Morocco Facts
Morocco Facts

64 Interesting Morocco Facts

Jill Bartholomew
By Jill Bartholomew, Junior Writer
Published February 8, 2017
  • An Arabic name for Morocco, al-Magrib al-Aqsa, means “the extreme west” and attests to Morocco’s place as the westernmost country in the Arab world.[7]
  • Morocco is one of the world’s largest producers of illicit hashish.[7]
  • Oukaïmeden, in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains is the highest ski resort in Africa; however, snowfall rarely exceeds 7.87 inches (20 cm) annually.[4]
  • In Morocco, it is considered impolite to handle food with the left hand and to say no to meat if it is offered at a meal.[3]
  • Moroccan Berber women still have tattoos in geometric designs on their faces, sometimes covering much of their forehead, cheeks, and necks. These are marks of tribal identification and date from a time when it was necessary to be able to spot women of one’s tribe who had been carried off in raids.[3]
  • Morocco’s national animal is the Barbary lion. DNA evidence from two lion skulls found in the Tower of London prove that English royalty owned at least two Barbary lions sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries.[4]
  • Interesting Morocco Fact
    A Moroccan widow wears white for 40 days after her husband’s death to show she is in mourning
  • White is the color of mourning in Morocco. A Moroccan widow wears white for 40 days after the death of her husband.[3]
  • Dubbed Moroccan, or Berber, “whiskey,” tea has become the national drink of Morocco. It was introduced to Morocco in 1854 when blockaded British merchants uploaded large quantities of tea at major Moroccan ports, Thé à la Menthe (Green Mint Tea) is Chinese green tea brewed with a handful of mint leaves and liberally loaded up with sugar.[3]
  • In Morocco, it is estimated that there is one dentist for every 800,000 residents, and the standard treatment for a toothache is extraction. At country souks (markets), tooth-extraction specialists are identified by their set of pliers and small carpets littered with bloody molars.[3]
  • Moroccans jokingly call their tap water Sidi Robinet (Sir, or Lord, Tap), and it is drinkable in most parts of the country.[3]
  • One of the major sources of income for families in Morocco’s Northern Rif region is cannabis (marijuana) cultivation. In fact, the word “reefer” derives from the word rif. The cannabis, known in Arabic as kif, is then processed and sold as hashish.[3]
  • The word kasbah probably derives from the Turkish kasabe, meaning small town. In contemporary Morocco and all of North Africa, it is generally used to refer to the fortified strong point in a city.[5]
  • Often called the “Red City,” Marrakech, Morocco, requires sun protection and headgear of some kind all year-round, even during winter.[8]
  • Morocco is the largest processor and exporter of sardines in the world.[1]
  • The English word “genie” comes directly from the Arabic word djinn, denoting a spiritual being that may play some part in human affairs if called upon. In Morocco, djinns are believed to frequent places associated with water: public baths, drains, sinks, and even pots and pans.[3]
  • The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the world’s seventh largest mosque and took five years of intensive labor by over 30,000 workers and craftsman to complete in 1993. The mosque’s minaret at 689 feet (210 m) high is the world’s tallest, and it is Casablanca’s chief landmark. In terms of covered area, the Hassan II Mosque is the largest in the world and has space for 80,000 worshippers.[5]
  • Morocco is only 8 miles (13 km) from Europe, across the Strait of Gibraltar.[3]
  • In Morocco, it's possible to see the Atlantic and the Mediterranean at the same time.

