The Country

Morocco is located in western North Africa and is bordered on the north by the Strait of Gibraltar—opposite Spain—and the Mediterranean Sea, on the east and southeast by Algeria, on the south by Western Sahara, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The southeastern boundary, in the Sahara, is not precisely defined.Within Morocco are the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, on the Mediterranean coast. Several small islands off the north coast of Morocco are also Spanish possessions. The area of Morocco is with it's 446,550 square kilometres slightly smaller than Uzbekistan. Morocco occupies and administers the region to the south, known as Western Sahara, but sovereignty has not yet been determined. The United Nations (UN) is attempting to hold a referendum on the issue and has imposed a ceasefire since September 1991. Morocco contests Spanish control of Ceuta and Melilla.
Morocco has the broadest plains and the highest mountains in North Africa. The country has four main physiographic regions: an area of highlands, called Er Rif, paralleling the Mediterranean coast; the Atlas Mountains, extending across the country in a southwest to northeast direction between the Atlantic Ocean and Er Rif, from which the mountains are separated by the Taza Depression; a region of broad coastal plains along the Atlantic Ocean, framed in the arc formed by Er Rif and the Atlas Mountains; and the plains and valleys south of the Atlas Mountains, which merge with the Sahara along the southeastern borders of the country. The highest mountain is Jebel Toubkal, which rises 4,165 metres (13,665 feet) in the High Atlas range.
Morocco has many rivers, which, although unimportant for navigation, are used for irrigation and for generating electric power. The main rivers are the Moulouya, which drains into the Mediterranean Sea, and the Sebou, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Along the Mediterranean, Morocco has a subtropical climate, tempered by oceanic influences that give the coastal cities moderate temperatures. At Essaouira, for example, temperatures average 16°C (61°F) in January and 22°C (72°F) in August. Towards the interior, winters are colder and summers warmer. Thus, in Fès the mean temperature is 10°C (50°F) in January and 27°C (81°F) in August. At high elevations, temperatures of less than –18°C (less than 0°F) are common, and mountain peaks are covered with snow during most of the year.Rain falls mainly during the winter months and is heaviest in the northwest and lightest in the east and south. The average annual precipitation is about 955 millimetres (about 38 inches) in Tangier, 430 millimetres (17 inches) in Casablanca, 280 millimetres (11 inches) in Essaouira, and less than 102 millimetres (less than 4 inches) in the Sahara.
Agricultural production has been expanding and has led to soil erosion and associated problems. Siltation of reservoirs has occurred as a result of irrigation. Raw sewage has contaminated portions of the water supplies. Coastal waters have been polluted by oil.
The People
Capturing Rain in the Desert: Near Zagora in the Dra Valley of the Sahara, a farmer builds a straw water-diverter. Mud villages like Zagora are scattered throughout the desert, clustered near palm oases. Huge Moorish caravans of traders and camels once passed through this region, bringing cloth, glass beads, and salt to settlements to the south in return for gold, slaves, leather, and pepper.
Human inhabitants in what is now Morocco were preceded by hominids who produced stone hand axes some 200,000 years ago. Remains have been found of Neanderthal-type desert hunters that date back to 30,000 BC. Morocco’s earliest known settlers were the Imazighen, often referred to as the Berbers, believed to have come from the Middle East.Morocco's population is composed of three main ethnic groups, the largest being the Imazighen, who account for about 60 per cent of the population, and the next largest being the Arabs and the Haratin, who are descendants of slaves brought from West Africa and who live throughout the southern area of the country. Among the Imazighen are a number of regional groups who call themselves by other names. For instance, people of the Rif refer to themselves as Irifin, and people of the High Atlas call themselves Ashilhayn.Western Sahara has an official population of about 283 thousand (1995), most of whom are ethnic Sahrawis. These are nomadic peoples who make a living through animal husbandry and subsistence agriculture. Morocco includes them in its official statistics, trade calculations, budgets, and other official data.An estimated 48.4 per cent (1995) of all Morocco’s people live in urban areas, and urban migration is swelling the populations of its cities. Casablanca—the largest city—and the metropolitan areas of Rabat—the capital—and Salé account for about 35 per cent of Morocco's urban population.
