitute a resistance movement against occupation. Its goal was the return of King Mohammed V and the liberation of Algeria and Tunisia as well. France allowed Mohammed V to return in 1955, and the negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year.

    All those events helped increase the degree of solidarity between the people and the newly returned king. For this reason, the revolution that Morocco knew was called "Taourat al-malik wa shaab" (The revolution of the King and the People) and it is celebrated every August 20.

    Independence
    On November 18, 2006, Morocco celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence. Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956 and on April 7 France officially relinquished its protectorate. Through agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored, though attempts to claim other Spanish colonial possessions through military action were less successful. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on October 29, 1956 (see Tangier Crisis). Hassan II became King of Morocco on March 3, 1961. His early years of rule would be marked by political unrest. The Spanish enclave of Ifni in the south was reintegrated to the country in 1969. Morocco annexed Western Sahara during the 1970s after having demanding its reintegration from Spain since independence, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. (See History of Western Sahara.)

    Political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997. Morocco was granted Major non-NATO ally status in June 2004 and signed free trade agreements with the United States and the European Union.

    In 2003, Morocco's largest city, Casablanca suffered from terrorist attacks. The attacks were targeted against Western and Jewish places and left 33 civilians dead and more than 100 people injured, mostly Moroccans.

    Politics

    Morocco is a de jure constitutional monarchy, with an elected parliament. The King of Morocco, with vast executive powers, can dissolve government and deploy the military, among other prerogatives. Opposition political parties are legal, and several have been formed in recent years.

    Human rights and reforms

    Morocco's history after independence and in the beginning of the reign of Hassan II was marked by the period of political tensions between the monarchy and opposition parties. Those years of tension are labelled by the opposition as the Years of Lead. Politically motivated persecutions were common especially when Gen. Oufkir became responsible for home security.

    However, during the last decade of the rule of King Hassan II and especially under the reign of Mohammed VI, and with the launch of Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) to investigate into the abuses committed in the name of the state, Morocco is trying to reconciliate with the victims. Many new laws and codes concerning all aspects of life are being launched. The most notable event was the creation of the Mudawana — a family code which was the first unique initiative of its kind in the Arab and Muslim world. The code gives women more rights. Other issues such as the abolition of capital punishment and the reform of the Moroccan nationality law are being debated. The Moroccan parliament is due to vote on these issues in spring 2007.

    The 2003 Casablanca bombings and the need to fight the terrorist threat have lead the government to pass a controversial anti-terrorism law that cracked down on terrorist suspects. Moroccan and International organisations continue to have criticism against the human rights situation in Morocco, mainly the arrests of suspected Islamist extremists during 2004 and 2005 related to 2003 Casablanca bombings), and in Western Sahara.

    In mid-February 2007, a study published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies called "Arab Reform and Foreign Aid: Lessons from Morocco" concluded that Morocco provides a valuable lesson in political and economic reform, which others in the Arab world can draw on and that the Moroccan model confirms that it is possible to adopt both reforms simultaneously.

    Administrative divisions

    Regions
    Morocco is divided into sixteen regions, and subdivided into sixty-two prefectures and provinces.

    As part of a 1997 decentralization/regionalization law passed by the legislature, sixteen new regions were created. These regions are:
    Western Sahara status
    Due to the conflict over Western Sahara, the status of both regions of "Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra" and "Oued Ed-Dahab-Lagouira" is disputed.

    The government of Morocco has suggested that a self-governing entity, through the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), should govern the territory with some degree of autonomy for Western Sahara. The project was presented to the United Nations Security Council in mid-April 2007. The stalemating of the Moroccoan proposal options has lead the UN in the recent "Report of the UN Secretary-General" to ask the parties to enter into direct and unconditional negotiations to reach a mutually accepted political solution.

    Geography


    See also List of cities in Morocco and Western Sahara
    At 172,402 sq.mi (446,550 sq.km), Morocco is the fifty-seventh largest country in the world (after Uzbekistan). It is comparable in size to Iraq, and is somewhat larger than the US state of California.

