About Morocco Country
Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a North African country. 158,300 square miles (410,000 sq km). Population: 36,093,000 (estimated for 2020). Rabat is the capital. The Imazighen are the country’s largest ethnolinguistic group, with minorities in French, Spanish, and Bedouin. Arabic (official), Tamazight, and French are the languages spoken. Islam is the religion (official; mostly Sunni). Dirham is the currency. Morocco is a mountainous country with an elevation of 2,600 feet (800 meters) above sea level on average.
The Rif Mountains run along Morocco’s northern coast, while the Atlas Mountains rise in the country’s center and include Mount Toubkal (13,665 ft [4,165 m]), the country’s highest peak. Seismic activity is high in the area, and earthquakes are common. Agriculture thrives in the fertile lowlands; major crops include barley, wheat, and sugar beets. Morocco is one of the world’s largest phosphate suppliers.
Casablanca, the country’s largest city, serves as its industrial center. It is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; the king is the head of state and government, assisted by the prime minister. The Imazighen arrived in Morocco at the end of the second millennium BCE. During the 12th century BCE, the Phoenicians established trading posts along the Mediterranean coast, and Carthage had settlements along the Atlantic coast in the 5th century BCE. Following the fall of Carthage, the region’s leaders became Rome’s loyal allies, and it was annexed by the Romans as part of the province of Mauretania in 42 CE.
In the seventh century, Muslims invaded. In the mid-11th century, the Almoravid dynasty conquered it and the Muslim areas of Spain; in the 12th century, the Almohad dynasty overthrew the Almoravids, who were then conquered by the Marnid dynasty. After the Marnids were defeated in the mid-15th century, the Sad dynasty ruled for a century, beginning around 1550. Attacks by Barbary Coast pirates forced Europeans to enter the area; the French fought Morocco over the Algerian border, Europeans gained trading rights in 1856, and the Spanish seized part of Moroccan territory in 1859.
Morocco was a French and Spanish protectorate from 1912 until 1956, when it gained independence. It reasserted its claim to the Spanish Sahara (see Western Sahara) in the 1970s, and Spanish troops withdrew from the region in 1976, leaving behind Algerian-backed Saharan guerrillas of the Polisario movement. Relations with Mauritania and Algeria worsened, and fighting in the region raged on. The international community has attempted to mediate the situation.
Morocco is primarily made up of Arabs and Imazighen, or a mix of the two. A sizable number of Imazighen live primarily in the country’s mountainous regions, which provide them with long stretches of refuge where they can preserve their language and culture. Some of the population is descended from Spanish refugees who fled the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century. Sub-Saharan Africans were brought to Morocco by trade and slavery, and their descendants now live primarily in the southern oases and larger cities.
Two-thirds of Moroccans speak Arabic, one of the country’s national and official languages, and Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools. Tamazight, the Amazigh language, was designated as an official language in 2011. It has been preserved in Amazigh enclaves and is spoken by approximately one-third of the population. Tamazight is taught in schools and is spoken by many Imazighen. Spanish is widely spoken, and French is an important secondary language. English is also becoming more popular.
Tamazight-speaking residents are divided into three ethnolinguistic groups: the Rif people (also known as Riffi or Riffians) of the Rif Mountains, the Middle Atlas people, and the High Atlas and Sous valley people. While there are differences between these dialects, they are all mutually understandable.
Islam is the official state religion, and the vast majority of Moroccans follow the Mlik rite of Sunni Islam. The Alawite dynasty has ruled since the 17th century, claiming legitimacy through descent from the Prophet Muhammad. Moroccan Muslims revere the royal family because of its prophetic lineage. Sufism, like many Islamic countries, has adherents, and forms of popular religion, such as saint veneration and tomb visits, are widely practiced. Moroccan law guarantees religious freedom, but the country is home to few non-Muslims. The country has no indigenous Christian population, and its Jewish community has shrunk to a few thousand people.
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