Introduction to Morocco
Es salaam alaykum ('peace be upon you')! Welcome to Morocco, land of the hospitable and North Africa’s favourite tourist destination, second only to Egypt. A multicultural mecca with African, Arab, indigenous Berber and European influences, Morocco is bustling with mosques and bazaars with a variety of goodies ready to ignite all the senses.
Morocco is in the northwest of Africa and a short trip across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. The country borders the North Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Algeria and Western Sahara. Snow-capped Atlas Mountains stand guard between the coastline and the harsh Sahara desert. While elephants and lions were said to once be abundant here, today you are more likely to come across camels, sheep, wild boars and plenty of goats (be sure to look up as they are even in the trees!).
More than half of Morocco’s 33 million population inhabit major cities, which are still popular with tourists despite a recent terrorist attack ascribed to Islamic militants. The country’s capital Rabat is located on the Atlantic Ocean and at the mouth of Bou Regreg River. However, the business epicentre and largest city in Morocco is Casablanca to the west. Each city has a medieval section known as a medina, complete with old fortresses known as kasbahs. Other notable cities include Marrakech at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains; Tangier, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean; and Fes, home of an UNESCO-listed medina and largest car-free urban area in the world.
Morocco is an Islamic state and one of 3 surviving kingdoms in Africa. King Mohammed VI, who has ruled since the late 1990s, claims to be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Morocco was divided into French and Spanish zones from 1912 to 1956, with the Spanish still controlling areas of Ceuta and Melilla today. Whether you are trekking the Atlas Mountains or exploring the ancient medinas and bazaars of the cities, take time to enjoy the friendly hospitality on offer in Morocco.