OFFICIAL NAME: Kingdom of Morocco
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional monarchy
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Arabic, Berber dialects, French
MONEY: Moroccan Dirham
AREA: 172 square miles (447 square kilometers)
MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Atlas, Rif
MAJOR RIVERS: Draa
Map of Morocco
Elephants and lions once wandered around Morocco, but they are gone forever. Lizards, geckos, snakes, and chameleons are common, but most large mammals have disappeared. Today the most common are camels, sheep, goats, the Barbary monkey, and wild boar.
The desert fox, desert hedgehog, and jerboa inhabit the desert. Olive trees grow across the flat plains and evergreen oaks and giant cedars are common in the woods on the mountains.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Moroccans are Berber and Arab and most of the people are Muslim. The Berbers have been in North Africa for centuries. Many of the Berber people live in the mountains and still speak the Berber language, but today they are moving to cities to find work.
Moroccans enjoy drinking mint tea sweetened with sugar. The people take their time making tea and sipping it with family and guests. In the cities, the pace is a bit faster than in the countryside. Fifty-seven percent of the people live in cities such as Fez, Casablanca, and Marrakech, on the coastal plain.
Mosques with beautiful towers called minarets, and bazaars are common in Morocco. Medinas are the old medieval section of cities. Old fortresses called kasbahs are strong buildings built from palm-tree fibers and mud from the riverbanks.
Children are required to be in school from ages 7-15, but many children work with their parents and are not able to attend school. Many girls don’t ever receive an education.
Morocco is located in the northwest corner of Africa and is bordered by the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Algeria and Western Sahara are the land borders to the south and east. Morocco is about the same size as California.
The high Atlas Mountains separate the mild coastline from the harsh Sahara. Rainfall is unpredictable and is not enough to supply all the water needed for the people.
Photograph by Typhoonski, Dreamstime
The chief of state in Morocco is King Mohammed VI and he has ruled since 1999. Prime Minister Abbas el Fassi was appointed by the king. The king is involved in all decisions and he has moved the country closer to democracy, but it is still a long way from the democracies of Europe and North America. Morocco is a Muslim state and the legal system is based on Islamic law.
Morocco is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. From 1912 to 1956 the country was divided into French and Spanish zones—two small Spanish-controlled areas, Ceuta and Melilla still remain today.
King Mohammed VI, who has ruled since 1999, claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad.
Morocco is one of only three kingdoms left on the continent of Africa—the others, Lesotho and Swaziland, are small, southern African countries.