Morocco is one of the most fascinating countries in the Maghreb region.
Its geographical location presents a distinct blend of African, Mediterranean, and Arabic influences. It is also one of the most revered destinations when it comes to travel as there will always be something that any visitor can easily relate to and fall in love with.
However, before Morocco reached its current state, the country has gone through a rich historical story worth understanding, and its history is already a journey on its own that is worth embarking on.
History of Morocco
Morocco’s early history can be divided into two primary phases, namely, the Carthage era and the Mauretanian era.
- The Carthage era started when the Phoenicians arrived in Morocco and ruled for several centuries. These traders set up numerous depots for important products, including ores and salt, and one of the main reasons why Morocco is peppered with lots of port cities is because of the ease of trade access through the country’s extensive shorelines.
The three major early settlements include Mogador, Lixus, and Chellah, with Mogador being considered as one of the earliest and most important Phoenician colonies. Mogador was established around the 6th century BCE. This has long been considered a major milestone in Morocco’s colonization.
- The Mauretania era started around 300 BCE. At that time, an independent kingdom of Berber origin was established under the leadership of Bocchus I, the earliest known king of Mauretania. As the Berber kings ruled the inland territories, the coastal outposts were severely overshadowed, but this allowed the Roman leadership to exist.
Mauretania was considered as one of the Roman empire’s clients as early as 33 BCE, until it became a province under the leadership of Emperor Caligula when he ordered the execution of the last king, Ptolemy of Mauretania, around 39 to 40 AD.
During these eras, the territorial boundaries were still very ill-defined, and alliances were established instead of resorting to military or army occupation. There was mutual importance among outposts in terms of economic purpose. Hence, throughout both eras, Morocco has been considered a strategic region for the Roman Empire.
Mauretania was considered a vassal state during the leadership of Roman emperor Augustus. A vassal state is when a state has a mutual obligation to an empire or superior state. This status is highly prevalent during this era, as well as during the time of Medieval Europe.
Juba II was one of the rulers of that time who took control of all the areas south of Volubilis, the capital city of Mauretania during this period. Emperor Augustus established three main colonies in conjunction with Juba II’s reign, which eventually led to a total of 12 colonies. This was the period when the Romans experienced significant economic growth. However, the Romans decided to move the regional capital from Volubilis to Tangier. This move degenerated the importance of Volubilis.
Around the 2nd century AD, Christianity was introduced to the region, and followers and converts were gained among Berbers and slaves. This development spread like wildfire, and by the end of the 4th century, Christianity was cemented within the societies of Romanized regions. There was a mass conversion during this time.
Meanwhile, heretical and schismatic movements were also under development as a presentation of political disagreement. This blooming of religious affiliations also led to the progression of the Jewish population.
Contrary to popular belief, the Muslim movement started around the 7th century AD, which was after the progression of earlier religions. This event ushered in the arrival of both Islam and the Arabic language in the region. While the indigenous Berber tribes adopted Islam as their religion, the majority of customary laws were retained.
This was also the era during which numerous smaller settlements flourished, including what is still considered to be a great representation of medieval Morocco, that is, the Emirate of Sijilmasa during the years 757 to 976.
– The Sultanate of Morocco
Morocco has been under several dynasties and sultanates of varying geographical jurisdictions and allegiances that eventually formed the country as we know it today.
It all started from the Almohad Caliphate in the earlier 1100s. The Almohad Caliphate was a North African Berber Muslim empire that controlled the Iberian Peninsula and the majority of North Africa. This was followed by the first actual dynasty with more defined borders and jurisdictions: the Marinid Sultanate.
The Marinid dynasty spanned from 1244 to 1465, with borders that enclosed present-day Morocco, including the area around Gibraltar. The Marinid dynasty was named after the Zenata Berber tribe Banu Marin.
The Marinid dynasty was succeeded by the Wattasid dynasty, which spanned the decades from 1472 to 1554. Unlike the Marinid dynasty, the Wattasid dynasty only controlled the northern region of Morocco, as the southern part of the county was divided into principalities.
The reign pales in comparison to the Marinid dynasty as the Wattasids was superseded in 1554. After the Battle of Tadla between the last ruler of the Wattasids and the princes of the Saadi dynasty, the latter reigned supreme upon the conclusion of the war.