    - Tahar Ben Jelloun

  • Morocco’s current royal family, the Alaouites, dates from the 17th century. Sultan Mohammed V, the current monarch’s grandfather, organized Morocco as a constitutional monarchy and assumed the title of King in 1957. Mohamed VI has been King of Morocco since July 30, 1999.[7]
  • Morocco’s flag is red with a green pentacle (five-pointed linear star) known as Sulayman’s (Solomon’s) seal in the center of the flag. Red and green are traditional colors in Arab flags, and the pentacle represents the five pillars of Islam and signifies the association between God and the nation. Its design dates to 1912.[7]
  • The Kairaouine Mosque became the world’s first university and the world’s foremost center of learning at the beginning of the second millennium. Built in A.D. 857 by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy Kairaouine refugee, the Kairaouine Mosque was Morocco’s largest mosque until Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque was built in the early 1990s. The Kairaouine Mosque became part of Morocco’s state educational system in 1963, and today it is known as the University of al-Kairaouine.[8]
  • The Moroccan national costume is called the djellaba, a one-piece unisex, hooded, coverall garment. Those of the highest quality have the most ornate needlework lining the seams. Wealthy Moroccans have their djellabas tailor-made. Djellabas are indicative of conservative politics and values.[3]
  • Women’s rights in Morocco achieved a major step forward in 2004 with the reform of the country’s personal status code, the Moudawana. With the reform, women in Morocco can now have custody of their children, the unilateral repudiation of a wife is abolished, and a man’s taking of a second wife is subject to the approval of his first wife.[5]
  • Interesting Casablanca Fact
    Casablanca, the film named after the Moroccan city, is considered one of the best films of all time
  • Casablanca, the film named after the Moroccan city, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture in 1942 and is considered one of the best films of all time.[5]
  • Any Moroccan man or woman who is sherfa (believed to be descended from the Prophet Muhammad) is given the title Lalla, Sidi, or Moulay, as a matter of course.[3]
  • Traditionally the liver, not the heart, is considered to be the symbol of love in Morocco.[2]
  • At most country markets (souqs) in Morocco, sehirras (witches) can be found who dispense the peculiar ingredients of their trade (curses and potions) and offer advice on their use. Most towns, villages, and medina neighborhoods also have a resident fortune teller (shuwaf for male, shuwaffa for female) who can, for a fee—using cards and other prognostic devices— reveal the unknown or the future.[3]
  • One of the words for “money” in Morocco is wusakh d-dunya, or “dirt of the world.” Moroccan money is formally called the dirham (abbreviated DH), but it is commonly referred to as flous.[3]
  • In the 1950s, Orson Welles stayed at the Hôtel des Îles in Essaouira, Morocco, while he was filming the movie Othello. Legend has it that he met Winston Churchill there. Essaouira also became famous as a hangout for singers Cat Stevens and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.[5]
  • In Morocco, very few citizens have private baths, and a ritual purification of the body is essential before Muslims can perform prayers, so many Moroccans bath at the public hamman (bath). The hammam is segregated and, along with the local zaouia (saints’ shrine), is an important place for women to socialize.[5]
  • Seksou (couscous) is the Moroccan national dish. It is granules of semolina that are steamed over a pot filled with a rich meat and vegetable stew.[5]
  • The town of Moulay Idriss is an alternative in Morocco for those Muslims unable to do the ultimate pilgrimage, or hajj. The city is named for the Arab ruler who came to Morocco from Arabia after defeat in the Battle of Fakh in A.D. 786. In Morocco, he won over the loyalty of the native tribes and brought Islam to the country. The cities of Moulay Idriss and Fez are his two major legacies.[5]
  • Tangier is the oldest city in Morocco. It was inhabited by the Phoenicians as early as 1600 B.C. It was an International City from 1922 to 1956, having been ruled by representatives of eight European countries at that time.[1]
