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Morocco Information - Page 1
Geography
Morocco is situated on the north west of Africa and is over 446,000sq km in area. The Atlantic Ocean lies to the west and the Mediterranean to the north. The land borders of Morocco are with Algeria, and Mauritania. In the north-west Morocco is separated from Spain by the narrow Straits of Gibraltar.

The capital city is Rabat on the Atlantic Coast. Casablanca, also on the Atlantic coast, is the country's chief port. The city of Fes is the spiritual and cultural centre of Morocco, famous for its ancient university. Marrakesh, an oasis at the edge of the desert, is also an important trade centre and the main city of southern Morocco. Tangier in the north, opposite Gibraltar is famous for the many writers and artists who have lived there.

Along the coastline of the Atlantic lies a fertile plain which stretches to the Atlas mountains. Another mountain range, the Rif Mountains, runs west to east a short distance from the Mediterranean coast.

The main rivers of Morocco are the Sebou which runs into the Atlantic and the Moulouya which runs into the Mediterranean.

To the south and east lies the Sahara Desert. The Sahara is the world's largest desert and in Arabic its name means "wilderness". The desert is not entirely flat and waterless. The streams in the hills and the oases in the desert support both human and animal life.

Morocco's climate varies: the north is Mediterranean and the south is subtropical. The sea and the mountains help to maintain a pleasant climate: the winters are mild and the summers are dry. Rain falls mostly in winter and the mountain peaks are covered with snow most of year.

In the desert rainfall is very low and also unpredictable. The daytime temperatures are very high but the nights can be extremely cold.

Environment
The natural environment reflects the wide variations of its geography and climate.

In the desert regions we find the type of plants that can survive with little water; some have very deep roots, others have small leaves or spines instead. The desert animals must also survive with little water and many remain hidden during the heat of the day (like the desert fox); others, such as the gazelles, travel many miles in search of water.

The mountains are often heavily wooded, with firs and cedars on the higher slopes. In winter many of the mountains are covered in snow. Here we will find typical mountain animals and birds such as eagles with some unusual species such as the Barbary Macaque - Africa's only macaque species.

In the plains below the mountains where most of the country's agricultural production is to be found there are orange groves, date palms and forests of cork trees.

Morocco is a very important staging point on the flight path of migratory birds which winter in Africa and spend the summer in Europe. There is a large natural bird reserve where the Moulouya River flows into the Mediterranean.

The natural environment of Morocco is under pressure in a number of ways. The increasing number of tourists and the exploitation of resources such as oil and phosphates may damage the fragile desert ecosystem, while overgrazing and the spread of the desert may threaten the currently productive areas.

Architecture
The architecture of Morocco is basically Islamic and has been heavily influenced by the traditions of those expelled from Spain in the Middle Ages.

The horseshoe shaped Islamic arches, courtyard gardens at the heart of the houses and elaborate decoration of the outside walls are all to be seen throughout Morocco. Other traditional aspects of Moroccan architecture reflect the country's turbulent past in fortified palaces and desert strongholds.

Alongside the historic architecture are the modern buildings of the rapidly growing cities such as Rabat and Casablanca. These modern buildings, while European in style, are still distinctively Moroccan.

Population
The population of Morocco was estimated at 31,968,361 in 2011.

The original inhabitants of Morocco were succeeded by Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans.Three quarters of the people of modern Morocco are of Berber descent. The Berbers were conquered by the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries.

Languages
Morocco's official language is Arabic. For historical reasons most Moroccans also speak French and many are fluent in Spanish and English. The Berber language, Tamazight, is still spoken in the Rif and Atlas mountains. Both the Berber language and Arabic are used in a number of local dialects.

Religion
The official religion in Morocco is Islam and the King is spiritual leader of his people as well as the monarch.

The mosque is the centre of Muslim worship and Morocco contains many beautiful and historic examples.

Although the Berbers are Muslims they have retained certain aspects of their own religion, including a reverence for nature.

Around one percent of the people are Christians (mainly French and Spanish). A small number of the people are Jewish, descended from Jews exiled from Spain in the Middle Ages.

Food
Tajine is the national dish of Morocco. It is a stew cooked in an earthenware bowl and made with vegetables and either meat, chicken or fish.

The national drink is mint tea.

Couscous is the traditional Friday lunch made from semolina-like grains of flour and served with vegetables or with sugar, goat's milk and cinnamon as a pudding.

Other Moroccan dishes are harira which is a soup made with chick peas and lentils and pastilla, a flaky pastry filled with pigeon and almonds. Kefta (spicy meat balls) and mechoui (oven or spit roasted lamb) are very popular. Sweets include doughnuts and honey cakes made with almonds, raisins and sesame seeds.

With its long coastline Morocco is particularly well supplied with fish and seafoods.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims break their fast at sunset with a light snack of a soup of meat, lentils and chick peas followed by small pancakes with butter and honey and cakes cooked in oil and covered with honey.

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