Geography & History

Geography & History

The Kingdom of Morocco covers an area of 710,000 square kilometres in the extreme north-west of the African continent. Morocco borders Algeria to the east and Mauritania to the south.


Morocco's capital is Rabat and is inhabited by 1.8 million people (with Salé together about 2 million). According to the latest surveys, the total population of the country is almost 34 million inhabitants in 2014. The country is divided into 16 regions - these in turn are divided into 65 provinces.


Compared with other African countries, Morocco is not a large country in terms of surface area, but in its surface form it shows an extremely changeable picture. Essentially, the following natural units can be distinguished: the coastal regions in the north and west; the Atlantic region with the Moroccan Meseta; the mountain region with the High and Middle Atlas and the Rif Mountains; and finally the transmontane region with the plateaus in the north-eastern border area, the Anti Atlas and the basin landscapes in the edge area of the Sahara.


With a coastline of 3446 kilometres, the country has an enormously maritime façade, and thus an advantageous geographical position in the region. In the north, the Mediterranean coast stretches from Saïda to Cap Spartel with 512 kilometres - the western Atlantic coast from Cap Spartel to Lagouira has a coastline of 2934 kilometres. The Mediterranean coast is predominantly steep and rocky and has many capes and bays. On the other hand, the Atlantic coast is a flat and hardly indented compensation coast with strong sand transport and therefore only badly suitable for harbours. From the coast further inland, the terrain rises to about 450 metres above sea level and becomes the central part of the Moroccan Meseta, a vast table landscape also known as the Binnenmeseta or Marrakech plateau.


Beside the long and far stretched coastal plains, the country is dominated by high mountains for the most part, among which there are not a few 4000m peaks. Morocco's relief basically consists of 4 main mountain ranges: Rif Mountains, Middle Atlas, High Atlas and Anti Atlas.


The Rif Mountains are located in the north of the country and run along the Mediterranean coast. The highest peak of the mountains is the Djebel Tidigghine with a height of 2456 meters. On average, the elevations of this mountain range rise to an altitude of 1000 meters. The highest elevation of the Central Atlas is the Bou Naceur with 3354 meters. The mountain range is located in the centre of the country - southeast of the royal cities of Meknes and Fès and merges into the High Atlas. In the mountains of the Central Atlas there are many watercourses or wadi, which carry water or are dried up depending on climatic conditions and season. The Alguelmane Sidi Ali - Morocco's largest mountain lake - is also located in these mountains.


The High Atlas extends with a length of

from up to 750 kilometers to far beyond the borders of Algeria. With 4165 meters the Djebel is


Toubkal the highest mountain. In the whole area of these mountains can be different

Climate types - depending on geographical location. These range from

Mediterranean climate in the northern and western regions, over a hot and sunny summer

very cold continental climate in the interior of the country up to an extremely dry- climate in the winter

hot desert climate in the east and south of the country. South of the High Atlas borders the

mountains of the Anti-Atlas, which continues to decrease in altitude towards the south and slowly

into the dry-hot desert regions. Its eastern continuation is the Jabal

Saghro and the parallel Jabal Bani to the south.


Climate of Morocco


Due to its location in the northeast of Africa, Morocco has several climate zones. These range from the heights of the Atlas to the foothills of the Sahara to the fertile lowlands and the very pleasant Atlantic coast. In the Atlas Mountains and their foothills, spring to winter conditions can be expected, depending on the season. Temperatures range between 5 °C (at night) and 25 °C (during the day). In the lower regions of the Sahara, on the other hand, there is a typical desert climate. This means that during the day it is warm and sunny; at night it cools considerably with a very low overall humidity. Similar temperatures can be expected along the coasts, although these are somewhat reduced by more or less strong winds.