The official language is Arabic, but French, Spanish, and various Berber dialects are also spoken. French is widely used in business, government, and higher education. Moroccan Arabic, called Derija, which literally means “dialect”, is the most widely spoken dialect. Derija is quite different from the classical Arabic of the Koran, the scriptural text of Islam. Amazigh dialects are spoken by the Imazighen peoples. Other prominent dialects include Tashilhayt, which is spoken in the High Atlas and Souss Valley; Tarifit, spoken in the Rif region; and Tamazight, spoken in the Moyen Atlas. Hasaniya, an Arabic dialect, is spoken around Guelmim and in the south, including Western Sahara. Spanish is spoken in the north, which was formerly under Spanish control. English is gaining in popularity.
Islam is the country's official religion. The king is both the political and the spiritual leader of the people. All ethnic Moroccans are Muslim. Conversion to another religion is not recognized by the state. Popular religion mixes aspects of various folk beliefs with traditional Islamic practices. Some Christians and Jews also live in Morocco. Friday is the Muslim day of worship, when a sermon is given at the mosque during the noon prayer. However, businesses are not usually closed on Fridays.
Many Moroccans still wear the traditional djellaba, a hooded kaftan made from wool, cotton, or silk and worn by both men and women—except women in rural areas. Many women still cover themselves from head to toe and wear the traditional veil, called a letam. When visiting a mosque, Muslims cover their arms and legs, and remove their shoes.
Moroccans generally shake hands when greeting each other. To demonstrate pleasure in seeing another person or to show personal warmth, people cover their hearts after shaking hands. Children in rural areas conventionally kiss the right hand of their parents or elders to show respect when greeting them. Westernized people might greet close friends or relatives by brushing or kissing cheeks.The most common general greeting is Assalam oualaikoum (“Peace be upon you”). Sbah al kheir (“Good morning”) and Msa al kheir (“Good evening”) are also used. More formally, one might say Ahlan wasahlan (“Pleased to see you”). Greetings between friends also include enquiries about each other's well-being and that of their families. Repeated enthusiastic phrases of welcome are often extended to guests—less fervent greetings might be considered rude. It is polite to greet an acquaintance when passing on an urban street, but people do not greet strangers. In rural areas, most people know one another, so men greet men and women greet women when passing on the street. Titles are always used in formal situations and to address acquaintances. Friends address each other by their first names. Elders might be referred to by a title such as Hadj, which is an honorary title reserved for those who have completed a pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah), or by the equivalent of “Aunt” or “Uncle”.Items are passed with the right hand or with both hands, not with the left. It is impolite to point at people and improper to let the bottom of one's foot face a person. Crossing one's legs or placing an ankle over a knee is generally considered improper in Morocco.
The Lifestyle
Berber Houses of Morocco: Berbers have lived in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco for more than 3,000 years, many of them in houses made of mud bricks, wood, or stone. Berber houses typically consist of one large room that serves as kitchen, living room, sleeping quarters, and barn. The majority of Berbers make a living by farming or raising livestock
Religious Festival Music: In Morocco, musicians are believed to possess almost magical powers. Master musicians are of a special caste in Moroccan villages and are exempt from farmwork. Musical knowledge is handed down to sons, who are apprenticed to their fathers at a very young age.
The extended family is the most important element in Moroccan social life. One's family is a source of reputation and honour as well as financial and psychological support. It is considered a duty to provide financial assistance to other members of the extended family when it is necessary or requested. The tie between mother and son is the most important relationship within the family. Children are indulged but are also expected to contribute to the family by attaining a respectable position in society. Adult children expect to care for their ageing parents when it becomes necessary. Parents do not generally interfere with the domestic or private affairs of their children's families.Women are traditionally restricted to domestic roles and to working in the fields. However, in more modern cities such as Casablanca and Rabat, it is not unusual for women to take paid employment.Many marriages are still arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. When a couple is to be married, the man pays the woman's father or eldest brother a sum of money to meet her wedding expenses. The bride's family provides her with a dowry of household furnishings. A woman is expected to be chaste prior to marriage. Divorce, although frowned upon, is not uncommon.Weddings signify a new union between families and are celebrated as lavishly as possible. A wedding usually lasts two days. The first day is for the bride's female relatives and friends to come together to sing, dance, and decorate the bride's arms and legs with henna dye. On the second day, the groom's family and bride's family meet to celebrate the wedding and to show that they have become one family.
Traditional Communal Dish: Women gather to eat at a name-giving ceremony in Morocco. Savoury Moroccan dishes blend the traditional nomad’s diet of mutton and lamb, vegetables, and dairy products with European and African ingredients. Couscous, the national dish, is a combination of steamed wheat with vegetables, fish or meat, and a soup-like sauce. Cool mint tea is the national drink.
