Officially known as the Kingdom of Morocco, “The Western Kingdom” is a unitary sovereign state located in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Geographically, Morocco is characterised by a rugged mountainous interior, large tracts of desert and a lengthy coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
Morocco has a population of over 33.8 million and an area of 446,550 km2 (172,410 sq mi). Its capital is Rabat, and the largest city is Casablanca. Other major cities include Marrakesh, Tangier, Salé, Fes, and Meknes. A historically prominent regional power, Morocco has a history of independence not shared by its neighbours.
Since the foundation of the first Moroccan state by Idris I in 788, the country has been ruled by a series of independent dynasties, reaching its zenith under the Almoravid dynasty and Almohad dynasty, spanning parts of Iberia and Northwestern Africa.
Marinid and Saadi dynasties continued the struggle against foreign domination, and Morocco remained the only North African country to avoid Ottoman occupation.
The Alaouite dynasty, the current ruling dynasty, seized power in 1631. In 1912, Morocco was divided into French and Spanish protectorates, with an international zone in Tangier, and regained its independence in 1956. Moroccan culture is a blend of Berber, Arab, West African, and European influences.
Morocco claims the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara as its Southern Provinces. Morocco annexed the territory in 1975, leading to a guerrilla war with indigenous forces until a cease-fire in 1991. Peace processes have thus far failed to break the political deadlock.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The King of Morocco holds vast executive and legislative powers, especially over the military, foreign policy and religious affairs.
Executive power is exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the Assembly of Representatives and the Assembly of Councillors.
The king can issue decrees called dahirs which have the force of law. He can also dissolve the parliament after consulting the Prime Minister and the president of the Constitutional court.
Morocco’s predominant religion is Islam, and the official languages are Arabic and Berber. The Moroccan dialect, referred to as Darija, and French are also widely spoken. Morocco is a member of the Arab League, the Union for the Mediterranean, and the African Union. It has the fifth largest economy of Africa.
The full Arabic name al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyyah (translates to “Kingdom of the West”; although “the West” in Arabic is Al-Gharb. For historical references, medieval Arab historians and geographers sometimes referred to Morocco as al-Maghrib al-Aqṣá (meaning “The Farthest West”) to distinguish it from neighbouring historical regions called al-Maghrib al-Awsaṭ (meaning “The Middle West”) and al-Maghrib al-Adná (meaning “The Nearest West”).
The basis of Morocco’s English name is Marrakesh, its capital under the Almoravid dynasty and Almohad Caliphate. The origin of the name Marrakesh is disputed, but is most likely from the Berber words amur (n) akush or “Land of God”.
The modern Berber name for Marrakesh is Mṛṛakc (in the Berber Latin script). In Turkish, Morocco is known as Fas, a name derived from its ancient capital of Fes. However, this was not the case in other parts of the Islamic world: until the middle of the 20th century, the common name of Morocco in Egyptian and Middle Eastern Arabic literature was Marrakesh.
This name is still used in some languages such as Persian, Urdu, Punjabi and Pashto. The English name Morocco is an anglicisation of the Spanish Marruecos.