  • Moroccans have been writing about the world since the 14th century, beginning with Moroccan Islamic scholar Ibn Battuta, who traveled an astounding 5,000 miles over 30 years, recounting his story in the Rihla (The Journey).[8]
  • Interesting Morocco History Fact
    Moroccan Islamic scholar Ibn Battuta is widely recognised as one of the greatest travelers of all time

  • Morocco is the only African country that is not a member of the African Union.[7]
  • The tomb of John the Baptist is said to reside in the shrine of Sidi Yahia ben Younes, situated in the Moroccan city of Oujda.[5]
  • The inventor of the first pedestrian crossing light, Leslie Hore-Belisha, is buried in the Jewish cemetery of Essaouira.[5]
  • Morocco has 172,395 square miles (446,550 square km) and is slightly larger than California.[7]
  • Morocco’s highest point is Jebel Toubkal at 13,665 feet (4,165 m); its lowest point is Sebkha Tah at -180 feet (-55 m) below sea level.[7]
  • Bou Hamra, “the Man on the She Donkey,” proclaimed himself Sultan of Morocco in the city of Taza in 1902 and controlled most of eastern Morocco until 1912, when he was caught and killed. He was known as a wandering miracle maker, travelling Morocco on his faithful beast.[5]
  • Casablanca, or Dar el Beïda (White House), is Morocco’s largest city. One version of how the city got its name states it was named after Caid’s house, a large, white building that is visible from a distance. Another version states that Sidi Allal el-Kairouani named the city ad-Dār al-Bāyda (House of the White Princess), after his daughter, Lalla Beida. The city changed its name to the Spanish translation “Casa Blanca” in 1770.[5]
  • The Venus of Tan-Tan, a 2.36 inch (6 cm) stone carving found in a nearby river bed in 1999 in Morocco, is alleged to be between 300,000 and 500,000 years old and may be the earliest artistic representation of the human form.[5]
  • Rabat was made the capital city of Morocco in 1913 by the French because Morocco had no fixed capital at the time.[5]
  • Random Morocco Facts
    The name of Jemaa el Fna, the vast market square in Marrakech, Morocco, literally means “assembly of the dead”
  • The name of Jemaa el Fna, the vast market square in Marrakech, Morocco, literally means “assembly of the dead” and may refer to the traditional display of the heads of criminals executed there until the 19th century.[5]
  • In the 17th century, the Moroccan city Rabat was, for a time, the center of the notorious Sallee Rovers, who were corsairs, or pirates. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was a fictional captive of a “Turkish rover of Sallee.”[5]
  • The médersa, an Islamic college of higher education, originated in Persia and was developed in the Islamic west in the 13th century. The largest Moroccan médersa is the 16th century Médersa Ben Youssef in Marrakesh, which is also the largest médersa in North Africa.[5]
  • Camille Saint-Saëns drew on Moroccan Issaoua (Sufi) trance music for his tone poem for orchestra Danse Macabre.[5]
  • Referred to as the “Poor Little Rich Girl,” American Woolworth-heiress Barbara Hutton owned the palace Sidi Hosni in Tangiers, Morocco.[5]
  • York Castle, in Tangier’s kasbah, was the 17th century Moroccan home of the English governor, the Duke of York.[5]
  • Morocco was the first nation to sign a treaty with the United States in 1786.[8]
  • Prior to 1920, only three Christians had braved the walls of the northwestern city of Chefchaouen: the French vicomte Charles de Foucauld disguised as a rabbi in 1883; Walter Harris, New York Times Correspondent and author of Morocco That Was, in 1889; and American William Summers, poisoned in Chefchaouen in 1892. They found Jews there still speaking 15th century Andalusian Spanish. They were thrown out from 1924–1926 by Abd el Karim’s Rif resistance movement but returned to stay until Independence in 1956.[5]
  • The Tangiers American Legation building was given as a gift to the American government by the Moroccan sultan in 1821, and it was used as a consulate until 1961. The Old American Legation, as it is known by the locals, is the first building outside of the U.S. to be registered under the National Historic Landmarks program.[5]
