Flag description: red with a green pentacle (five-pointed, linear star) known as Solomon's seal in the centre of the flag; green is the traditional colour of Islam.
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Western Sahara.
Geographic coordinates: 32 00 N, 5 00 W.
Climate: Mediterranean, becoming more extreme in the interior.
Independence: 2 March 1956 (from France).
Capital City: Rabat.
Population: 30,122,350 (July 2000 est.).
Head of State: King MOHAMED VI (since 23 July 1999).
Area: 446,550 sq km.
Type of Government: constitutional monarchy.
Currency: 1 Moroccan dirham (DH) = 100 centimes.
Major peoples: Arab-Berber 99.1%, other 0.7%, Jewish 0.2%.
Religion: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%.
Official Language: Arabic.
Principal Languages: Arabic, Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy.
Major Exports: phosphates and fertilizers, food and beverages, minerals (1998).
History: Between 475 and 450 BC, Morocco was colonized by the Carthaginians, who named it Barbary because of the Berber inhabitants. The Romans established a province, Mauretania Tingitana, during the 1st century AD in the area between Tangier and Rabat; however, Berbers remained in possession of the land in the mountains and south of Rabat. Arab proselytizers for Islam arrived in 683. The indigenous Berber people accepted the new religion, and Arab culture and language gradually diffused throughout the land.
The first dynasty to unify all of Morocco under a single government was that of the Berber ALMORAVIDS during the 11th century. They later conquered Spain, but in 1174 they were conquered by another Berber dynasty, the ALMOHADS. The Almohads were expelled from Spain in 1212, but they continued to rule in Morocco until the end of the 15th century.
By the 15th century both the Spanish and Portuguese had begun to encroach on Moroccan territory and the Portuguese had taken the coastal cities of Agadir, Ceuta, and Tangier. Jihad (holy Islamic war) was declared against the invaders, culminating in the Battle of Alcazarquivir (1578), in which the Portuguese king SEBASTIAN was killed. Pirates from Morocco and the other BARBARY STATES along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa continued to antagonize the European nations by raiding their ships. The present Alawite dynasty first came to power in 1666, but these sultans controlled very little of their country outside of the capital city.
During the 19th century European involvement in Morocco continued. After conquering Algiers in 1830 the French turned their attention westward. In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate along Morocco's southern coastal zone. Heightened competition among the European powers for control of North Africa culminated in the Moroccan crises of 1905 and 1911-12, in which Germany sought to isolate France diplomatically by impeding its designs in Morocco. In 1911, however, Germany recognized French rights in Morocco, and in 1912 most of the area became a French protectorate.
The first French resident-general, Louis LYAUTEY, was able to extend French control across the mountains, and in 1926, French troops finally subdued the tribal rebellion led by ABD EL-KRIM. With the invasion of France by Germany in 1940, Morocco remained loyal to the VICHY GOVERNMENT until Allied forces landed in Morocco in November 1942. After World War II, Sultan MUHAMMAD V became the symbol of the growing nationalist movement when the French exiled him. He was reinstated as king after independence in 1956. When he died in 1961 his son became King HASSAN II.
Initially Hassan's position was unstable, and periods of direct royal rule alternated with periods of constitutional government. The 1972 constitution called for an elected legislature and a prime minister appointed by the king.
The Spanish enclave of IFNI was ceded to Morocco in 1969. In 1976, Spain ceded Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) to Morocco and Mauritania. When Mauritania renounced its claims in 1979, Morocco annexed the entire territory and began an armed conflict with the Polisario Front, which advocated independence for the region. The war was a popular Moroccan cause and many settlers moved into the territory.
Negotiations involving Algeria as well as the Polisario led to a cease-fire in 1990, the establishing of a UN peacekeeping force in the area, and the scheduling of a referendum for early 1992 to determine Western Sahara's future. The referendum was postponed, however, and the region was increasingly integrated, economically and through migration, with Morocco.
In the early 1990s the monarchy established closer relations with other North African states and was part of the U.S-led alliance against Iraq in the 1991 PERSIAN GULF WAR.
Large demonstrations against the war reflected the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalists. The constitution was revised in 1992 to give greater power to the prime minister, but Hassan II remained firmly in control.