    Algeria borders Morocco to the east and southeast though the border between the two countries has been closed since 1994. There are also four Spanish enclaves on the Mediterranean coast: Ceuta, Melilla, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, Peñón de Alhucemas, and the Chafarinas islands, as well as the disputed islet Perejil. Off the Atlantic coast the Canary Islands belong to Spain, whereas Madeira to the north is Portuguese. To the north, Morocco is bordered by and controls part of the Strait of Gibraltar, giving it power over the waterways in and out of the Mediterranean sea. The Rif mountains occupy the region bordering the Mediterranean from the north-west to the north-east. The Atlas Mountains run down the backbone of the country, from the south west to the north east. Most of the south east portion of the country is in the Sahara Desert and as such is generally sparsely populated and unproductive economically. Most of the population lives to the north of these mountains, while to the south is the desert. To the south, lies the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that was annexed by Morocco in 1975 (see Green March). The avifauna of Morocco includes a total of 487 species, of which 1 has been introduced by humans, and 32 are rare or accidental. 2 species listed are extirpated in Morocco and are not included in the species count. 15 species are globally threatened.

    Economy

    According to the African Development Bank, the GDP of Morocco accounts for 6% of the African continent. Morocco is the fifth economic power of Africa with an annual GDP of $147 billion, after South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria.(2001) estimated cannabis cultivation at about 1,340 square kilometres (515 sq mi) in Morocco's five northern provinces. This represents 10 % of the total area and 27 per cent of the arable lands of the surveyed territory and 1.5 per cent of Morocco's total arable land. Morocco is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and in 1992 Morocco passed legislation designed to implement the Convention.

    Morocco has an unemployment rate of 7.7% (2006 Data) and a 1999 estimate by the CIA puts 19% of the Moroccan population under the poverty line..

    Though working towards change, Morocco historically has utilized child labor on a large scale. In 1999, the Moroccan Government stated that over 500,000 children under the age of 15 were in the labor force.

    Morocco has signed Free Trade Agreements with the European Union (to take effect 2010) and the United States of America. The United States Senate approved by a vote of 85 to 13, on July 22 2004, the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement, which will allow for 98% of the two-way trade of consumer and industrial products to be without tariffs. The agreement entered into force in January 2006.

    Demographics

    Morocco is the fourth most populous Arab country, after Egypt, Sudan and Algeria. Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber stock. About three-quarters of all present-day Moroccans are of Berber descent, while Arabs form the second largest ethnic group. The Arabs invaded Morocco in the seventh century and established their culture there. Morocco's Jewish minority has decreased significantly and numbers about 7,000 (see Jewish exodus from Arab lands). Prior to mass emigration, Morocco was home to more Jews than any other Muslim country in the world. Most of the 100,000 foreign residents are French or Spanish; many are teachers or technicians and more and more retirees, especially in Marrakech.

    There is no significant genetic difference between Moroccan Arabs and Moroccan non-Arabs (i.e. Berbers). Thus, it is likely that Arabization was mainly a cultural process without genetic replacement. However, and according to the European Journal of Human Genetics, North-Western Africans were genetically closer to Iberians and to other Europeans than to
    sub-Saharan Africans.

    Morocco's official language is classical Arabic. The country's distinctive Arabic dialect is called Moroccan Arabic. Approximately 12 million (40% of the population), mostly in rural areas, speak Berber – which exists in Morocco in three different dialects (Tarifit, Tashelhiyt, and Tamazight) – either as a first language or bilingually with the spoken Arabic dialect. French, which remains Morocco's unofficial second language, is taught universally and still serves as Morocco's primary language of commerce and economics. It also is widely used in education and government. About 20,000 Moroccans in the northern part of the country speak Spanish as a second language in parallel with Tarifit. English, while still far behind French and Spanish in terms of number of speakers, is rapidly becoming the third foreign language of choice among educated youth (after Arabic and French). As a result of national education reforms entering into force in late 2002, English will be taught in all public schools from the fourth year on. French however, will remain the second foreign language due to Morocco's close economic and social links with France.

    Most people live west of the Atlas Mountains, a range that insulates the country from the Sahara Desert. Casablanca is the center of commerce and industry and the leading port; Rabat is the seat of government; Tangier is the gateway to Morocco from Spain and also a major port; Fez is the cultural and religious center; and Marrakech is a major tourist center.

    Education in Morocco is free and compulsory through primary school (age 15). Nevertheless, many children – particularly girls in rural areas – still do not attend school. The country's illiteracy rate has been stuck at around 50% for some years, but reaches as high as 90% among girls in rural regions. On September 2006, UNESCO awarded Morocco amongst other countries; Cuba, Pakistan, Rajastan (India) and Turkey the "UNESCO 2006 Literacy Prize".