Mutton, beef, and chicken are the principal meats in the Moroccan diet. Traditional Moroccan dishes include harira, a tomato-based soup with beef or mutton, chickpeas, and lentils; kefta, mixed beef or mutton, seasoned and cooked over charcoal; and tajine, a meat stew using a variety of ingredients, often including almonds. Couscous and fish are also common. Moroccans cook fish in a variety of ways. Mint tea is the national drink. Islam prohibits the consumption of pork and alcohol, and although some men do drink alcohol, it is not entirely socially acceptable.In most homes, the family eats the main meal of the day together. Hands are washed before and after eating. In rural areas, a basin of water for washing is usually provided, while people in urban areas simply use the sink. Cutlery is used, but traditionally Moroccans eat with their fingers—using the right hand only—from the nearest part of a large communal dish.
Visiting friends and relatives frequently is considered necessary to maintain close relationships. Visiting is most popular on holidays but may occur at any time. Among family members, it is acceptable to visit unannounced. However, whenever possible, friends make arrangements in advance. This is less common in rural areas, where telephones are not always available for calling ahead.Hospitality is valued in Morocco, and hosts make a point of taking their time with guests and making them comfortable. When invited to dinner, guests are not expected to bring a gift unless the occasion is to celebrate something special. Milk and dates are served as a sign of hospitality. Guests please their hosts by complimenting them on their home. Men and women do not always socialize together. In rural areas, they more often associate separately, while couples in urban areas will socialize in mixed company. Men also often socialize in public coffee houses, especially at weekends, holidays, or evenings during Ramadan.
Storyteller in Fès: Fès, the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities, is an important religious, intellectual, and cultural centre, and home to more than 1 million people (1990). Although more than 99 per cent of Morocco’s population is identified as Arab Berber, there are two distinct groups, recognized by the languages they speak. Berbers have lived in this region since 1000 BC, whereas Arabs are comparative newcomers, having arrived in the 7th century AD.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Morocco. Basketball is also widely enjoyed. The main recreational activity is socializing by visiting friends, going to coffee houses, strolling through town, or going to the beach.
Each year Muslims observe Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer. During this observance, no eating, drinking, or smoking is permitted between dawn and sunset, although children, pregnant women, travellers, and those with illnesses are exempt from the fast. In the evenings, families eat together and then visit relatives or friends. Business is slower than usual during this month. At the end of Ramadan, heads of households give gifts of money or goods to the poor. Significant holidays include Aid al Saghir (the three-day feast at the end of Ramadan), Aid al Kebir (the feast at the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca, and Mouloud, celebrating the birth of Muhammad. Because Muslims use a lunar calendar, the dates of these holidays constantly change in relation to the western calendar.In addition, there are numerous local moussem (religious festivals) held around the country throughout the year. Official public holidays include New Year (1 January), Manifesto of Independence Day (11 January), Throne Day (3 March), Labour Day (1 May), National Feast Day (23 May), King Hassan II’s Birthday (9 July), Allegiance of Oued ed ed'Dahab (14 August), Green March Day (6 November), and Independence Day (18 November).
European nations became involved in Morocco in the 19th century, and the country became a French protectorate in 1912. The French ruled until Morocco's independence in 1956, when a constitutional monarchy was established. French influence is still strong in Morocco. The country remains a constitutional monarchy, but King Hassan II has broad powers as the head of state. The king names a prime minister and other ministers to run the government but he retains ultimate executive authority. Members of the legislature, called the Majlis Nawab, are elected partly by direct elections (for 222 seats) and partly by indirect elections (for 111 seats). There are several parties with relatively equal strength in the legislature. The voting age is 21.
In 1975 Morocco occupied Western Sahara following threats of invasion that forced Spain to cede control of its former colony. Morocco began developing the region, but was opposed by its neighbours, particularly Algeria. Some objecting nations supported a rebel group within Western Sahara called the Polisario Front. The ensuing conflict was very expensive and cost many lives. Determined to retain Western Sahara, Morocco devoted many resources to providing schools, hospitals, roads, and housing for the people of the region.Negotiations between King Hassan II's government and the Polisario guerrillas began in 1989 as part of a United Nations (UN) effort to solve the problem. In 1991 the UN agreed to help administer a referendum in Western Sahara, giving the people a chance to choose between annexation by Morocco or independence. A ceasefire came into effect in September 1991, ending 15 years of fighting. The referendum was scheduled for 1992, but was then postponed indefinitely until it could be determined who would be allowed to vote. The Saharan people, known as the Sahrawi, are nomadic, roaming beyond, as well as within, the borders of Western Sahara; furthermore, many Sahrawi have emigrated to Morocco over the years, clouding issues of eligibility. The UN hopes to hold the referendum in 1996.
