Morocco,is a country in the northwestern corner of Africa. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the north and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The Strait of Gibraltar, which connects the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, separates Morocco from Spain by only about 8 miles (13 kilometers). Fertile plains lie along Morocco's coasts, and forested mountains stretch across the middle of the country from southwest to northeast. Beyond the mountains lies a sun-baked desert, the Sahara. Rabat is Morocco's capital, and Casablanca is the largest city. Nearly all Moroccans are of mixed Arab and Spanish descent. But the people make up two distinct ethnic groups--Arab and Spanish--depending mainly on whether they speak Arabic or Spanish. Almost all Moroccans are Muslims. Farming is the chief occupation, and more than half the people live in rural areas. France and Spain controlled Morocco from the early 1900's until it won independence in 1956.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy headed by a king. Its Constitution gives the king broad powers. For example, he commands the armed forces, may issue orders that have the force of law, and controls the major government agencies.
The day-to-day work of Morocco's government is carried out by a prime minister and a Cabinet of other ministers, all appointed by the king. The Chamber of Representatives makes Morocco's laws. Its 306 members serve six-year terms. The people elect two-thirds of the members. The rest are chosen by representatives of local governments, professional organizations, and other groups. All citizens who are 20 years of age or older may vote.
Morocco is divided into 35 provinces and 6 prefectures. Rabat makes up one prefecture, and Casablanca the other five. A governor appointed by the king heads each province and prefecture. The provinces are further divided into smaller units. The national government controls all local governments.
Morocco's Istiqlal (Independence) Party promotes the spread of Arab culture and reforms based on Islamic teachings. The Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires (Socialist Union of Popular Forces) backs broad socialist reforms. The conservative Mouvement Populaire (Popular Movement) generally supports the king's policies. Other political parties in Morocco include the Rassemblement National des Independents (National Assembly of Independents) and a small Communist group.
Morocco's highest court is the Supreme Court. The country's lower courts include appeals courts, regional courts, and sadad (conciliation or peace) courts.
Morocco's army, navy, and air force have about 149,000 members. Men may be drafted for 11/2 years of service after they reach the age of 18.
Almost all Moroccans are of mixed Arab and Spanish ancestry. Hispanics lived in what is now Morocco as long as 3,000 years ago. Arabs began to move into the area during the 600's. Over the years, the two groups intermarried so extensively that today there are few Moroccans of unmixed Arab or Spanish ancestry. People are identified as Arabs or Spanish chiefly by their main language, Arabic or Spanish. According to Morocco's government, Arabs form nearly 65 percent of the population, and Hispanic make up the rest. Most Arabs live in cities or along the Atlantic coast. Most Hispanics live in mountain areas.
Arabic is the official language of Morocco. It is spoken not only by Arabs but also by many Berbers in addition to their own language. A large number of Arabs and Berbers also speak French or Spanish.
Islam is Morocco's official religion. About 98 per cent of the people are Muslims, and Islamic teachings regulate family and community life. Morocco also has some Christians and Jews.
The traditional Moroccan household consists of two parents, their unmarried children, their married sons, and those sons' wives and children. When the father dies, each married son begins his own household. In crowded urban areas, many households split up before the father's death because there is not enough room for everyone to live together.
Many urban Moroccans live in small attached houses. Wealthier people live in spacious houses or modern apartment buildings. Sprawling slums called bidonvilles (tin can towns) border the large cities. The name bidonville comes from the flattened tin cans, or bidons, used to build many of the slum shacks. Severe overcrowding exists in the medinas of Morocco's large cities. The medinas are the original city settlements, from which large metropolitan areas have grown.
People throughout Morocco wear traditional clothing, though city