The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim country in western North Africa, with coastlines on the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Just an hour ferry ride from Spain, the country has a unique mix of Arab, Berber, African and European cultural influences.
Unlike many of its neighbors, Morocco remained independent for much of its history. Once part of the Roman Empire, the country was ruled by a series of kingdoms after the Arab conquest of the late seventh century. Morocco thwarted attempts at Turkish and European control until the country became a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956, when it gained independence.
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Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a capital in Rabat. The monarch, who serves as head of state, appoints the prime minister, who serves as head of government. The country has a bicameral parliament with indirectly elected members.
The Moroccan government has pursued privatization and economic reform since the 1980s. The country now has an open, diverse market economy, though citizens continue to protest corruption and promote the Arab Spring movement for democracy. Key sectors of the economy include agriculture, aerospace, phosphates, textiles and apparel. The tourism and telecommunications sectors are becoming increasingly important.
Morocco is known for its cuisine, which is admired and imitated throughout the world. The country’s cooks make heavy use of spices and local ingredients, such as saffron, mint and olives. Couscous is Morocco’s premier food, and kabobs, soups and salads are often served. Harira, a thick lamb soup served with dates, is a national specialty served during Ramadan. Bread is a big part of every meal and is often washed down with mint tea, the national drink.
In addition to its mountainous interior, sunny coastline and portions of desert, Morocco boasts cities and buildings rich in historical significance. Fez is the only complete medieval city in the Arab world, and Casablanca’s architecture blends Moroccan styles with French Art Deco to form unique designs.
Despite Morocco's economic progress, high unemployment, poverty and illiteracy continue to plague the country. Morocco is also involved in territorial disputes, over both the Western Sahara and several islands under Spanish control. Human rights groups complain of ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Morocco is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and a partner of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
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