  • Koura, or soccer, is Morocco’s most popular sport. The national team is called the Lions of Atlas. In 2011, the 45,000-seat Stade de Marrakech was completed, allowing Morocco to host World Cup-type football events.[5]
  • Amazing Morocco Facts
    Koura, or soccer, is Morocco’s most popular sport

  • In 1984, Moroccan Saïd Aouita won the 5000m event at the Los Angeles Olympic Games and went on to set five world records, ranging from the 1500m to the 5000 m. Other Moroccan athletes went on to imitate his success, including Brahim Boutayeb, Khalid Skah, and Hichem Guerouj.[5]
  • Morocco is second only to Egypt in the Arab world for encouraging friendly relations with Israel. At the end of 1993, a number of measures to improve relations between the two countries were announced by the king, specifically including the opening of direct air, telephone, and postal links.[3]
  • Äid al-Kebir (Big Festival) is the biggest holiday in Morocco, and elsewhere in the Muslim world it is called Eid al-Adha. It is celebrated on the 10th day of the month of Dhu al-hijja, the month during which Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca.[3]
  • In the Vallée des Roses, local legend states that pilgrims returning from Mecca brought with them the “Mother of all flowers,” the Damascus rose, initiating the rose industry in Morocco. In 1912, French parfumiers realized that the Vallée des Roses would be an ideal place to mass cultivate the bushy Rosa centifolia. Today, there are hundreds of kilometers of rose bush hedges and two factories in the valley, distilling rose essence.[5]
  • Romans began making wine in Morocco over 2,000 years ago. However, with the establishment of Islam in the 7th century A.D., Moroccan vineyards were not kept up. Under the French Protectorate, the Moroccan vineyards were revived and, in 1956, passed into state control. The French company Castel retook control of Moroccan wine production in the 1990s. The Gris de Boulaouane, a rosé with an orange tint, is one of the best Moroccan wines.[1]
  • At the 1984 Olympic Games, Nawal el Moutawakel unexpectedly won the inaugural running of the 400m hurdles, the first major title won by an Arab woman in an international competition. She is now a cabinet member.[5]
  • During the 1950s and 60s, Morocco served as a literary sanctuary for many foreign writers, including Americans William S. Burroughs, Paul Bowles, Brion Gysin, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, and Tennessee Williams. Perhaps the most famous of them, Paul Bowles made his home in Morocco for more than 50 years.[8]
  • Fun Morocco Fact
    Fez remains Morocco’s grandest and oldest imperial city
  • Founded on the banks of the Fez River by Moulay Idriss, Fez remains Morocco’s grandest and oldest imperial city. Fez el-bali (Old Fez) is the world’s largest active medieval city.[8]
  • A ruler of Morocco for 55 years, Moulay Ismail was a contemporary of Louis XIV. To strengthen relations with Europe, he sent a request to Louis XIV for the hand of the French king’s cousin, Princess Anne de Bourbon. His request was denied.[1]
  • Morroco’s formal name is Al Mamlakah al Magribiyah, or Kingdom of Morocco.[7]
  • Coveted since Roman times, Morocco’s rare and beautiful thuya wood can be found only in the western foothills of the Atlas Mountains. In modern times, this material is synonymous with wealth, being the first burled wood used for luxury dashboards in the Rolls Royce.[8]
  • The Atlas film studios, 4 miles (6 km) outside of Ouarzazate, are known as Morocco’s Hollywood. For a century, hundreds of films have been shot in this region, including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky, and Scorsese’s Kundun, among others.[1]
  • Important Dates[1][3][6]
    A.D.681–684Sidi Oqba ibn Nafi raids as far as Morocco’s Atlantic Coast.
    705Moussa ibn Noussair conquers Morocco and spreads Islam among the Berbers.
    711Muslim Berbers under Tariq ibn Ziyad fight the Visigoths at the Guadalete, a small stream in the Spanish province of Cádiz, starting the conquest of Spain.
    789Moulay Idriss I founds Fez and establishes the first Moroccan dynasty.
    859Work on the Kairaouine Mosque, which is the first center of learning in Morocco and possibly the first university in the world, begins in Fez.
