Moroccan Politics and Language
Officially the Kingdom of Morocco, Morocco is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Geographically, Morocco is characterized by a rugged mountainous interior and large portions of desert.
Morocco has a population of over 39 million and an area of 446,550 km squared. Its political capital is Rabat. Morocco has a history of independence not shared by its neighbours. Its distinct culture is a blend of Arab, indigenous Berber, African, and European influences.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The King of Morocco holds vast executive and legislative powers, especially over the military.
Morocco’s predominant religion is Islam, while the official languages are Berber and Moroccan Arabic, referred to as Darija. French is also widely spoken. English is only spoken in touristic areas, and having some experience with French will help you greatly.
At an average elevation of 466 metres (1529 feet) Morocco’s climate is certainly diverse – from Mediterranean, to High Mountain and Plateau, to Steppe, and to Hot Desert. Overall the climate could be classified as moderate and subtropical, cooled by breezes off the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The time of year will affect greatly the weather here. Visiting in summer months can bring temperatures as high as 40degrees Celsius. In the mountains or desert at night, outside of summer, get quite cold and in the mountains you’ll find rain and snow.
Basically, summer months will be hot and generally dry. Outside of that, prepare for all types of climates wet and dry, hot and cool.
Morocco’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
There are eight World Heritage sites in Morocco which you can visit during your trip with Morocco Adventures. We are happy to help arrange a guided trip to any combination of the sites below, and many are included in our suggested tours:
Medina of Fez (1981)
The Medina of Fez is a walled city with madrasas, fondouks, mosques and palaces dating from Marinid rule in the 13th–14th centuries. At that period, Fez replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom.
The most important monuments in the medina are: Bou Inania Madrasa (1351-1356), Al-Attarine Madrasa (1323-1325), University of Al-Karaouine (859), Zaouia Moulay Idriss II (shrine) and Dar al-Magana, a clockhouse which holds a weight powered water clock (1357)
Medina of Marrakesh (1985)
The Medina of Marrakesh is an old Islamic capital originating from the 11th century. It is enclosed by 16km of ramparts and gates. The city owes its original splendor to the Almoravide and Almohade dynasties (11th – 13th centuries), who made Marrakech into their capital.
The Medina has several architectural and artistic masterpieces from different periods in history: the ramparts and gates (in pinkish clay, like most of the original structures), the Koutoubia mosque (its 77m high minaret is a key monument of Islamic architecture), the Saadian tombs, Djemaa El-Fna square and Ben Youssef Madrasa.
Ait Ben-Haddou is a communal housing compound, typical of a type of construction that is traditional to the Maghreb. The buildings lie in a strategic position against a mountain. They have angle towers and are surrounded by steep defensive walls.
The Ksar consists of larger and smaller private houses, but also communal areas like a market place and a mosque. All are made from moulded earth and clay brick. The walls and towers are often ornamented with decorative motifs.
The age of the site is unknown. The town has been protected by the Moroccan authorities since 1953.
Historic City of Meknes (1996)
The Historic City of Meknes was the capital city for the Alaouite dynasty (17th century). Its Sultan Moulay Ismaïl redesigned the city in Hispano-Moorish style. Meknes is enclosed by 25 km long walls that are pierced by monumental gates like the Bab Mansour. Over 80 monuments are enlisted, including mosques, medresas, hammams and fondouks.
Archaeological Site of Volubilis (1997)
The Archaeological Site of Volubilis encompasses the remains of a Roman city that was capital of Mauritania Tingitana. It is notable for its high number of mosaic floors. Also, marble and bronze statues have been found. The site was settled already in the 3rd century BC, before it was annexed by the Romans in about 40 AD. It has a favourable location, due to fertile grounds, for the cultivation of olives.
At its peak, the city probably had 20.000 inhabitants. Most of its large monuments such as the triumphal arch and capitol date from the 2nd and 3rd century AD. In 2008, the buffer zone of this WHS was extended to include the surrounding plain and mountains and the pilgrimage town of Moulay Idriss. The saint Idriss I had made Volubilis his home before founding Fez and Moulay Idriss.
Medina of Tétouan (formerly known as Titawin) (1997)
The medina of Tétouan was rebuilt by the end of the 15th century by refugees from the Reconquista (reconquest of Spain, completed by the fall of Granada in 1492), when the Andalusian Moors first reared the walls and then filled the enclosure with houses.
The city is situated in the area of Morocco which was formerly ruled by Spain. It had a reputation for piracy at various times in its history. Tétouan has also been home of an important Sephardi Jewish community, which immigrated from Spain after the Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition. The Jews lived in a mellah, separated from the rest of the town by gates which were closed at night.
Many of the houses belonging to aristocratic families, descendants of those expelled from Al-Andalus by the Spanish “Reconquista”, possess marble fountains and have groves planted with orange trees. Within the houses the ceilings are often exquisitely carved and painted in hispano-moresque designs, such as are found in the Alhambra of Granada, and the tile-work for which Tetuan is known may be seen on floors, pillars and dados.
Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador) (2001)
The Medina of Essaouira (formerly “Mogador”) is an example of a late 18th century fortified town, as transferred to North Africa.
Sultan Sidi Mohamed ben Abdellah decided to build a port that would open Morocco up to the outside world and assist in developing commercial relations with Europe. He hired a French architect (Nicholas Théodore Cornut) who had been profoundly influenced by the work of Vauban at Saint-Malo.
The designated area includes: bastion and forts, kasbah, Mellah, Jewish quarter, several mosques and synagogues, 18th century Portuguese church and private houses.
Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida) (2004)
The Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida) is a port city on the Atlantic coast which was seized in 1502 and subsequently ruled by the Portuguese until 1769. It has been acknowledged for its interchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures.
The Portuguese built a citadel here in 1514, and enlarged it into a fortification in 1541. They also constructed 4 churches within the fortification. Remaining buildings from the Portuguese period are the cistern, and the Manueline Church of the Assumption. After the departure of the Portuguese, the city remained uninhabited until the mid-19th century.
Arganeraie Biospher Reserve (1998)
In 1998, UNESCO declared almost 10,000 square miles of southwest Morrocan, including the whole argan-growing region, to be a special biosphere reserve.
The Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve is a protected area that fosters a balanced relationship between humans and nature. UNESCO has raised awareness about the inherent value of the argan trees, encouraged more careful grazing and stopped the chopping down of the trees. The people in the area now understand the value of the tree and they are protecting it.