Ruler: King Muhammed VI (1999)
Prime Minister: Abbas El Fassi (2007)
Land area: 172,317 sq mi (446,301 sq km); total area: 172,413 sq mi (446,550 sq km)
Population (2010 est.): 31,627,428 (growth rate: 1.0%); birth rate: 19.4/1000; infant mortality rate: 28.6/1000; life expectancy: 75.6; density per sq km: 76
Capital (2003 est.): Rabat, 1,636,600
Largest cities: Casablanca, 3,397,000; Fez, 941,800; Marrakech, 755,200
Monetary unit: Dirham
Morocco, about one-tenth larger than California, lies across the Strait of Gibraltar on the Mediterranean and looks out on the Atlantic from the northwest shoulder of Africa. Algeria is to the east and Mauritania to the south. On the Atlantic coast there is a fertile plain. The Mediterranean coast is mountainous. The Atlas Mountains, running northeastward from the south to the Algerian frontier, average 11,000 ft (3,353 m) in elevation.
Morocco has been the home of the Berbers since the second millennium B.C. In A.D. 46, Morocco was annexed by Rome as part of the province of Mauritania until the Vandals overran this portion of the declining empire in the 5th century. The Arabs invaded circa 685, bringing Islam. The Berbers joined them in invading Spain in 711, but then they revolted against the Arabs, resenting their secondary status. In 1086, Berbers took control of large areas of Moorish Spain until they were expelled in the 13th century.
The land was rarely unified and was usually ruled by small tribal states. Conflicts between Berbers and Arabs were chronic. Portugal and Spain began invading Morocco, which helped to unify the land in defense. In 1660, Morocco came under the control of the Alawite dynasty. It is a sherif dynasty—descended from the prophet Muhammad—and rules Morocco to this day.