Morocco

 

History of Morocco

Morocco Flag
Flag

The history of Morocco spans over twelve centuries, without considering the Classical antiquity. Archaeological evidence has shown that the area was inhabited by hominids at least 400,000 years ago. The recorded history of Morocco begins with the Phoenician colonization of the Moroccan coast between the 8th and 6th centuries BC, although the area was inhabited by indigenous Berbers for some two thousand years before that. In the 5th century BC, the state of Carthage extended its hegemony over the coastal areas. They remained there until the late 3rd century BC., while the hinterland was ruled by indigenous monarchs. Indigenous Berber monarchs ruled the territory from the 3rd century BC until 40 BC, when it was annexed to the Roman Empire. In the mid-5th century AD, it was overrun by Vandals, before being recovered by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century.

The region was conquered by the Muslims in the early 8th century AD, but broke off from the Umayyad Caliphate after the Berber Revolt of 740. Half a century later, the Moroccan state was established by the Idrisid dynasty. Under the Almoravid and the Almohad dynasties, Morocco dominated the Maghreb and Muslim Spain. The Saadi dynasty ruled the region from 1549 to 1659, followed by the Alaouites in the 17th century, who have since been the ruling dynasty of Morocco.

In 1912, after the First Moroccan Crisis and the Agadir Crisis, the Treaty of Fez was signed, dividing Morocco into French and Spanish protectorates. In 1956, after 44 years of French rule, Morocco regained independence from France, and shortly afterward regained most of the territories under Spanish control.

Geography

Morocco Map Morocco Map - Click for larger view

Morocco, about one-tenth larger than California, lies across the Strait of Gibraltar on the Mediterranean and looks out on the Atlantic from the northwest shoulder of Africa. Algeria is to the east and Mauritania to the south. On the Atlantic coast there is a fertile plain. The Mediterranean coast is mountainous. The Atlas Mountains, running northeastward from the south to the Algerian frontier, average 11,000 ft (3,353 m) in elevation.

Culture

Morocco is an ethnically diverse country with a rich culture and civilization. Through Moroccan history, it has hosted many people coming from East (Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Jews and Arabs), South (Sub-Saharan Africans) and North (Romans, Vandals, Andalusians and Moors). 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.

Since independence, a veritable blossoming has taken place in painting and sculpture, popular music, amateur theatre, and filmmaking. The Moroccan National Theatre (founded 1956) offers regular productions of Moroccan and French dramatic works. Art and music festivals take place throughout the country during the summer months, among them the World Sacred Music Festival at Fès.

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 diverse legacy and the preservation of its cultural heritage.

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.

Religion

Islam is the majority and constitutionally established state religion in Morocco. The vast majority of Muslims in Morocco are Sunni belonging to Maliki school of jurisprudence. The King of Morocco claims his legitimacy as a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The second-largest religion in the country is Christianity, which had been present before the arrival of Islam. Only a fraction of the former number of Jews has remained in the country, many having moved to Israel.

The Moroccan constitution grants the freedom to worship and congregation, while recognizing Islam as the state religion.

Language

There are a number of languages in Morocco, but the two official languages are Modern Standard Arabic and Berber. Moroccan Arabic (known as Darija) is the spoken native vernacular. The languages of prestige in Morocco are Arabic in its Classical and Modern Standard Forms and the French language, the latter of which serves as a second language for many Moroccans. According to a 2000-2002 survey done by Moha Ennaji, author of Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco, "there is a general agreement that Standard Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, and Berber are the national languages."Ennaji also concluded "This survey confirms the idea that multilingualism in Morocco is a vivid sociolinguistic phenomenon, which is favored by many people."

There are 12 to 15 million Berber speakers in Morocco, about 40 to 50% of the population. French remains Morocco's unofficial third language, and is taught universally and serves as Morocco's primary language of commerce and economics; it is also widely used in education and government. Morocco is a member of the Francophonie.

Weather and Climate

Morocco Weather

Morocco has a subtropical climate, tempered by oceanic influences that give the coastal cities moderate temperatures. Toward the interior, winters are colder and summers warmer. At high altitudes temperatures of less than -17.8° C (0° F) are not uncommon, and mountain peaks are covered with snow during most of the year.

Rain falls mainly during the winter months. Precipitation is heaviest in the northwest and lightest in the east and south.

Entry Requirements

All visitors to Morocco require a valid passport but visitors from the following countries do not need to obtain visas before arrival:
Schengen member states, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Mali, Mexico, New Zealand, Niger, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Korea, 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 GBP17 for a single entry and GBP26 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.

Public Holidays

Public Holidays Morocco 2015
New Year's Day Thursday, 01 January 2015
Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad) Saturday, January 03, 2015
Independence Manifesto Day Sunday, January 11, 2015
Labour Day Friday, May 01, 2015
Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan) Saturday, July 18, 2015
Throne Day Morocco Thursday, July 30, 2015
Oued Ed-Dahab Day Friday, August 14, 2015
Revolution Day Thursday, August 20, 2015
King Mohammed IV's Birthday Friday, August 21, 2015
Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Fatih Muharram 2015 (Islamic New Year) Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Green March Day Friday, November 06, 2015
Independence Day Wednesday, November 18, 2015
   

Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Morocco. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the threat of terrorism in the region.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions. Decide your destination in advance and have a planned route of travel.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.