    929Abderrahmán III establishes an independent caliphate in Cordoba, Spain.
    1010Berbers sack Abderrahmán’s palace at Medina Azahara, Cordoba, Spain.
    1062Youssef ibn Tachfin founds Marrakech and starts to expand his Almoravid empire.
    1086Spanish king Alfonso VI is defeated at Badajoz, Spain. The reconquest is temporarily halted.
    1125The Mahdi Ibn Tumart settles in Tin Mal.
    1120–1163Sidi Abdelmoumen, the first Almohad caliph, conquers the Maghreb as far as Tripoli.
    1195Abu Yusuf Ya’qub el-Mansour defeats the Castilians at Alarcos, Spain.
    1212King Alfonso VIII of Castile defeats Mohammed el-Nasser at Las Navas de Tolosa.
    1212–1269Almohad Dynasty begins to decline; there is gradual loss of territories in Al-Andalus.
    1248–1286Abou Yahya Abou Bakr establishes the Merinid Dynasty, followed by his brother Abou Youssef Yacoub.
    1331–1349Merinid Dynasty reaches its peak under Abou el-Hassan.
    1349–1358Reign of Abou Inan Faris, a great builder.
    1415King Henry the Navigator wins Ceuta for Portugal.
    1420The Merinids come under control of the Wattasids.
    1465Wattasids oust the Merinids permanently.
    1497–1508Fall of Granada to the Christians; the Spanish move into northern Morocco.
    1509The Saadians begin their campaign to expel the Europeans.
    1525The Saadians capture Marrakech, which becomes their capital.
    1578Battle of Three Kings takes place, in which the King Sebastian I of Portugal, deposed Sultan Abu Abdallah Mohammed II, and reigning Sultan Abd al-Malik are all killed. The battle sets Portugal back militarily as a nation 100 years.
    1578–1603Reign of Ahmad al-Mansur, the “Golden One.”
    1631–1636Moulay Ali Cherif, in the Tafilalet, rebels against Saadian decadence.
    1636–1664Reign of Moulay Mohammed 1, who is venerated as a saint by the Moroccan people.
    1664–1672Reign of Moulay al-Rashid, founder of the Alaouite Dynasty.
    1672–1727The Alaouites reach the peak of their power under Moulay Ismaïl Ibn Sharif.
    1757–1790Sidi Mohammed ben Abdellah establishes his capital at Rabat.
    1860Morocco disputes Spain’s claim to Ceuta enclave; Spain declares war and wins a further enclave and an enlarged Ceuta in the settlement.
    1873–1893Moulay Hassan I attempts to repulse the French.
    1884Spain creates a protectorate in coastal areas of Morocco.
    1904France and Spain carve out zones of influence in Morocco.
    1906Algeciras Conference takes place in Spain to discuss the coastal areas of Morocco. France and Spain are allowed to police Moroccan ports and collect customs fees.
    1911French troops enter Fez.
    1912Morocco becomes a French protectorate under the Treaty of Fez, administered by a French Resident-General. Spain continues to operate its coastal protectorate. Moroccan sultan is left in a figurehead role.
    1912–1927Moulay Youssef deposes his half-brother Moulay Hafidh.
    1925Marshal Pétain is received by Marshal Lyautey in Rabat.
    1921–1926Tribal rebellion in the Rif region is suppressed by French and Spanish troops.
    1927Start of the reign of the Sultan Mohammed ben Youssef, the future Mohammed V.
    1930France imposes the Berber justice dahir.
    1934Muhammed Allal el-Fassi sets up the Moroccan Action Committee.
    1943Sultan meets with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Anfa Conference. Istiqal, Party of Independence, is founded to press for Moroccan independence.
    1944Moroccan Manifesto of Independence is published.
    1951France supports the rebellion of T’hami El-Glaoui, pasha of Marrakech.
    1953France deposes Mohammed V, who goes into exile in Madagascar.
    1955Moroccan royal family returns from exile.
