Morocco, kingdom in northwest Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Algeria and Western Sahara.
Land and climate
Morocco occupies an area of c. 177,117 sq mi (458,730 sq km). In the north and east of the coastal plain, the ridges of the Rif Mountains form an arc from Ceuta to Melilla, 2 ports under Spanish suzerainty. South of the Rif, the Atlas Mountains extend southwestward across central Morocco. And southeast of the Atlas Mountains is the Sahara Desert and the as yet undefined section of the border with Algeria. The climate of the fertile coastal plain is Mediterranean, with hot dry summers and mild winters. The climate of the interior plains and mountainous regions is harsh. Morocco's capital is Rabat, and its cities include Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Fez.
Moroccans are mostly of Arab descent, but about one-third of the people are Berbers, and there are Jewish, French, Spanish and Tuareg communities. Less than one-third of the people live in the cities and towns. The official language is Arabic.
Morocco's economy rests primarily on mining and agriculture. Farming accounts for about 10% of the gross domestic product and wheat, barley, corn, beans, dates, citrus, and other fruits are grown. Coal, manganese, iron ore, lead, cobalt, zinc, silver, and some are produced, but the principal source of export revenue is phosphate. Morocco leads the world in production of this important mineral. Tourism and handicrafts also contribute to the economy.
Once ruled by Carthage and then Rome, Morocco was later invaded by the Vandals (429 A.D.). The Arabs conquered in 683 A.D. and Moroccan Berbers helped them in their subsequent conquest of Spain. In the 11th century, Morocco was part of the great Almoravid empire. A haven for pirates in the 18th century, Morocco was coveted by France, Spain, and Germany, and they struggled for dominance throughout the 19th century. In the Algeciras Conference of 1906, the great powers pledged Moroccan independence but ceded special rights to France, enabling that country to establish a protectorate in 1912, part of which was ceded to Spain. The Moroccans resisted and effective French and Spanish control was not complete until 1930. Resistance continued after World War II and Morocco was granted its independence in 1956, though Ceuta, Melilla, and a few small islands remain under Spanish control. King Muhammed V governed from 1957 to 1961 and was succeeded by his son Hassan II. He reigned as absolute monarch, but his rule was constantly threatened by attempted coups and assassinations. In 1970, a new constitution was adopted and, in 1972, amended to further limit Hassan's powers. Morocco, though not one of the hard-line Arab states, supported Syria in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Since the discovery of oil in the Middle Atlas Mountains, Hassan has pressed Morocco's claims to the western Sahara. The Polisario Front has resisted those claims, and with Algerian aid and backing has waged a guerrilla war against the king's forces. Attempts to find a political solution to the dispute have failed so far. In 1998 a referendum will be held regarding the Western Sahara.