    Morocco has about 230,000 students enrolled in fourteen public universities. The Mohammed V University in Rabat and Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (a private university) are highly regarded. Al-Akhawayn, founded in 1993 by King Hassan II and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, is an English-language American-style university comprising about 1,000 students. The University of Al Karaouine, in Fez, is considered the oldest university in the world and has been a center of learning for more than 1,000 years.

    Culture

    Morocco is an ethnically diverse country with a rich culture and civilization. Through Moroccan history, Morocco hosted many people coming from East (Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Jews and Arabs), South (Sub-Saharan Africans) and North (Romans, Vandals, Andalusians (including Moors and Jews)). All those civilizations have had an impact on the social structure of Morocco. It conceived various forms of beliefs, from paganism, Judaism, and Christianity to Islam.

    Each region possesses its own specificities, thus contributing to the national culture and to the legacy of civilization. Morocco has set among its top priorities the protection of its legacy and the preservation of its cultural identity.

    Culturally speaking, Morocco has always been successful in combining its Berber, Jewish and Arabic cultural heritage with external influences such as the French and the Spanish and, during the last decades, the Anglo-American lifestyles.

    Cuisine

    Moroccan cuisine has long been considered as one of the most diversified cuisines in the world. This is a result of the centuries-long interaction of Morocco with the outside world. The cuisine of Morocco is a mix of Berber, Spanish, Corsican, Portuguese, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and African cuisines. The cuisine of Morocco has been influenced by the native Berber cuisine, the Arabic Andalusian cuisine; brought by the Moriscos when they left Spain, the Turkish cuisine from the Turks and the Middle Eastern cuisines brought by the Arabs as well as Jewish cuisine.

    Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food. While spices have been imported to Morocco for thousands of years, many ingredients, like saffron from Tiliouine, mint and olives from Meknes, and oranges and lemons from Fez, are home-grown. Chicken is the most widely eaten meat in Morocco. The most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco is beef; lamb is preferred, but is relatively expensive. Couscous is the most famous Moroccan dish along with pastilla, tajine, and harira. The most popular drink is green tea with mint. The tea is accompanied with hard sugar cones or lumps.

    Literature

    Moroccan literature is written in Arabic, Berber or French, and particularly by people of Morocco. It also contains literature produced in Al-Andalus. Under the Almohad dynasty Morocco experienced a period of prosperity and brilliance of learning. The Almohad built the Marrakech Koutoubia Mosque, which accommodated no fewer than 25,000 people, but was also famed for its books, manuscripts, libraries and book shops, which gave it its name; the first book bazaar in history. The Almohad Caliph Abu Yakub had a great love for collecting books. He founded a great library, which was eventually carried to the Casbah and turned into a public library.

    Modern Moroccan literature began in the 1930s. Two main factors gave Morocco a pulse toward witnessing the birth of a modern literature. Morocco, as a French and Spanish protectorate left Moroccan intellectuals the opportunity to exchange and to produce literary works freely enjoying the contact of other Arabic literature and Europe.

    During the 1950s and 1960s, Morocco was a refuge and artistic centre and attracted writers as Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and William S. Burroughs. Moroccan literature flourished with novelists such as Mohamed Choukri, who wrote in Arabic, and Driss Chraïbi who wrote in French. Other important Moroccan authors include Tahar ben Jelloun, Fouad Laroui, Mohammed Berrada and Leila Abouzeid.

    Music

    Moroccan music is predominantly of Arab origins. There also exist three varieties of Berber folk music. Andalusian and other imported influences have had a major effect on the country's musical character. Rock-influenced chaabi bands are widespread, as is trance music with historical origins in Muslim music.

    Morocco is home to Andalusian classical music that is found throughout North Africa. It probably evolved under the Moors in Cordoba, and the Persian-born musician Ziryab is usually credited with its invention.

    Chaabi (popular) is a music consisting of numerous varieties which are descended from the multifarious forms of Moroccan folk music. Chaabi was originally performed in markets, but is now found at any celebration or meeting.

    Popular Western forms of music are becoming increasingly popular in Morocco, such as fusion, rock, country, metal and particularly hip hop.

