Morocco, or Kingdom of Morocco, a country of northwestern Africa. It is bordered by Algeria, Mauritania, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. Across the narrow Strait of Gibraltar lies Spain.
|Facts in brief about Morocco|
|Official language: Arabic.|
|Official name: Kingdom of Morocco.|
|Area: 172,414 mi2 (446,550 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 565 mi (910 km); east-west, 730 mi (1,170 km). Coastline—1,140 mi (1,835 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Jebel Toubkal, 13,665 ft (4,165 m) above sea level. Lowest—180 ft (55 m) below sea level.|
|Population: Current estimate—31,851,000; density, 185 per mi2 (71 per km2); distribution, 59 percent urban, 41 percent rural. 2004 census—29,891,708. Census includes the population of Western Sahara.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—barley, citrus fruits, corn, potatoes, sugar beets, tomatoes, wheat. Fishing—anchovies, mackerel, sardines, tuna. Manufacturing—cement, chemicals, fertilizers, leather goods, petroleum products, processed foods, textiles. Mining—phosphate rock, phosphoric acid.|
|Flag and coat of arms: Morocco's national flag was officially adopted in 1915. It features a five-pointed green star on a red background. The green star appears again on the country's coat of arms. The coat of arms also shows the Atlas Mountains, a sun, two lions, and a crown. An inscription in Arabic at the bottom reads, If You Assist God, He Will Also Assist You.|
|Money: Basic unit—Moroccan dirham. One hundred centimes equal one dirham.|
Morocco's terrain divides into high mountains, coastal plains and lowlands, and vast stretches of the Sahara.
The mountainous region consists of the Atlas Mountains and high plateaus and valleys, all of which extend roughly northeast-southwest through much of the northern half of the country. Peaks reach a maximum elevation of 13,665 feet (4,165 m) in the High Atlas range. Er Rif, a lower mountain range, extends along the Mediterranean coast. Between the Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic is. a fairly broad region of low plateaus and level plains. Inland from the Atlas Mountains and throughout the southern part of the country stretch arid expanses of the Sahara. Nearly all the permanently flowing rivers, including the Moulouya, Sebou, Oum er Rbia, Tensift, and Sous, begin in the Atlas Mountains and flow to the coast. Wadis (seasonally flowing streams) prevail elsewhere.
Climate varies widely in Morocco due mainly to differences in latitude, elevation, and proximity to the sea. In general, it is characterized by high temperature and scant precipitation. The climate is most moderate in the north and northwest, especially along the coast, where sea breezes bring relief from the heat. The north and northwest is also the rainiest section, receiving some 20 inches (500 mm) or more annually. Except in the high mountains, extremely hot summers are typical, particularly in the Sahara. Winters are normally mild. The high mountains are snow-covered for several months. Virtually no rain falls in the Sahara.
Morocco has had considerable economic growth since gaining independence in 1956, but remains an underdeveloped nation with widespread poverty. The country's economy is based largely on private enterprise. Among the industries that are owned and operated by the government are air and rail transport and mining.
About 40 per cent of the people are engaged in farming, most of them at the subsistence level. About a fifth of the land is suitable for crops; about 14 per cent of the cropland is under irrigation. Among the chief crops are cereals, especially wheat and barley; sugar beets; citrus fruits; tomatoes and other vegetables; grapes; and olives. Much of the fruit and vegetable output is exported. Frequent droughts occur, causing much damage to crops. The use of modern agricultural machinery is not widespread. Sheep and goats are the most numerous livestock. Commercial fishing is of increasing importance. Much of the catch, which is mainly sardines, is exported.
The mining industry provides the greatest share of Morocco's export earnings. The country is the largest exporter of phosphate rock, accounting for nearly a third of the world's trade in this commodity. Other minerals produced include barium, copper, fluorspar, and iron ore.
Light manufacturing industries predominate, particularly those producing foods, textiles, leather items, and other consumer goods. Petroleum refining, phosphate processing, the making of chemicals and cement, and metallurgical industries are also important. Many items, including finely made rugs, are still produced by hand. Tourists, attracted by resorts and historic cities, contribute substantially to the economy.
Railways and paved roads are primarily in the north and northwest, serving the nation's largest cities and best-developed areas. Casablanca is the principal seaport. The busiest international airports are at Casablanca, Rabat, and Tangier. Royal Air Maroc is the national airline.
Most Moroccans are either Berbers or of mixed Berber-Arab descent. Most of the others are Arabs. Islam, the faith of almost all the people, is the state religion.Slightly more than half of the people live in urban areas.
Classical Arabic is the official language, but Arabic and Berber dialects are more widely spoken. French predominates among the social elite.
Primary school lasts five years; lower secondary school, four years; and upper secondary school, three years. Schooling is not fully available, and the literacy rate is about 20 per cent. The leading institutions of higher learning are Hassan II University in Casablanca and Mohammed V University in Rabat. One of the Islamic world's oldest universities is Al Quarawiyin University, founded 859 A.D., in Fez.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy under a hereditary king. The legislature is made up of two houses—the Chamber of Representatives, whose members are elected directly; and the Consultative Chamber, whose members are chosen by an electoral college. The king appoints the prime minister and cabinet.