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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Moroccan history begins with the Berbers, an indigenous people of northern Africa, who have inhabited the area since the second century B.C.E.. In the seventh century A.D. the Arabs invaded and converted many of the Berbers to Islam. After two centuries of Arab dominance, political power reverted to the Berbers, whose successive dynasties ruled in the area until the 16th century.
Spain and Portugal began advancing into Morocco during the 15th century but were largely frustrated in their attempts. It was not until the early 20th century that Europeans took control of Morocco; Spain and France divided up the country. In 1912, Moroccan forces fought the Spanish and French in an attempt at gaining independence but were defeated. In 1934 a nationalist movement arose in Morocco and submitted a plan of reforms to the French. That led to the formation of the National Action Bloc, which in turn became the Independence Party. The party gaine
d the support of the Moroccan leader at the time, Sultan Sidi Muhammad bin Yusuf, who was subsequently exiled, in 1953. On March 2, 1956, a Franco-Moroccan agreement gave Morocco its independence; Sidi Muhammad bin Yusuf took on the name Muhammad V and became the king of Morocco.
After Muhammad V’s death, in 1961, his son, Hassan II, reigned until he died, in 1991. During that time, Morocco underwent considerable political reform, yet the king retained ultimate power. In 1976, Spain withdrew from the western Sahara, and since then Morocco has gained control of the land. Tension exists between Morocco and the indigenous Saharawis, led by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia al-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario), who want independent control over the area. Since he came to power, King Hassan II’s son, Muhammad VI, has instituted a number of reforms, including moves to make the political system more open, an expansion of women’s rights, and economic improvements.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. With Algeria, Mauritania, and the Atlantic Ocean as neighbors, Morocco is the westernmost country in northern Africa. It is divided into 16 regions, with Casablanca, the country’s most populated city, located in the Grand Casablanca region, and the country’s capital, Rabat, located in the Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer region.
2. The currency of Morocco is the Moroccan dirham.
3. There are numerous news outlets in Morocco. Some of the better-known newspapers are Al-Anbaa, Le Matin, Al-Massae, Assabah, L’Économiste, and Telquel.
4. The official language of Morocco is Moroccan Arabic. French and Spanish are commonly spoken, too, and Berber, Morocco’s indigenous language, consists of three dialects: Tachelhit, Central Atlas Tamazight, and Tarifit.
5. Smoking is prohibited in public places, but it is allowed in designated locations.