The Saadi Sultanate started its rise to power in 1510 and underwent exponential growth from 1511 onwards when the sultanate started ruling the southern region of Morocco. This Sultanate of Morocco is one of the most extensive sultanates or dynasties in Moroccan history, with territories spanning almost the entirety of North Africa.
The Saadian chapter is one of the most important in Moroccan history because true progress was achieved and sustained during this time. From army modernization to architectural wonders, Saadians are considered to this day to be patrons of both art and architecture.
The final years of the Saadi Sultanate were tortuous, with aggressive rivalries between the sons of Ahmad Al-Mansur and an ongoing plague that devastated most areas of Europe and North Africa. This quickly caused the degeneration of the conditions of the Sultanate, until the current and longest-reigning dynasty succeeded the leadership: the Alaouite dynasty.
The Alaouite dynasty was founded in 1631, and it was during this time that Morocco endured a winding series of multifaceted crises that significantly got worse in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The crises revolved around socio-economic, political, and cultural issues, all of which led to the stagnation of traditional commerce, especially when the southern region was cut off as the Portuguese took over all seaports. Also, during this time, the towns within the region experienced degenerating living conditions, and progress went to a standstill.
However, despite the turbulent circumstances that surround the foundation of this dynasty, it successfully survived the following decades up to the 18th and 19th centuries, a time when the growing influence of European powers was more established in the region. This directly affected the progression and development of the Moroccan empire.
– French Colonization of Morocco and the French and Spanish Protectorates
During the massive progression of the industrialization of Europe, the northern portion of Africa was a highly prized target for colonization, particularly the northwestern region.
France expressed its amplified interest in Morocco in the early 18th century as the country was in a perfect strategic position for protecting the French-Algerian territory. Moreover, Morocco’s geographical location was a very lucrative trading hotspot, as it was located near both the Mediterranean region and the vast Atlantic Ocean.
When a territory is considered one of the main gateways to two continents, it indeed presents a precious advantage for whoever rules the land because it promotes a promising economic and political edge against other colonies or empires.
This progressive plan was momentarily stirred in the 1860s when Spain declared war over the Ceuta enclave, which is located in the northern part of Morocco. The war concluded with Spain being victorious, thus making the Ceuta enclave part of the settlement. In 1904, zones of influence have been carved out, as mutually agreed between France and Spain.
This agreement was also recognized by the United Kingdom, but it triggered a reaction from the German Empire. This resulted in a crisis in 1905, which was resolved in 1906 during the Algericas Conference.
The French colonization of Morocco is one of the shortest phases of the country’s history, but it is also one of the most pivotal milestones of the country. Along with Spain, the French influence still stands strong today in such aspects as the language, lifestyle, and cuisine of Morocco.
– Moroccan Independence
Morocco finally its independence in 1956 through the efforts and support of Moroccans who clamored for full independence, a democratic constitution, and national reunification. Initially, the less popular leader Mohammed Ben Arafa took over the position from Sultan Mohammed V starting in August 1953 up to October 1955.
However, the national pressure to reinstate the exiled sultan, who is also his paternal first cousin, caused him to vacate the position, to be succeeded by Sultan Mohammed V. Moroccan independence is considered to be one of the most important events of the 19th century, as it was a time when a significant level of unity and peace was achieved after a turbulent past.
Hassan II became the king of Morocco in March 1961 after the death of Mohammed V. Two years later, in 1963, Morocco held its first-ever general elections, but a state of emergency and suspension of parliament was declared. There was also a failed incident in 1971 to depose the king in an attempt to establish a republic.
Hassan II’s reign is blotted by numerous clashes, especially in the Western Sahara where clashes between Moroccan and Algerian troops occurred numerous times.
– The Moroccan Revolution
In recent times, Morocco experienced two major revolutions, which led to a large number of protesters and a major scale of disarray. These were the 2011 and 2012 Moroccan protests.
This series of events was caused by numerous factors that led to degenerating work and living conditions, on top of the existing restrictions stipulated by the government. Factors, including widespread corruption, electoral fraud, police brutality, and extreme unemployment rate, serves as the primary reasons, ushering in the revolution with two goals in mind: constitutional reforms and language recognition.
Language recognition is one of the unique highlights of the revolution because it highlighted the importance of language preservation and identification. This covered several minor and major local languages in the region.
