Morocco is a former French colony in northwest Africa. Since 1975, it has occupied the territory of Western Sahara, the future of which is yet to be determined by UN-supervised referendum.

Geography: Fertile coastal plain is interrupted in the east by the Rif Mountains. Atlas Mountain ranges to the south. Beyond lies the outer fringe of the Sahara.

 Climate: Ranges from temperate and warm in the north, to semiarid in the south. Cooler in the mountains.

 People and Society: Around 30% of the population are descendants of original Berber inhabitants of north Africa, and live mainly in mountain villages. The Arab majority inhabits the lowlands. Morocco is unusual among Arab states in granting Jews religious freedom and civil rights. The king is spiritual leader and head of state. Islamists have gained influence in politics. Islamist militancy and the emergence of terrorist cells are of concern.

 The Economy: Major exporter of phosphates. Investment in tourism and agriculture. Fishing. Relations with EU strained over illegal immigrants and cannabis trade.

 Insight: Karueein University in Fès, founded in 859 CE, is the world’s oldest existing educational institution


 Official Name: Kingdom of Morocco

 Date of Formation: 1956

 Capital: Rabat

 Population: 32 million

 Total Area: 172,316 sq. miles (446,300 sq. km)

 Density: 186 people per sq. mile

 Languages: Arabic*, Tamazight, French

 Religions: Muslim (mainly Sunni) 99%, other (mostly Christian) 1%

 Ethnic Mix: Arab 70%, Berber 29%, European 1%

 Government: Mixed monarchical–parliamentary system

 Currency: Mor. dirham = 100 centimes

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