History of Morocco… The name alone conjures up palaces, lush gardens, aromatic spices, colorful markets and an Arabian fairy tale. But the idyllic picture is far from complete. The country in North Africa has a rich history, stunning cultural and natural heritage, ancient culture and traditions. Morocco is both mountainous, desert and maritime country, which is washed on one side by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other by the Mediterranean Sea. Its unique proximity to the ocean makes the country comparable with Spain and France – the closest European neighbors, with whom Morocco is separated only by the Strait of Gibraltar.
A brief history of Morocco
The first traces of hominids (human predecessors) on Moroccan territory date back to about 700,000 years BC. The oldest remains of Homo sapiens in the world were found just in Morocco, they are more than 300,000 years old. Civilization in its primitive form already flourished here 6 millennia ago.
The territory of today’s Morocco has been developing since the 3000s BC and is steadily entering the Bronze Age. In the 11th century BC Phoenician traders from what is now Lebanon reached the Atlantic coast and established a base for many cities (the main ones were Tinguis and Liksus, today Tangier and Larache). The influence of the Carthaginian civilization was strongly felt by the indigenous peoples. The Berber tribes gradually united to form the kingdom of Mauritania (under Bagh). With the division of the kingdom and began the turbulent history of Morocco as a separate state.
The territory was invaded by the Vandals in the 5th century, the Byzantine Empire hunted the Arabs in the 8th century, the Berber tribes were forcibly converted to Islam. Idriss, leader of the Imam of the Berber tribe of the Abrab, rejects the power of Baghdad and founds the city of Fez. This is the foundation of the first Moroccan Idrissid dynasty, which ruled in Morocco and Spain for many centuries.
From the Middle Ages to the Modern Period:
In the eleventh century, Yousef Ibn Takfin founded the Sunni dynasty of the Almoravids, who took over the entire region and established an empire that territorially took over Ghana in the south and Spain in the north.
In the twelfth century it was the turn of the Almohads to seize Marrakech and then power over Morocco. After hardships, especially in Spain, the Berber and Merinids, came to power one by one.
In 1602 the Alawite dynasty from southern Morocco seized the kingdom of Morocco. Moulay Ali Cherif was proclaimed king in 1640. The Alawites are still in power.
In the nineteenth century the country was coveted by the major European powers, but the Algeciras Conference in 1906 placed Morocco under international control. In 1912, however, Sultan Moulay Hafiz signed a treaty of protectorate with France. The tribes rebelled against the colonizer, the Rif war lasted 5 years. But the rebels were forced to surrender. True independence Morocco received only in 1956, after the resignation of Mohammed V. In 1960, Mauritania (Western Sahara) declared its independence from Morocco. The territory is still disputed, with occasional uprisings. In 1997, in the first legislative elections, the USFP (Socialist Union of Popular Forces) came to power. After the death of Hassan II in 1999, his son Mohamed VI succeeded him to the throne. The present state system is a constitutional monarchy, with the king as head of state and the prime minister as head of government.
Geography and landscapes
Morocco is a country of great landscape diversity: mountains, desert, plains, plateaus… The northern African state has one of the longest Atlantic coastlines, which ends beyond the Strait of Gibraltar on the Mediterranean Sea. To the south is the disputed territory of Western Sahara, controlled mainly by Morocco. The administrative capital is Rabat. The largest cities are Casablanca, Agadir, Fez, Marrakech, Meknes, Tetouan, Tangier, Oujda, Ouarzazate and Laayoune.
More than two-thirds of the country is occupied by mountain ranges: the Rif in the north, the Middle Atlas in the east, the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas.
The Rif Mountains border the Mediterranean Sea. The highest peak of Jebel Tidirhain is 2,456 meters. The Middle Atlas consists of two parts with very different landscapes. To the east are rocky mountains with peaks over 3,100 meters, such as Jebel Bu Nasser or Bouyblanc. To the west, the chain softens, making way for accessible landforms and small plateaus. The Middle Atlas chain borders the High Atlas to the south. It is here that Morocco’s highest mountain, Toubkal, 4,167 meters, is located.
From the Rif Mountains to the Middle Atlas extend vast plains. They consist of low plateaus, streams, rolling hills, and fertile plains. On the Garb Plain, for example, there are fields of sugarcane, beets, rice, and cane. Here, too, in the forest of Mamor, cork oaks and eucalyptus grow.
