Right in the heart of Northern Africa is the multicultural nation of Morocco. First established in 788 AD, it is famous for its Medinas (downtown cities), ancient Islamic sites, and snow-covered mountains. It is surrounded by water, with the Mediterranean Sea as its northern border and the Atlantic Ocean as its western boundary.
1. Morocco in Arabic means “Kingdom of the West.”
The full Arabic name of the nation is al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyyah. In English, this alludes to the “Kingdom of the West.” It can also mean the word ‘evening,’ according to some scholars, an interesting Morocco fact.
As for its English name, it was derived from the name of “Marrakesh,” which was the country’s capital during the Almoravid Dynasty and the Almohad Caliphate. The origin of the word Marrakesh remains disputed, although some say that it came from the Berber word ‘amur’ meaning “Land of God.”
Morocco’s current name is said to be anglicized from the Spanish term for the country, which is “Marruecos.”
2. The French and Spanish formed protectorates in Morocco.
In the early 1800s, the French showed interest in Morocco because of its proximity to its Algerian territory. The Spanish were interested as well, and thus bore a war, which Spain won. Before the end of the 19th century, the Spanish had territories along the coastline. Not to be outdone, the French also carved out its lands in Morocco.
France observed a joint Moroccan-French administration under the gubernatorial rule of Hubert Lyautey. This led to the development of the Moroccan school system. The harmonious relationship did not last long though, with Morocco breaking away from French and Spanish rule in the mid 20th century.
3. Morocco was granted its independence in March 1956.
The exile of Sultan Mohammed V led to the profound dislike of the French and Spanish protectorates. Violence erupted, with many Moroccans murdering innocent Europeans in the city of Oujda. This revolt led to the reinstatement of Mohammed V in 1955, with talks of independence pushing through the following year.
After Morocco was granted independence by the Kingdom of France in 1956, the Spanish followed suit, and it gave up its former protectorates. The latter retained the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta though, which they claim to be the prize of their earlier conquests.
4. Mountains comprise most of the Moroccan geography.
Morocco is home to two imposing mountains, including the Atlas Mountains, which also passes through Tunisia and Algeria. Its highest apex – the Toubkal – is found in the southwestern part of the country, a fun Morocco fact. Apart from the Berbers, the mountains provide refuge to some endangered flora and fauna.
Located in the northern part of the country is the Rif mountains, which is divided into the beautiful western and eastern districts. Like the Atlas Mountains, the Rif is the habitat of many endangered animals, including the Barbary Macque and the honeybee Apis mellifera major.
5. Morocco features 5 climate zones.
The country’s diverse geography has resulted in different climates, which largely depends on the region. The Mediterranean climate, which is characterized by hot, dry summers and wet winters, is common in the Tangiers, Safi, Nador, Tetouan, and Al Haceima.
Sub-Mediterranean climate, on the other hand, is further divided into two classifications. In Casablanca and Rabat, the cooler summers of the Oceanic climate can be felt. As for Taza and Beni-Mellal, the hotter summers of the continental sub-Mediterranean climate is common. This is different from the traditional Continental climate, with very hot summers being the norm for the cities of Azilal and Midelt.
In contrast to this hot weather is the Alpine temperatures of Ifrane and Azrou, where winters are long, cold, and snowy. At the other end of the climate spectrum are the cities of Marrakesh, Oujda, and Agadir, where the dry, semi-arid climate is common.
6. Tourism is one of the most important sectors in the country.
As the melting pot of many cultures, Morocco boasts of tourist spots that are unlike any other. The country’s rich cultural influences are reflected in its high tourist rates, an interesting fact about Morocco. Because of this, tourism has given the country its second-largest foreign exchange earnings.
Morocco is advertised as an exotic country with relatively affordable rates. Its Roman and Islamic sites have drawn millions of tourists, with Europeans comprising 20% of the total visiting population. This year, the country hopes to fulfill its “Vision 2020” plan – which aims to make Morocco one of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world.
7. The Moroccan national emblem features the extinct Barbary Lion.
The Barbary Lion, which lived in the Barbary Coast, is drawn as the country’s national emblem, a fun Morocco fact. During its heyday, the fierce animal was a favorite by the Moroccan royals. Due to the high bounties for shooting lions, the said species died out in the 1960s. The last documented hunting was said to occur in the Atlas Mountains in 1942, although it was believed that small packs may have survived in the area.
8. King Hassan II, autocrat and dictator, ruled Morocco from 1961 to 1999.
After the death of his father Mohammed V, Hassan II took over the throne – and held it until his death in 1999. His rule was marred with human rights violations. It was described as appalling, and one of the worst in Africa, if not the world.
In 1965, he suspended the Moroccan constitution of 1962. He declared a ‘State of Emergency’ and dissolved the parliament. Although elections were held, they were tampered in favor of the loyal parties.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, many dissidents were killed or exiled. This came to be the “Years of Lead,” which earned Morocco the title of being one of the most ‘undemocratic’ countries in the world.
9. In Morocco, it is illegal to convert to any religion other than Islam.
Morocco’s Islamic influences can be traced to the Muslim conquest of Maghreb in the 7th century. The official religion is Sunni Islam, with 67% of the population belonging to this sect. The rest of the practicing Muslims are Shia. Christians comprise 1% of the population.
Even with the low number of non-Muslims, the country bans converting to any religion other than Islam, an interesting fact about Morocco. This infraction comes with up to 15 years of imprisonment.
Due to its advantageous location, Morocco has become a hodgepodge for different cultures. Such is reflected in its colorful cities and well-preserved ancient sites. With these priceless national treasures, Morocco has become one of the best places to visit in Africa.
I hope that this article on Morocco facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!