Dye Pits of Fès: Animal skins are dipped into natural dyes in the dye pits of the ancient medina, or city centre, of Fès. The pits are run as a cooperative, and jobs are usually passed down within families. While practising an art that has changed little since medieval times, workers must carefully manoeuvre themselves along the narrow paths between stone vats. The pungent smell of the skins, human sweat, and strong dye can be overpowering in the Moroccan heat.
Agriculture is the backbone of the economy, employing a third of the labour force. Most agricultural production is by subsistence farmers, but a small modernized agricultural sector produces food for export. Wheat, barley, and beans are grown for the home market, and citrus fruit, olive oil, wine, figs, and dates are produced for export. Morocco has the world's third largest deposits of phosphate, but a stagnant market and lower world prices have reduced the contribution made by this previously important export earner. A small manufacturing sector is growing and bringing export revenues to the country. Consumer goods and semi-finished goods now account for about half of Morocco’s export earnings. Tourism is growing in importance to the economy.About 15 per cent of the labour force works abroad, primarily in European countries such as Belgium and France, and the money these workers send back to Morocco helps to offset the country's large foreign debt. In an effort to stimulate sluggish economic growth, the government is selling more than 100 state-owned enterprises and encouraging other economic reforms. The currency is the Moroccan dirham.
Coastline at Essaouira: The long, sandy beaches at the town of Essaouira are cooled by constant gentle breezes, and for hundreds of years they have served as a route for camel drivers as well as a popular stopping-off point for navigators. Essaouira lies south of Casablanca along Morocco’s Atlantic coast. Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah selected this site for a naval base in the 1760s. He ensured the venture’s success by employing the town-planning skills of Théodore Cornut, a captive French engineer who laid out the town’s broad streets on a grid surrounded by ramparts. Cornut’s rampart fortification earned the new town the name Es Saouira, or fortified palace.
Paved roads connect all major cities and provide access to much of the rest of the country. Public buses and intercity taxis are available throughout the country, but rural people usually walk or ride bicycles or motorcycles to get around while urban people use public transit systems. Seven airports offer a national service, and a rail network links the major cities of the north. The government provides basic telegraph, telephone, and postal services throughout the country, although services are considerably better in urban areas than in rural regions. There are two television stations: the government-owned station broadcasts nationwide, while the private station serves major urban areas. Two national radio stations and eight regional stations also serve the country.
Since the 1980s, the government has devoted considerable resources to improving Morocco's education system. The adult literacy rate, 44 per cent (1995), is 14 per cent higher than in 1982. Literacy among 15- to 19-year-olds is higher than the adult literacy rate, reflecting the government's efforts to build schools and train teachers. Rural children are less likely than urban children to attend school, and girls are less likely to be encouraged to go to school than boys. Pre-school education concentrates on religious and patriotic instruction. Primary and secondary education is broadly modelled on the French system, with instruction in Arabic. Morocco has 13 universities.
Morocco lacks a comprehensive national health-care system, but the Ministry of Health is trying to provide services to every region of the country. Each province has at least one hospital and some clinics, but this does not generally meet the needs of the population. Facilities are severely limited in rural areas. While water in urban areas is usually potable, rural water supplies are not as clean.
From southernmost Africa, the range of the leopard, Panthera pardus, sweeps in a great arc north through the rest of that continent and then across southern Asia as far as Java and the Russian Far East. It avoids only the driest reaches of the Sahara and the Eastern Desert. Throughout its vast and varied range, the adaptable leopard is remarkably tolerant of people, although people do not always return the favour. Its appetite for goats, sheep, and dogs angers farmers and pastoralists, and its spotted coat makes the leopard a target of hide-hunters. Black leopards also have a spotted coat, but the spots are difficult to discern against the coat’s dark, glossy background.
Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus Famous for its mastery of flight, the peregrine falcon has been clocked at 100 kilometres per hour (62 miles per hour) in level flight and more than 320 kilometres per hour (199 miles per hour) when diving after avian prey in midair. The impact of the falcon’s grasping claws is usually enough to kill its prey. The peregrine falcon is found all over the world and has the most extensive range of any bird species. The species is in peril, nevertheless, because pesticide poisoning has thinned the shells of peregrine eggs. In the early 1990s, only about 500 pairs of the North American subspecies remained, mainly in the western United States.
Lebetine Viper
Vipera lebetina Able to survive in a variety of habitats ranging from plains to mountains to rocky scrubland, the Lebetine viper has spread across Europe, northern Africa, and central and western Asia. The viper is particularly dangerous because of its ability to fold its fangs back in its mouth like a pocketknife. This allows it to carry extra-long fangs, which result in deep wounds. While usually brown and grey, the Lebetine viper displays a variety of colour schemes depending on its habitat.
Blue Tit
Parus caeruleus In 1921 a blue tit in England learned to open milk bottles left on doorsteps. Within a few years, the practice of training the birds had spread throughout the country. The highly intelligent blue tit prefers the oak forests of Europe, where it nests in tree holes. Its diet of insect eggs makes it popular among farmers. A pair of these small songbirds can produce 36 offspring per year, but 85 per cent die within 10 months, usually from the cold or predators. Every few years, triggered by high population density, the blue tits will undertake a mass migration to new territory.
European Nuthatch
Sitta europaea During breeding season, this sparrow-sized bird uses clay to plug the entrance to its den to the smallest possible size to deter predators. Common across Europe and Asia, it lodges nuts in tree crevices and hammers away at them with its beak. It is particularly fond of hazelnuts. The agile nuthatch can jump sideways and backwards and can climb down the trunks of trees beak first.
Golden Oriole
Oriolus oriolus This brilliantly coloured golden-and-black bird breeds in the forests of southern Europe, Asia, and northwest Africa, building hammocklike nests strung between two branches. One of the few birds that eats woolly caterpillars, the golden oriole beats them against stones to remove their hairs.
Great Bustard
Otis tarda This enormous bird, weighing 15 kilograms (33 pounds) with a wingspan of 2.4 metres (7.9 feet), offers a wild courtship display; the male turns its back feathers over, exposing their white undersides, and inflates the air sacs in its throat. Adapted to the open plains of Africa, India, and Australia, the great bustard lays its eggs in depressions on the ground.
Greater Flamingo
Phoenicopterus ruber Thousands of these magnificent birds, which stand 1.2 metres (3.9 feet) tall on spindly legs, live together in the shallow brackish lakes and lagoons of southern Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. In Africa, flocks can reach 1 million pairs. The flamingo feeds with its head upside down under water, filtering tiny plants and animals from the water. It constructs nests of heaped mud on the water, leaving the young vulnerable to changes in the water’s level.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopos major The tap-tap-tapping of this bird can be heard throughout the woods of Europe. One of 200 species of woodpeckers, it pecks at trees to find food and build nests. After digging a hole, it pulls insects out with its 8-centimetre (3.1-inch) tongue. It can carve a nest 30 centimetres (11.8 inches) into a trunk. The woodpecker’s sharp beak and toughened skull helps it withstand the beating, and its two backwards-facing toes make it a skilled tree climber.
Upupa epops Reaching 30 centimetres (11.8 inches) long, with a fan-shaped crest and black-and-white striped tail and wings, the hoopoe is easy to spot. This elaborately decorated bird from southern Europe, Asia, and southern Africa spends its days probing the soil for insects and grubs. Although timid, the hoopoe can elude most birds of prey. The bird’s nest is easy to identify by its foul-smelling accumulation of faecal matter.
Lammergeier (or Bearded Vulture)
Gypaetus barbatus Opportunistic and cowardly, this vulture is nevertheless magnificent in flight. With a 3-metre (9.8-foot) wingspan, the lammergeier can glide long distances and reaches speeds of 130 kilometres per hour (81 miles per hour). Ranging from southern Europe across Asia, it feeds on carrion, particularly bone marrow, and can be seen dropping bones onto rocks in order to get at the marrow inside. To avoid overpopulation, the mother kills all but one of her young.
Long-eared Owl
Asio otus While its large ears provide excellent hearing, this owl possesses such fantastic eyesight that, from the light of one candle, it can spot a mouse 600 metres (1,968 feet) away. This nocturnal hunter ranges across Europe, Asia, and the United States. Voles and mice are its primary prey.