There are also vast plains just beyond the border of Zaire and the phosphate plateau – Shawiya, Dukalla, further east, at the foot of the Middle Atlas Tadla. To the south is the Haouz Plain (Marrakech area) and the Sousse Plain, which forms a triangle between the ocean, the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas. Other plains and fertile valleys of smaller size are located mainly in the north: Lukos, Nekkor, Trifa, the valley of Wadi Ouerga, Bath, Inauen …
The country has a Mediterranean climate with characteristics shaped by the Atlantic currents: the hot dry season (April to September) alternates with a cold period of rain (October to March). The presence of the sea softens the difference between the seasons, due to the high humidity on the coast (400 to 1000 mm of rainfall). In the mountains, the climate varies depending on the altitude. Summers are hot and dry, especially when the hot sirocco or cherghi, the summer wind from the Sahara, blows. This season is characterized by an average temperature of 22 ° C – 24 ° C. Winters are cold and rainy, often with frost and snow. Average temperatures range from -2°C to +14°C, but can drop to -26°C in the mountainous areas. Near and in the Sahara the climate is dry desert.
The Maghreb country was the first in the observed practice of cultural traditions. Its geographic location makes Morocco a country at the crossroads of cultures and influences: Arab, Berber, Sub-Saharan African and European. This mosaic has defined an enormous cultural heritage, both for the state individually and for the world as a whole. Each region has its own unique trends that deserve separate study. But there are some sections of culture that have created the face of Morocco.
In the south, in the middle of the palm groves stand magnificent buildings fortified by tamped earth. The kasbahs have played a fundamental role for centuries. They have served as shelters in the pastures and fields, as a refuge for weary travelers in the oases, and as the main home for inhabitants in times of thriving desert looters. Like all traditional houses in the south of Morocco, kasbahs are built of compacted earth on stone foundations. They include three levels:
The first floor is for keeping animals, with a barn and room for farm work;
the second floor – the central space, with an open kitchen and a women’s area;
the third floor is the men’s part of the house, completely topped by a terrace.
Some of the kasbahs were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in the 1980s.
Riad and Dar.
The term “riad” actually means “enclosed garden,” “dar” translates as “house. It is a kind of bourgeois Medina house. A dar has 2 floors at most, a living area on the first floor and a terrace. “Riad” is used to refer to traditional houses built around courtyards with a garden.
Moroccan family life is organized around courtyards. Different parts of the house may not communicate. But necessarily all windows face an enclosed patio. The street walls have no window openings, only doors, which have become a separate attraction of Morocco, so skillfully and luxuriously made.
Music and dance
Music in Morocco is very diverse and consists of four main groups or families:
Berber music (Amazigh);
Hassani music of the southern regions;
Each group, in turn, is divided into separate categories. For example, Arabic music is modern and mixed (Egyptian, Syrian, and United Arab Emirates influences). It is usually performed in the Arabic dialect. Berber music is characterized by its proximity to Ethiopian and Asian culture.
Hadidu is a traditional collective dance typical of the Berbers of the Middle Atlas. A semicircle is formed: men and women cross each other and hold hands. In the middle, one or more soldiers lead the dance to the sounds of the bendir, a large tambourine. The dance symbolizes the unity of the community and a means to resolve deadly conflicts that once occurred in the tribes
In the High Atlas, Hleuh region, another interesting dance can be observed, the ahah, performed by women, to the accompaniment of men, rhythmic beats on the bendir.
The Gnahua people have preserved their African rhythms. The performances in Essaouira, Marrakech, as well as in some small villages around Merzouga (Hamlia) give a clear picture of the colorful national dance. It is a pity that these “shows” are increasingly losing their authenticity.
Traditions and customs of Morocco
The national traditions of Morocco can be listed ad infinitum, and they may differ dramatically, depending on the locality. But there are two main features of the Moroccan way of life, which are inextricably linked to each other – the hamam and religion.
In Morocco, where until recently there were almost no bathrooms in the homes, the hamam has a crucial place in everyday life. The real inventors of the traditional bath were the Romans. Muslims adopted the custom easily because it allowed easy ablutions, as the Koran states. In the past the city was judged by the beauty and splendor of its hamam. It must consist of three baths arranged in 3 rooms in a row. It is a place where men and women come to wash, rest, talk and learn the news. If there are not two hamams nearby (one for each sex), men use it in the morning and evening and women use it in the afternoon. Even today, the hamam is used by mothers to assess the physical qualities of the future daughter-in-law.
Moroccans scrupulously observe Ramadan. Islam is the official religion, so fasting is obligatory from puberty, except for unhealthy women, pregnant or nursing women, sick men and travelers. Abstinence applies to all liquid and solid foods, cosmetics, perfumes and sexual activities. Lent lasts from dawn to dusk, or rather as long as one can distinguish the black thread from the white thread. During this period, life in Morocco comes to a standstill. Each year Ramadan falls 11 years earlier than the previous fast. In 2019, for example, the beginning was May 6. The fast lasts 29 or 30 days, during which the country does not eat or drink during daylight hours. At the end, there is a grand feast.
Morocco is admirable in its religious conviction and adherence to ancient traditions. Many tourists, coming from the country, involuntarily catch themselves thinking that life can and need to change. You can start small – to show respect for others.