Climate table for Morocco



Flora & Fauna

Despite its often very barren landscape, Morocco has a rich fauna and diverse flora. From the coastal areas to the first foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the vegetation is Mediterranean: cork oaks, olive trees, jujubes and argan trees develop in flat plains. The more rainy mountain areas are covered with cedar, juniper, holm oak and various alpine plants. Thorn bushes, mugwort and grasses characterise the vegetative image of the inner sides of the Atlas Mountains, on whose foot and slopes different types of date palms have developed. The desert regions in the south, on the other hand, are covered with some palm oases.

Of course, Morocco's animal world does not read as exciting as that of southern Africa. But in Morocco there are a lot of rare bird species, like white ravens, golden eagles, flamingos, herons and storks. Dolphins, seals, sea turtles and many other fish species live in the marine regions of the Atlantic and Mediterranean.



The history of Morocco in the sense of a history of the genus Homo ("man") goes back about one million years. The Homo erectus can be traced back to 700,000 years ago, the anatomically modern human to 145,000 years ago at the latest. While in the Rif land cultivation for the 6th millennium B.C. could be proven, the producing economy penetrated only slowly against the appropriating of the hunters, collectors and fishermen. It is possible that the Berbers (Imazighen) date back to the culture of Capsia (from 8000 BC).


The Phoenicians increasingly influenced the Berber cultures from the early 1st millennium BC, with Carthage establishing itself as the leading city in the eastern Maghreb. Cádiz maintained a trading station on Mogador from the 7th century BC. From the middle of the 5th century, Carthage expanded westwards as far as the Atlantic, where bases were built. During the conflict between Carthage and Rome, the empires of the Massylers, the Masaesylers and the Kingdom of Mauritania, which annexed Rome from 40 A.D., emerged in the Maghreb. The southern border of the Roman province was secured by a chain of fortifications, the Limes Mauretaniae. With the exception of a few coastal towns, the province of Mauretania Tingitana was already lost at the end of the 3rd century.

Christianisation began in the 2nd century. Some Berber groups also adopted many aspects of Roman culture, including religions. In addition to the Christian religion, the Jewish religion also spread. 429/435 Vandals occupied the provinces of Numidia.

As Arians they fought against the previously dominant church, while the Berbers could occupy large areas and developed their own tribal culture. In 533 Ostrom began to reconquer the Vandal Empire, with the Berbers building up their own territories in changing coalitions. In the province of Tingitana, Ostrom could only gain a foothold in the far north.

The Arab conquest of the Maghreb began in 664. The Berbers fought vehemently at the beginning, but finally they found a home in an Islamic school of law, which guaranteed them equality with the Arabs. On the other hand, these Kharijites demanded greater independence and so revolts began around 740, which were initially suppressed by the Umayyad and Abbasid armies. But by 800 there were already three great empires in the Maghreb.

The overarching Berber tribal groups were first the settled Masmuda, then the Zanāta, which were later pushed to Morocco, and the Ṣanhāǧa in the Middle Atlas and further south, but also in eastern Algeria. They formed an important support for the rise of the Fatimids. These were Shiites, but they shifted their imperial emphasis to Egypt in 972. Now Zirids and Hammadids made themselves independent. In return, the Fatimids sent Arab Bedouins to the West with the Banū Hilāl The Arabic, until then spoken only by the urban elites and at court, now increasingly influenced the Berber languages. Islamisation was intensified and Christianity disappeared.


The Almoravids restored the broken tribal alliance of Ṣanhāǧa in the western Sahara and conquered the western Maghreb and thus also Morocco, but also large parts of West Africa and the Iberian peninsula (until 1147). They were replaced by the Almohads, who conquered the entire Maghreb and also advanced as far as Andalusia. The previously influential directions of Islam, considered heretical by the now dominant Sunnis, but dominant among the Berbers, largely disappeared in the 12th and 13th centuries.

With the collapse of the Almohad Empire in 1235, the Moroccan Merinids temporarily conquered Algeria's north and Tunisia. Iberian powers, both Muslim and Christian, interfered increasingly. With the fall of Granada and the foundation of Spain (1492), one of the two great powers came into play.

