|Background: Morocco's long struggle for independence from France
ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier was turned over to
the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara
during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory
remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the
establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997.
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Currency: 1 Moroccan dirham (DH) = 100 centimes
Geography of Morocco
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the
Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Western Sahara
People of Morocco
Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber stock. The Arabs invaded Morocco in the 7th and 11th centuries and established their culture there. Morocco's Jewish minority numbers about 7,000. Most of the100,000 foreign residents are French or Spanish; many are teachers or technicians.
Arabic is Morocco's official language (it is the "classical" Arabic of the Qur'an, literature and news media). The country's distinctive Arabic dialect is the most widely spoken language in Morocco. Approximately 10 million Moroccans, mostly in rural areas, speak Berber--which exists in Morocco in three different dialects (Tarifit, Tashlehit, and Tamazight)--either as a first language or bilingually with the spoken Arabic dialect. French, which remains Morocco's unofficial third language, is taught universally and still serves as Morocco's primary language of commerce and economics; it also is widely used in education and government. Many Moroccans in the northern part of the country speak Spanish. English, while still far behind French and Spanish in terms of number of speakers, is rapidly becoming the foreign language of choice among educated youth. As a result of national education reforms entering into force in late 2002, English will be taught in all public schools from the fourth year on.
Most people live west of the Atlas Mountains, a range that insulates the country from the Sahara Desert. Casablanca is the center of commerce and industry and the leading port; Rabat is the seat of government; Tangier is the gateway to Morocco from Spain and also a major port; "Arab" Fez is the cultural and religious center; and "Berber" Marrakech is a major tourist center.
Education in Morocco is free and compulsory through primary school (age 15). Nevertheless, many children--particularly girls in rural areas--still do not attend school. The country's illiteracy rate has been stuck at around 50% for some years but reaches as high as 90% among girls in rural regions.
Population: 32,725,847 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
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