Population : 30,704,000
Capital : Rabat : 1,759,000
Area : 710,850 square kilometers (274,461 square miles)
Language : Arabic, Berber dialects, French
Religion : Muslim
Currency : Moroccan Dirham
Life Expectancy : 70
GDP per Capital : U.S. $3,900
Literacy Percent : 52
AL Maghrib, the Arabic name for Morocco, means “far west” or “where the sun sets.”
When the Arabs first arrived in northern Africa in the seventh century C.E. , Morocco was believed to be the westernmost point in the world.
At that time, the Maghrib region included the countries that are today Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The countries of the Maghrib share many common historical and cultural features.
All have indigenous Berber populations and a strong Islamic base. Similarly, all were colonized by France, and remain largely bilingual, with both French and Arabic being spoken.
Although European influence in Morocco is strong, it is still a country of distinctly Arabic tradition.
The vast difference between the crude life on the streets and the hospitality and intimacy found in the home reflect the duality that is deeply ingrained in Moroccan culture.
But one aspect of Moroccan life that is distinctly unified is religion.
The king has declared that all citizens are born Sunni Muslims, and Islam is an important part of everyday ritual life.
The Moroccan government is a constitutional monarchy, with a very powerful king.
It is this mix of European and Arab influence, loyalty to the king and a strong Islamic base, that creates the uniquely Moroccan identity.
Morocco is slightly larger than the state of California, covering approximately 174,000 square miles (447,000 square kilometers), and lies in northern Africa just south of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Its bordering countries are Spain to the north, Algeria to the east, and Mauritanie to the south. The northern portion of the country borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the northeast, resulting in a moderate and subtropical coastal climate.
Temperatures in the interior are more extreme, with very hot summers and cold winters.
Morocco is comprised of four distinct geographic regions. The Rif Mountains lie in the northern part of the country parallel to the Mediterranean coast and rise to 8,000 feet (2,400 meters).
The Rif are home to the Rifi Berbers, one of the largest indigenous tribes remaining in the country.
A wide area of coastal plains extends across the western seaboard, a region of phosphate mining and the cultivation of citrus, olives, tobacco, and grains. Many of these resources are processed for export, making the western coast the economic center of the country.
The majority of Morocco’s heavily populated urban centers also lie in this region, including the capital city of Rabat.
The Atlas Mountain region has three distinct ranges, known as the Middle, High, and Anti-Atlas. The High and Middle Atlas are home to the Amazigh Berbers, another of the major tribes, while the Soussi tribe lives in the Anti-Atlas.
Vastly different from the bustling cities, the countryside allows these groups to maintain their tribal tradition as farmers.
Finally, a corner of the Sahara desert lies in the southeastern part of Morocco, where few nomadic people remain and a desert climate prevails.