Morocco has a surface area of 446,550 km2, and about 33.8 million people were living in Morocco as of July 2014. Over half of the population lives in urban areas. Atlantic Morocco, with its rich coastal plains and plateaus, is the most populated region.
The mountainous regions to the south and east of Atlantic Morocco are centers of Amazigh (Berber) culture, representative of an estimated 50% of the population. The eastern provinces beyond the Rif chain, and the pre-Saharan and Saharan region south of the Atlas Mountains, account for a large portion of the country geographically, but they are home to only a tiny part of the population, mostly nomadic Berber tribes.
Nearly all of the population (99%) is of Arab-Berber ethnicity. Islam is the official state religion of Morocco, and Sunni Muslims make up almost 99% of the people living in Morocco. The remaining 1% of the population is Christian, and less than 0.2%, about 6,000 people, follow the Jewish faith.
Morocco has two official languages, Modern Standard Arabic and, since 2011, Tamazight, one of the three main Berber languages. Although the use of the Berber language is declining, as of 2012, at least one third of Moroccans speak a variety of Berber as their native language.
Although not an official language, French is also widely spoken in Morocco, and is the language used in the business world. While living in Morocco, you will hear the local Moroccan dialect, Darija, spoken on the street, although Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools. Spanish is often spoken in northern Morocco, especially in Tangier. English is gaining in popularity as life in Morocco becomes more international.
The Kingdom of Morocco is located at the northwestern corner of Africa, separated from the European continent by the Strait of Gibraltar. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Algeria to the east and south, and Western Sahara to the south. The two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are located on the Mediterranean coast. Most expats living in Morocco will probably be located on the Atlantic coast, which experiences a Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The rainy season usually extends from October to March. On the coast, cool breezes help to keep life in Morocco pleasant in the summer, with temperatures usually ranging from 18 to 28°C.
Farther inland, however, the climate becomes more extreme, with temperatures soaring above 35°C in the summer. In the winter on the coast, average temperatures range from 8 to 17°C, although they sink considerably the farther inland you go.
Before the Muslim conquests, Morocco was populated by various nomadic Berber tribes. In the 8th century, Arabs invaded the Moroccan territories and ushered in a series of Muslim dynasties. The current Moroccan royal family belongs to the Alaouite dynasty, which came to power in the 17th century.
Spain occupied northern Morocco in 1860, and a half century of trade rivalry between the European powers resulted in the steady decline of Morocco’s sovereignty. In 1912, with the signing of the Treaty of Fez (or Fès), France established a protectorate over the entire country. The colonial period in Morocco came to an end in 1956 after a long struggle for independence.
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