The North African country of Morocco, which has the distinction of having both an Atlantic and a Mediterranean coast, has its geographic location to thank for being at the crossroads of history. Initially the Phoenicians were attracted to this country’s coastline – where a number of small trading colonies were set up as far back as the 6th century BC.
When the empire of Carthage (modern-day Tunisia) came to rise by the 5th century BC, portions of Morocco were incorporated with it. When the Roman Empire expanded itself throughout the Mediterranean, portions of Morocco became part of it by the 1st century BC (as a province named “Mauretania Tingitana” – unconnected with the present-day West African country named Mauritania). With the decline of the Roman Empire I the 5th century AD, the country was invaded by the Vandals and later by the Visigoths. During the 6th century AD, northern Morocco became part of the Byzantine Empire.
Perhaps more significant for Morocco’s identity & future was the first Islamic conquest of the coastal parts of the country in 670 AD (by the Umayyad Muslims of Damascus). They introduced the Islamic religion, language and system of government into Morocco. From the 11th century onwards, various Berber dynasties came to power in Morocco. At that time, such Berbers (under the Almohad dynasty) ruled over present-day Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Portugal, and Spain. The latter two European countries referred to these conquerors as simply “the Moors”. During the 1400s, the Moors who ruled over Spain and Portugal were driven back to Morocco, highlighted by the Spanish crown’s expulsion of Muslims and Jews from that country in 1492.
In 1631, the Alaouite Dynasty and its founder, Moulay Ali Cherif, ruled over Morocco. Part of their credibility to rule over the country for centuries from the 17th century was over the belief that Ali Cherif was descended from the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and her husband the 4th Caliph Ali, who was a cousin of the prophet.
Under the leadership of Muhammad IV (1859-1873), followed by Hassan I (1873-1894), the Alaouite Dynasty promoted trade with the United States and European countries, while modernizing the army and administrative infrastructure to control Berber and Bedouin tribes. Increased contact with European countries took a turn during the war against Spain (1859-1860), with the Conference of Madrid in 1880 guaranteeing Moroccan independence. However, in two incidents which became known as the First and Second Moroccan Crisis in 1905 and 1911, Germany resisted attempts by France and then Britain to take control of Morocco.
Between 1912 and 1956, Morocco was a French Protectorate, with the country obtaining its current independent status in 1956 during the rule of King Mohammed V (1955-1961). King Mohammed V was followed by King Hassan II (1961-1999), with King Mohammed VI being the current head of Morocco’s Royal Family, thereby continuing the lineage of the Alaouite Dynasty in Morocco.
Due in part to its geographic location and weather, tourism is a major industry in Morocco. In 2018, 12.3 million tourists reportedly visited the country that year. According to the Moroccan government, tourism accounts for 11% of that country’s GDP (generating 532,000 Moroccan jobs in 2017).
Visitors have the option of enjoying the country’s beaches, engage in cultural tourism (exploring Morocco’s ancient Roman and Islamic sites), or venture into its mountainous areas as eco-tourists.