Morocco

Kingdom of Morocco

Ruler: King Muhammed VI (1999)

Prime Minister: Abbas El Fassi (2007)

Land area: 172,317 sq mi (446,301 sq km); total area: 172,413 sq mi (446,550 sq km)

Population (2010 est.): 31,627,428 (growth rate: 1.0%); birth rate: 19.4/1000; infant mortality rate: 28.6/1000; life expectancy: 75.6; density per sq km: 76

Capital (2003 est.): Rabat, 1,636,600

Largest cities: Casablanca, 3,397,000; Fez, 941,800; Marrakech, 755,200

Monetary unit: Dirham

National name: al-Mamlaka al-Maghrebia

Current government officials

Languages: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, French often used for business, government, and diplomacy

Ethnicity/race: Arab-Berber 99.1%, Jewish 0.2%, other 0.7%

Religions: Islam 99%, Christian 1%

National Holiday: Throne Day, July 30

Literacy rate: 52.3% (2004 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2009 est.): $146.7 billion; per capita $4,600. Real growth rate: 5.1%. Inflation: 2%. Unemployment: 9.9%. Arable land: 19%. Agriculture: barley, wheat, citrus, wine, vegetables, olives; livestock. Labor force: 11.35 million; agriculture 40%, services 45%, industry 15% (2003 est.). Industries: phosphate rock mining and processing, food processing, leather goods, textiles, construction, tourism. Natural resources: phosphates, iron ore, manganese, lead, zinc, fish, salt. Exports: $15.61 billion (2009 est.): clothing, fish, inorganic chemicals, transistors, crude minerals, fertilizers (including phosphates), petroleum products, fruits, vegetables. Imports: $31.83 billion (2009 est.): crude petroleum, textile fabric, telecommunications equipment, wheat, gas and electricity, transistors, plastics. Major trading partners: France, Spain, UK, Italy, India, Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China (2006).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 1.266 million (2006); mobile cellular: 16.005 million (2006). Radio broadcast stations: AM 27, FM 25, shortwave 6 (1998). Radios: 6.64 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 35 (plus 66 repeaters) (1995). Televisions: 3.1 million (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 137,187 (2007). Internet users: 6.1 million (2006).

Transportation: Railways: total: 1,907 km (2006). Highways: total: 57,493 km; paved: 32,716 km (includes 507 km of expressways); unpaved: 24,777 km (2004). Ports and harbors: Agadir, El Jadida, Casablanca, El Jorf Lasfar, Kenitra, Mohammedia, Nador, Rabat, Safi, Tangier; also Spanish-controlled Ceuta and Melilla. Airports: 60 (2007).

International disputes: claims and administers Western Sahara, but sovereignty remains unresolved - UN-administered cease-fire has remained in effect since September 1991, but attempts to hold a referendum have failed and parties thus far have rejected other proposals; Morocco protests Spain's control over the coastal enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, the islands of Penon de Alhucemas and Islas Chafarinas, and surrounding waters; Morocco also rejected Spain's unilateral designation of a median line from the Canary Islands in 2002 to set limits to undersea resource exploration and refugee interdiction; Morocco allowed Spanish fishermen to fish temporarily off the coast of Western Sahara after an oil spill soiled Spanish fishing grounds.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Morocco

Geography | Government | History

Geography

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.

Government

Constitutional monarchy.

History

Morocco has been the home of the Berbers since the second millennium B.C. In A.D. 46, Morocco was annexed by Rome as part of the province of Mauritania until the Vandals overran this portion of the declining empire in the 5th century. The Arabs invaded circa 685, bringing Islam. The Berbers joined them in invading Spain in 711, but then they revolted against the Arabs, resenting their secondary status. In 1086, Berbers took control of large areas of Moorish Spain until they were expelled in the 13th century.

The land was rarely unified and was usually ruled by small tribal states. Conflicts between Berbers and Arabs were chronic. Portugal and Spain began invading Morocco, which helped to unify the land in defense. In 1660, Morocco came under the control of the Alawite dynasty. It is a sherif dynasty—descended from the prophet Muhammad—and rules Morocco to this day.

French and Spanish Colonization

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Morocco was one of the Barbary States, the headquarters of pirates who pillaged Mediterranean traders. European powers showed interest in colonizing the country beginning in 1840, and there were frequent clashes with the French and Spanish. Finally, in 1904, France and Spain concluded a secret agreement that divided Morocco into zones of French and Spanish influence, with France controlling almost all of Morocco and Spain controlling the small southwest portion, which became known as Spanish Sahara. Morocco grew into an even greater object of European rivalry by the turn of the century, almost leading to a European war in 1905 when Germany attempted to gain a foothold in the mineral-rich country. By the terms of the Algeciras Conference (1906), the sultan of Morocco maintained control of his lands and France's privileges were curtailed. The conference was an indication of what was to come in World War I, with Germany and Austria-Hungary lining up on one side of the territorial dispute, and France, Britain, and the United States on the other.

Independence and Sovereignty of Morocco

In 1912, the sultan of Morocco, Moulay Abd al-Hafid, permitted French protectorate status. Nationalism grew during World War II. Sultan Muhammed V was deposed by the French in 1953 and replaced by his uncle, but nationalist agitation forced his return in 1955. In 1956, France and Spain recognized the independence and sovereignty of Morocco. At his death on Feb. 26, 1961, Muhammed V's son succeeded him as King Hassan II. In the 1990s, King Hassan promulgated “Hassanian democracy,” which allowed for significant political freedom while at the same time retaining ultimate power for the monarch. In Aug. 1999, King Hassan II died after 38 years on the throne and his son, Prince Sidi Muhammed, was crowned King Muhammed VI. Since then, Muhammed VI has pledged to make the political system more open, allow freedom of expression, and support economic reform. He has also advocated more rights for women, a position opposed by Islamic fundamentalists. The entrenched political elite and the military have also been leery of some reform proposals. With about 20% of the population living in dire poverty, economic expansion is a primary goal.

Morocco's Occupation of Western Sahara

Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) has been repeatedly criticized by the international community. In the 1970s, tens of thousands of Moroccans crossed the border into Spanish Sahara to back their government's contention that the northern part of the territory was historically part of Morocco. Spain, which had controlled the territory since 1912, withdrew in 1976, creating a power vacuum that was filled by Morocco in the north and Mauritania in the south. When Mauritania withdrew in Aug. 1979, Morocco overran the remainder of the territory. A rebel group, the Polisario Front, has fought against Morocco since 1976 for the independence of Western Sahara on behalf of the indigenous Saharawis. The Polisario and Morocco agreed in Sept. 1991 to a UN-negotiated cease-fire, which was contingent on a referendum regarding independence. For the past decade, however, Morocco has opposed the referendum. In 2002, King Muhammed VI reasserted that he “will not renounce an inch of” Western Sahara.

Arab Spring Protests Reach Morocco

On May 16, 2003, terrorists believed to be associated with al-Qaeda killed 33 people in several simultaneous attacks. Four bombs targeted Jewish, Spanish, and Belgian buildings in Casablanca. In the 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid, Spain, numerous Moroccans were implicated.

A wave of suicide bombings struck Casablanca in March and April 2007. Authorities were not certain if the attacks were related

Early in 2011, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered in various cities, calling for a shift to a constitutional monarchy in what was termed the February 20th movement. King Mohammed VI answered with promises of reform, which took the shape of a constitutional referendum in July. February 20th supporters called for a boycott of the referendum, calling the included reforms inadequate and taking offense at its intent to bolster the king's position as "supreme arbiter" of political and institutional life.

See also Encyclopedia: Morocco.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Morocco


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