Morocco is a land of vivid contrasts. The gateway to two continents, it is a country of spectacular landscapes, rich in history, and heady with sumptuous scents and breathtaking sights. While the countryside is home to ancient traditions and diverse peoples, the ever - growing urban centres boast incredible new architecture alongside the old, and activities to suit all modern tastes.
In the crowded ancient medinas , young men in designer jean haggle over cell phones alongside traditionally dressed women shopping for house wares. In the fertile countryside, a farmer riding on a goat is as common a sight as a television satellite perched on a mud-brick roof. Moroccan culture is difficult to pigeonhole. It is a unique blend of Arab, African, and European ways of life, and the Moroccans wouldn’t have it any other way.
Al- Mamlakah al- Maghribiyah ( Kingdom of Morocco)
Rabat (population approx. 1,4 million)
Casablanca. Official population is approx. 3,8 million, but with the surrounding areas could be as high as 5 million
Approx. 31 million
267,930 sq. miles (446,550 sq. km)
Moroccan dirham (MAD or dh)
Arabic, spoken in Maghrebi dialect (derija). French is also spoken.
Moroccan Land & People
Morocco is one of the three countries – along with Algeria and Tunisia – that make up North Africa, or the Maghreb. Approximately the size of Sweden, it is still primarily a rural country. With a population of some 31 million, Morocco has only three more that approach this figure.
Geographically, Morocco is both “the gateway to Africa” for Western travellers and “the gateway to Europe” for many Moroccans. Across the Strait of Gibraltar, it is only some 8 miles (13 km) from Spain; in the east, it borders Algeria; in the south, the disputed Western Sahara and beyond, Mauritania; and to the west, the Atlantic ocean. While Morocco has no overseas territories, it contains within its borders two Spanish exclaves, Ceuta and Melilla.
Morocco boasts over 2,200 miles (3,540 km) of coastline bordering the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Oceans. It is also home to four mountains ranges – the rugged Rif Mountains in the north; the Middle and High Atlas, which create a natural division between the coastal regions and the Sahara; and the Saharan Anti-Atlas range. Morocco boasts North Africa’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal (13,650 feet, or 4,160 meters).
The varied landscapes includes sandy desert, stony steppes, over 500,000 acres (202,343 ha.) of cedar forest and, most notably, argan forests. The squat and heavily fruited argan tree is indigenous to Morocco and grows mostly in the south. Argan oil, which is used for cooking and is extremely time-consuming to produce, is exported to several countries at a handsome profit.
Due to its long coastline and its mountain ranges, Morocco has the most varied climate in all of North Africa. Summers are hot and dry while late fall and spring are rainy. Snow falls consistently in the Middle Atlas regions surrounding Azrou and Ifrane during winter, and across all of the high mountain peaks. While Marrakech may be comfortably warm in midwinter, one can see the snow - capped peaks of the High Atlas from the city. Particularly notable are the winds chergui, a dry south-easterly wind, and gharbi, a cold wet westerly wind. They are responsible for both rain and drought in Morocco.
Morocco is a Muslim country; that is to say all Moroccans – except the fewer than 1 percent who are Jewish- are born Muslim. It is not however, an Islamic dictatorship, and though the majority of Moroccans practice their religion in the one way or another, the country is not entirely run by Sharia’a or Islamic law. On the contrary – in recent years, King Mohammed VI has made landmark changes to law such as the Moudawana (Family law), in a further effort to modernize the country. The foreigner in Morocco will often find Islam slowly seeping into his or hey like, it is omnipresent in conversation, from the common modifier insha’Allah (God willing) used in reference to anything occurring in the future to seemingly random references to Allah.
Islam will not affect the foreigner’s life unless he or she wants it to. Muslims generally don’t proselytize; however, if you show an interest in Islam, it is not uncommon for them to try to persuade you to convert. Foreigners are also outside the rules and social structure created by Islam; for example, though Moroccans can be jailed for eating in public during Ramadan (though many do eat at home, in private), foreigners are exempt, though they should be discreet. And while Moroccans would never dream of drinking alcohol in public during this month, foreigners are allowed a discreet glass of wine with dinner when it is available.
The family is perhaps the most important aspect of Moroccan society, and for foreigners, it often takes a bit of getting used to. Family, to a Moroccan, takes precedence over work, friendships, relationships, and sometimes even marriage. For Muslims, it is a duty to obey one’s parents, and many Moroccans take this quite seriously.
The concept of hshuma, or shame, in Moroccan society is important. Family honour is vital and is jealously protect. Unlike Western-style guilt, or the knowledge that you have done wrong, hshuma is best explained as the knowledge that others know that you have done wrong. Moroccans will do their best to avoid hshuma.
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