18th century dominated the western Mediterranean. The second great power was the Ottoman Empire, which initially used pirate fleets to oppose the Spanish and tried to subjugate Morocco. The Spaniards conquered bases on the coast from Ceuta via Oran and Tunis to Djerba, the Portuguese mainly on the Atlantic coast. From 1536 to 1587 France and the Ottoman Empire allied themselves against the Habsburgs, who meanwhile ruled the Roman-German Empire and Spain equally. In 1578 a violent advance of Portugal failed in the battle of the three kings at al-Qaṣr al-Kabīr. The high point of the battles between the great powers was already passed with the armistice of 1580 and finally the peace of 1604 between Habsburgs and Ottomans. Among the Saadis, Morocco became a power in its own right, the only Arab state to assert itself successfully against the Ottomans. At times Morocco expanded as far as Niger, but the country split after 1603.

From 1492 numerous expelled Jews from the Habsburg Empire came to Morocco, which had a strong cultural influence on the north of the country. At times, they exerted considerable influence on the economic and political foreign contacts of the Alaouites, who dominated the country from the 1660s onwards and who still represent the kings today and trace their origins back to Mohammed. Morocco's rulers resided in various cities, which today are called the four royal cities. These are Fès, Marrakesh, Meknès and Rabat.


The colonization of the north and extreme south by Spain led in 1893, 1909 and 1921 in three wars in the Rif to the use of poison gas. France also encountered resistance, which lasted until the end of the 1930s. With the Vichy regime, the anti-Jewish German fascists moved into the Maghreb at times alongside the racist colonial legislation. Charles de Gaulle played a central role in overthrowing the American government-backed regime.

In 1956 Morocco gained independence from France, with the majority of the 250,000 Jews leaving the country. From 1975, Morocco liberated Western Sahara from Spanish colonization. With the gradual democratization, parliamentary elections were decided for November 1997, which won the left-wing opposition. From 2002, a centre-right coalition ruled. An Islamist party won 107 out of 395 seats in 2011, making it the strongest party.


Politics & Society

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy ruled by King Mohammed VI as the secular and spiritual head of state. In addition to the highest state control, he also holds the highest position of the clergy and is the commander-in-chief of the Moroccan armed forces. He is responsible for appointing the Cabinet and its members as well as the Prime Minister, but he can also dissolve Parliament and call new elections at any time if he deems it necessary. In contrast to other European monarchs, the Moroccan king has more extensive powers, but in practice the Prime Minister is in charge of day-to-day political affairs.

Since the constitutional reform of 1996, Morocco has had a parliamentary bicameral system consisting of the National Assembly and the Senate, which is modelled on the typical European pattern. The National Assembly consists of 325 elected members who are directly elected every five years. In the

National Assembly, 30 seats are reserved for women only. The National Assembly may, by a two-thirds majority, vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. The Senate consists of 270 members who are indirectly elected every nine years. The laws passed by parliament require the approval of the monarch. The monarch may also submit laws for a referendum.

The judiciary in Morocco is strongly oriented towards the French model of the legal system. In family and inheritance law, however, Islamic law is governed by the Moudawana, which contains European civil law and goes back to the Shari'a laws of Sunni Islam.

In the legal system for non-Muslims there are special regulations in the legal system: for Jews, for example, Talmud law applies. The Supreme Court of the state is located in the capital Rabat. Its judges are appointed by the king himself and can be dismissed by him at any time.



Morocco's population consists of almost 34 million people, most of whom live on the northern coastal strip and northwest of the Atlas Mountains. Morocco's original population - as well as Tunisia, Algeria and many other nation states in North Africa - are Berbers. They settled the region of today's kingdom about 2000 years before Christ and many Berber tribes still live today as semi-nomads or farmers in the mountain regions of the country. Apart from the Berbers, it is mainly Arabs who live in Morocco, who came to the country in various waves of immigration and partly assimilated the found population. Today's Arabs mostly live in the big cities. There is also a black minority - the so-called Gnawa or Haratin. Their arrival dates back to the slavery of the 11th century. There are still about 100,000 foreigners living in the country, most of whom come from Spain or France.