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Morocco Cruises

About Morocco

Europe’s closest African neighbor, just across the fabled Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco is a richly diverse nation of desert sands, cosmopolitan cities dotted with ancient souks, soaring mountains and thriving cultures spectacularly set on Atlantic shores.

Artifacts from the first Berber civilizations date back millennia, to when the landscape was more fertile and green. In the 12th century BC, Phoenicians were drawn here by the promise of salt, a valuable currency in their day. Carthaginians, too, traveled here for trade from the ancient city of Carthage (in modern-day Tunisia). Romans later arrived to build their westernmost outpost at Volubilis. The long influence of Arabs began in the 7th century; their Kingdom of Nekor was the first Islamic government and still today the majority of Moroccans are Muslim.

Throughout Morocco’s history, the Berbers staged several revolts, eventually establishing their own dynasties. The Moorish conquest of Spain was a Berber endeavor, and they held control over much of that nation until Spain famously drove them out during the Reconquest of 1492.

The Alaouite Dynasty began in the 17th century, and its descendants still oversee the constitutional monarchy. However, European expansion changed the course of Moroccan history when Portugal, France and Spain began competing for territory and influence.

Along with much of North Africa, Morocco fell under the control of France in 1912. Relations between the protectorate government and native-born Moroccans were often strained. Rebellions and riots put pressure on the French, though they didn’t relinquish control of Morocco until 1956.

Today, Morocco is governed as a constitutional monarchy. Casablanca is its largest city, immortalized—for Americans, at least—in the 1942 film of the same name.

Morocco Lifestyle and Culture

Many Westerners may view Morocco as an arid Saharan nation. In reality, much of the country is blessed with rich farmland, mountains of dense forest and dramatic Atlantic shores. Moroccan farmers grow various grains, while fruits thrive near the coastal regions. The legendary Sahara Desert spreads throughout the south and east of the country, long part of a trade route that served camel caravans packed with salt, spices and other goods.

Moroccan cuisine reflects the nation’s status as a crossroads between continents, with Berber, European and Mediterranean dishes on its menus. Couscous is an everyday staple, often complemented by lamb, chicken or beef. Preparation in a tagine, a bell-shaped ceramic pot, is common. Food may be flavored with saffron, mint and citrus.

Sunni Islam is the state religion; the vast majority of citizens belong to that faith. Some of the most notable landmarks in Morocco are religious sites, particularly vast mosques such as Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque, able to accommodate 100,000 worshippers in the sanctuary and courtyard. Morocco is home to a small number of Jewish and Christian worshippers, along with a minority of Shia Muslims.

Arabic and Berber are both official state languages, though French is still taught in schools. Many Northern Moroccans also speak Spanish, a skill that helps them cater to travelers who cross the Strait of Gibraltar on day trips to Tangier.

Casablanca is home to around four million Moroccans, making it the kingdom’s largest city. In many ways, it’s the engine of the national economy, home to major businesses and a bustling port. Residents here are more heavily influenced by Europe than those who live in more remote cities.