    World Showcase

    The Morocco Pavilion has represented Morocco at the Disney World Showcase Epcot near Orlando, Florida since 1984. The pavilion is designed according to the :Category:Moroccan architecture|Moroccan architecture and it contains a Gallery of Arts and History with representations of Marrakech and Fes through a house and a restaurant serving Moroccan food.

    Military


    The military of Morocco is composed of the following main divisions:
  • Royal Armed Forces
  • *Army
  • *Navy
  • *Air Force
  • *Gendarmerie
  • *Auxiliary Forces
  • *Moroccan Royal Guard
  • *Marche Verte


  • Technology
  • Casablanca Technopark


  • Universities

  • The 2002 Reporters Without Borders' worldwide press freedom index ranked Morocco 119th out of 167 countries.
  • The Economist''s ranked Morocco 65th out of 111 countries.


  • Bilateral and multilateral agreements
  • Agadir Agreement
  • Middle East Free Trade Area
  • General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
  • Euro-Mediterranean free trade area
  • US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement

  • External links


    ; Government
  • Kingdom of Morocco (official portal)
  • Parliament of Morocco (official site)
  • Public services website
  • Kingdom of Morocco (Ministry of Communication)
  • Maghreb Arabe Presse (government news agency)


  • ; Overviews
  • Worldstatesmen.org/Morocco.htm
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica, Morocco - Country Page
  • CIA World Factbook – Morocco


  • ; Directories
  • Open Directory Project – Morocco
  • Morocco Directory


  • ; Communities
  • The Moroccan American Community Board
  • Maroc Entrepreneurs Association dedicated to the Promotion of Entrepreneurship in Morocco
  • Moroccans around the world
  • Portal of Moroccans in the U.S.


  • ; Trade and external relations
  • Historical Background on United States - Morocco Relations
  • The EU's relations with Morocco
  • Moroccan American Trade Council
  • Moroccousafta a site about the Morocco/US Free Trade Agreement


  • ; Surveys and Studies
  • Hashish production and trafficking in the Rif area of Morocco
  • Human Rights Watch on Morocco
  • revealed by STR analysis
  • (CSIS - The Center for Strategic and International Studies)


  • ; Tourism and culture
  • Official Morocco tourism website
  • Biodiversity of South Western Morocco (Flora and Plant Communities of Morocco)
  • Morocco in Lexicorient



















  • Introduction:
    In 788, about a century after the Arab conquest of North Africa, successive Moorish dynasties began to rule in Morocco. In the 16th century, the Sa'adi monarchy, particularly under Ahmad AL-MANSUR (1578-1603), repelled foreign invaders and inaugurated a golden age. In 1860, Spain occupied northern Morocco and ushered in a half century of trade rivalry among European powers that saw Morocco's sovereignty steadily erode; in 1912, the French imposed a protectorate over the country. A protracted independence struggle with France ended successfully in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier and most Spanish possessions were turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature, which first met in 1997. Lower house elections were last held held in September 2002 and upper house elections were last held in September 2006.

    Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Western Sahara

    Population: 33,241,259 (July 2006 est.)

    Languages: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy

    Country name: conventional long form: Kingdom of Morocco
    conventional short form: Morocco
    local long form: Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah
    local short form: Al Maghrib

    Capital: name: Rabat
    geographic coordinates: 34 02 N, 6 51 W
    time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

    Economy - overview:
    Moroccan economic policies brought macroeconomic stability to the country in the early 1990s but have not spurred growth sufficient to reduce unemployment that nears 20% in urban areas. Poverty has increased due to the volatile nature of GDP, Morocco's continued dependence on foreign energy, and its inability to promote the growth of small and medium size enterprises. However, GDP growth rebounded to 6.7% in 2006 due to high rainfall, which resulted in a strong second harvest. Despite structural adjustment programs supported by the IMF, the World Bank, and the Paris Club, the dirham is only fully convertible for current account transactions and Morocco's financial sector is rudimentary. Moroccan authorities understand that reducing poverty and providing jobs is key to domestic security and development. In 2004, Moroccan authorities instituted measures to boost foreign direct investment and trade by signing a free trade agreement with the US, which entered into force in January 2006, and sold government shares in the state telecommunications company and in the largest state-owned bank. Long-term challenges include preparing the economy for freer trade with the US and European Union, improving education and job prospects for Morocco's youth, and raising living standards, which the government hopes to achieve by increasing tourist arrivals and boosting competitiveness in textiles.



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