    1956French protectorate formally ends. Spain keeps its coastal protectorate.
    1957Sultan Mohammed V becomes king.
    1958Tangier and the Spanish holding of Tarfaya are returned to Morocco.
    1961Mohammed V dies; Hassan II is crowned king.
    1962First Moroccan Constitution is adopted through referendum.
    1963War breaks out between Morocco and Algeria. First Moroccan general elections are held.
    1965Mehdi Ben Barka is murdered in Paris, where he is living after being accused of plotting against the king. King Hassan declares a state of emergency and suspends parliament.
    1970sMorocco is a focus of the hippy trail.
    1971A failed attempt in Skhirat to depose King Hassan and establish a Moroccan republic.
    1972Second attempted coup d’état against King Hassan.
    1973Polisario movement formed with the aim to establish an independent state in Spanish Sahara, a territory south of Morocco controlled by Spain. The group has Algerian support.
    1975Start of the Green March. King Hassan orders 350,000 civilian volunteers to cross into the Spanish Sahara.
    1975Moroccan and Algerian troops clash in the Western Sahara. Algeria announces the formation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with a government-in-exile. Morocco and Mauritania divide up Western Sahara.
    1976Summit between King Hassan and Algerian president prompts thaw in relations. King Hassan cancels elections amid political unrest and economic crisis.
    1984Morocco leaves the Organization of African Unity in protest over the SADR’s admission to the body. Polisario claims to have killed more than 5,000 Moroccan soldiers between 1982 and 1985.
    1985Pope John Paul II visits Casablanca.
    1988First Maghrebi Union Treaty is signed in Algiers between Morocco and Algeria which allows for the resumption of full diplomatic relations with Algeria.
    1991Morocco signs ceasefire with the Polisario Front.
    1994Islamic riots break out on the campus in Fez.
    1997Abderrahmane Youssoufi forms a new Moroccan government.
    1998Morocco’s first opposition-led party comes to power.
    1999King Hassan II dies; his son Mohammed VI is crowned king.
    2001King Mohammed starts a controversial tour of Western Sahara, the first by a Moroccan monarch in a decade.
    2002Morocco and Spain agree to a U.S.-brokered resolution over the disputed island of Perejil. Spanish troops had taken the normally uninhabited island after Moroccan soldiers landed on it and set up tents and a flag.
    2003Birth of Prince Moulay Hassan. Casablanca court jails three Saudi members of al-Qaeda for 10 years after they were accused of plotting to attack U.S. and British warships in the Straits of Gibraltar.
    2004Morocco’s parliament approves a free-trade agreement with the U.S. Powerful earthquake hits northern Morocco, killing more than 500 people.
    2005Hundreds of African migrants try to storm Morocco’s borders with the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. Morocco deports hundreds of the illegal migrants.
    2006Spanish Premier Zapatero visits Melilla and Ceuta. He’s the first Spanish leader in 25 years to officially visit the territories.
    2007Birth of Princess Laila Khadija. Morocco unveils an autonomy blueprint for Western Sahara to United Nations. Polisario rejects the plan and puts forth its own proposal. Morocco and Polisario Front hold UN-sponsored talks in New York City but fail to come to an agreement. In the Parliamentary elections, the conservative Istiqlal party wins most votes. King Juan Carlos visits Ceuta and Melilla, angering Morocco which demands the return of the enclaves.
    2011In February, months of protests begin in Rabat with thousands of Moroccans calling for constitutional reforms. A referendum is held for constitutional reforms. Parliamentary elections are held.
    2013Moroccan government backs changing a penal code article that allows rapists of underage girls to avoid prosecution if they marry their victims. The change follows the suicide of a 16-year-old Moroccan girl who was forced to marry her rapist. Morocco cancels joint military exercises with U.S. over Washington’s backing for UN monitoring of human rights in Western Sahara.

Suggested for you


Trending Now

Load More