The Arab Spring that occurred in 2011 remains one of the most recent formative events for Morocco. The series of protests that happened in Morocco and other North African countries inspired thousands of Moroccans to rally in the country’s capital, Rabat.
The citizens demanded King Mohammed to surrender some of his powers. Citizens believed that autocracy should be eliminated, and change should be embraced. This initial rally in Rabat led to further planned protests in other major cities, including Marrakech and Casablanca. Unfortunately, disorder and looting events happened in such cities as Tangier, Chefchaouen, Fez, Sefrou, and even Marrakech.
Approximately 60,000 protesters gathered in Casablanca and Rabat for a demonstration in June, and many of them carried a photo of Kamal Amari, who was the most prominent victim of police brutality during this period. This demonstration highlighted the increasing and more pronounced police brutality towards demonstrators.
The 2011 Moroccan protests spanned several months, from February to September of 2011. The last major protest occurred in September 2011 in Casablanca, where an estimated 3,000 protesters rallied to end the prevailing corruption and abuse of authority.
Despite the national level of disarray and violence that led to numerous cases of civil disobedience, riots, demonstrations, online activism, and even self-immolation, the 2011 Morocco revolution resulted in six documented deaths and about one hundred and twenty-eight injuries.
The country sustained fewer casualties and collateral damage when compared to its neighbors that were likewise awakened by the Arab Spring. However, it is still significant when viewed internally, knowing that the political instability severely compromised the progress of the country.
The frequency of demonstrations plateaued for several months as the government attempted to make amends with its citizens. However, the second wave of protests and further demonstrations ensued several months after.
In May 2012, thousands of Moroccans demonstrated in Casablanca against the government’s failure to address the worsening unemployment situation all over the country, pointing out the inability of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane to deliver the reforms that were previously promised.
This was followed by a series of smaller demonstrations in other cities, but the most prominent protests occurred in July and August of 2012, during which protests were facilitated by the 20th of February group. The group protested against failed promises, persistently degenerating living conditions, and increasing the cost of living.
The intensity of protests caused police to resort to violence, with police brutality committed against protesters and vendors. During this time, the voice of the people became impossible to ignore and held great value in fighting even for the most basic of human rights and patriotic concerns.
The last documented demonstration occurred in September 2012. The protest was primarily led by Moroccan youths requesting the authorities to release the imprisoned members of the 20th of February Youth Movement. This was also one of the protests that concluded peacefully.
– The Kingdom of Morocco
The full Arabic name of Morocco is al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyyah (المملكة المغربية). The potentially closest translation for the name is “Kingdom of the West.” Morocco is now considered one of the most holistically rich countries in terms of history, culture, cuisine, and natural wonders.
Showcasing a long shoreline, towering mountains, idyllic desert regions, and cities forged by time and history, Morocco is a wonder on its own. Its formative milestones and geographical location, as well as the influences that molded Morocco into the modern nation that it is now, are worth understanding and appreciating.
The leadership of the current King Mohammed VI and Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani helped in fast-tracking national progress in terms of economic and geopolitical conditions.
– Morocco Today
Morocco has been experiencing consistent economic progress in recent years. This has been achieved through the utilization of important sectors in the Moroccan economy, such as the phosphate industry, tourism, textile, and information technology, which comprise the backbone of the country’s economy.
Morocco has welcomed almost 14 million tourists in 2019 alone, and this is the reason why the government is continuously improving and developing tourism facilities to keep maintain a consistent track record of increased touristic activities for the years to come. The ultimate goal is to make the country recognized to be among the top 20 best tourist destinations in the world.
Morocco is geographically blessed to have the best of almost everything, which keeps every adventure interesting every single visit. From endless deserts and challenging summits to beaches, port cities, distinct farmlands, and colorful towns and villages, Morocco is indeed a premier destination that tourists can visit and appreciate.
The influences that molded its current state showcase a delicate synthesis of European, Arab, Berber, and African notes, concocted to develop the very essence of Morocco.
Morocco is one of the countries in the world with the longest history. It spans several centuries of varying levels of development that contributed to the country as we know it today. It started slowly, with numerous wars and bloodshed, to the rise of new powers and the fall of dynasties.
From formative influences to novel-worthy empires, dynasties, and sultanates, as well as rooted development from local tribes and intercontinental relationships, Morocco showcases a very distinct history – just like a delicately detailed piece of an intricate tapestry.