Mediterranean Monk Seal
Among seals and sea lions, only the monk seals inhabit waters that are warm year-round. The Caribbean monk seal is believed to be extinct, and the Hawaiian and Mediterranean species are considered extremely rare. It is believed that fewer than 500 Mediterranean monk seals, Monachus monachus, remain, widely scattered among rocky islets and rugged shores that extend from Turkey and Greece to northwest Africa. Like the young of most seals, the monk seal pup grows rapidly. By the age of five or six weeks, it sheds its black, woolly infant coat and soon begins feeding on its own.
Pandion haliaetus The long claws and narrow wings of this large bird are adapted to diving for fish. The osprey circles the water at heights up to 30 metres (98 feet) and then drops feet first to snatch prey. It can carry more than its own weight in flight. Because the young osprey must teach itself how to hunt, many starve once they leave the nest. Native to North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, the osprey is on the decline due to habitat loss and pesticide residues in their food which interferes with reproduction.
Red Fox
Vulpes vulpes A crafty hunter, the red fox is known to charm its prey. It begins its pursuit by playing wildly, chasing its tail and jumping around. Baffled birds and rabbits will stop to watch the antics, not realizing until too late that the fox is drawing nearer. The 60-centimetre (23.6-inch) red fox prefers the wooded and bushy areas across Europe and Asia. It lives in shallow holes and communicates through a wide variety of calls.
Small-spotted Genet
Genetta genetta This swift and graceful catlike mammal is a skilled nighttime hunter. It prefers arid, bushy areas in Spain, southwest France, and Africa, avoiding rain forest and Sahara areas. Upon reaching a new home range, the genet memorizes every twig and branch. It walks its territory slowly at first, gradually increasing its speed until it can run through the area in the dark. Half of the genet’s 1-metre (3.3 foot) length is its tail.
Wild Boar
Sus scrofa This wild pig ranges across northern Europe, Asia, and North Africa, though it is increasingly rare. Growing to 2 metres (6.6 feet) and weighing 180 kilograms (397 pounds), the wild boar sports tusks up to 30 centimetres (11.8 inches) long. Aided by a keen sense of smell, the boar roots for nuts, roots, fruit, and small lizards. Farmers in southern Europe use the boar to locate buried truffles (a prized fungus).
Wild Cat
Felis sylvestris While this nocturnal hunter from the mountains of Europe looks like a large domestic cat, it is one of the fiercest of all cats and is untamable. Growing up to 75 centimetres (29.5 inches) long and weighing up to 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds), the wildcat is stouter and longer than a domestic cat. It hunts rabbits, grouse, and poultry, and it zealously defends its home territory.
Dromedary Camel
Camelus dromedarius Domesticated some 2,000 to 4,000 years ago for their ability to haul people and cargo, the camel is amazingly well adapted to life in the harsh deserts of Southwest Asia. Its two rows of eyelashes, slit nostrils, and hairy ear openings help keep out sand. While it cannot store water, it can drink more than 160 litres (more than 42 gallons) at a draught, and it can drink sea water. Its urine is highly concentrated, and its dung so dry it can be burned immediately. Camels drop their body temperature at night, which prolongs the heating-up period the next day. No wild camels remain in Asia, though an introduced population has gone feral in Australia.
Chamaeleo chamaeleon Growing to 28 centimetres (11 inches) long, this reptile inhabits the deserts of North Africa. Unlike most chameleons, which live in trees, the chameleon digs holes in the sand near oases, where it can avoid the worst of the heat. It survives mainly on a diet of locusts. Like all chameleons, it can move its eyes independently, and has distinctive colour changes for mating, fighting, and camouflage.
Green Toad
Bufo viridis The male green toad, common across Europe, calls for a mate as soon as it finds water, and any temporary puddle will do. Males will alternate their calls, each in the area taking turns, like a round-table discussion. With an air sac three times the size of its head, its calls can be heard a mile away. The female green toad can lay her eggs in brackish water. This is unusual because the eggs of frogs and toads are usually killed by the slightest salinity.
Desert Jerboa
Jaculus jaculus Resembling a miniature kangaroo, this tan-coloured rodent is well adapted to the deserts of Asia and Africa. It feeds on water-bearing roots in wetter periods, but during droughts, it can live on dry seeds without water for three or more years. Its urine is highly concentrated. In very high temperatures, the jerboa lies dormant in its burrow, which is plugged to block out hot air. Its long rear legs enable it to jump 3 metres (9.8 feet) at a bound and to travel 24 kilometres per hour (14.9 miles per hour).
European Robin
The European robin, Erithacus rubecula, is common in forests with dense understories of shrubs, where it announces its presence by singing through most of the year. The robin is the national bird of the United Kingdom, where it is equally at home in parks, gardens, and orchards.
Song Thrush
Among the thrushes, so many species are renowned for their musical calls that it is unclear why the song thrush, Turdus philomelos, is singled out by name. Like others in the thrush genus, such as the Eurasian blackbird, the fieldfare, and the American robin, the song thrush tends to feed on the ground, where it searches for its invertebrate prey of worms, insects, and snails. The omnivorous song thrush also consumes berries and other fruits, which it gleans from the shrubby undergrowth of forests, parks, and hedgerows throughout Europe and in neighbouring parts of North Africa and the Middle East.
Eurasian Otter
The Eurasian otter, Lutra lutra, is high-spirited and seems to be a fun-loving creature. Most mammal species play when young, presumably to build strength and hone the skills needed for the serious business of adulthood. Otters are unusual in that they continue to play when adults, rolling, wrestling, racing, chasing, juggling, and sliding on land and in the water. Habitat destruction, water pollution, and overhunting have sent otter populations into decline in many parts of its range, especially in the more industrialized regions.
Official name Kingdom of Morocco
Area446,550 square kilometres 172,414 square miles
Major cities (Population)Casablanca 3.3 million (1995)
Rabat 1.6 million (1995)
Marrakesh 1.5 million (1990)
Fès 1 million (1990)
Tangier 554,000 (1990)
Population27 million (1995)
RegionNorth Africa
Population growth rate2.1 per cent (1990-1995)
Population density61 persons per square kilometre 158 persons per square mile (1995)
Per cent urban48.4 per cent (1995)
Per cent rural51.6 per cent (1995)
Life expectancy, female65 years (1995)
Life expectancy, male62 years (1995)
Infant mortality rate82 deaths per 1,000 live births (1990)
Literacy ratesTotal 44 per cent (1995)
Female 31 per cent (1995)
Male 57 per cent (1995)
Ethnic divisionsArab-Berber 99.1 per cent
Harratin and other 0.7 per cent
Jewish 0.2 per cent
LanguagesArabic (official)
Derija (Moroccan Arabic)
Berber dialects
ReligionsMuslim 98.7 per cent
Christian 1.1 per cent
Jewish 0.2 per cent
GovernmentConstitutional monarchy
PartiesMorocco has 15 political parties; the major ones are the Constitutional Union (UC), National Assembly of Independents (RNI), Popular Movement (MP), National Popular Movement (MPN), Istiqlal, Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), National Democratic Party (PND), and the Party for Progress and Socialism (PPS).
Independence2 March 1956 (from France)
Constitution10 March 1972; revised in September 1992
Voting rightsUniversal at age 21
GDPUS$31.50 billion (1994)
GDP per capitaUS$1,076 (1991)
Government expendituresUS$6.6 billion (1992)
Government revenuesUS$8.2 billion (1992)
Government deficit/surplusUS$1.6 billion (1992)
Monetary unit1 Moroccan dirham (DH) = 100 centimes
Major export partnersEuropean Union (EU) countries, India, Japan, former Soviet republics, United States
Major import partnersEU countries, United States, Canada, Iraq, former Soviet republics, Japan
Exports Phosphates, fertilizers, citrus fruit, hosiery, seafood, semi-processed goods, consumer goods
ImportsChemicals, petroleum, iron and steel, semi-processed goods, raw materials, food and beverages, consumer goods
IndustriesPhosphate mining and processing; food processing; petroleum refining; the manufacture of cement, leather goods, textiles, hosiery; tourism
AgricultureAccounts for 20 per cent of GDP (1991), 50 per cent of employment, and 30 per cent of export value;
barley, wheat, sugar beet, sugarcane, sunflower seeds, pulses, corn, citrus fruit, grapes, beans, vegetables, olives; livestock and livestock products are sheep, goats, cattle, poultry, meat, milk, wool, animal hides, eggs; not self-sufficient in food.
Natural resourcesPhosphate rock, phosphoric acid, iron ore, coal, petroleum, copper, fluorspar, barites, manganese, lead, zinc, salt