25 interesting facts about Morocco

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The most interesting facts about Morocco include a town that’s painted blue, goats that climb trees and the world’s oldest university.

A view of Marrakesh in Morocco
Interesting facts about Morocco include its UNESCO sites such as Marrakesh (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Kingdom of Morocco
Population: 36,561,813
Area: 716,550 sq km
Capital city: Rabat
Major languages: Arabic, Berber languages, French 
Major religions: Muslim 99%
Time zone: UTC 0 (Western European Summer Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Morocco

1. Morocco is a country located in North Africa bordering Algeria, Mauritania and Spain (via the two enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla).
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. Archaeological homo sapien remains found in Morocco have been dated to around 315,000 years old.
– Source: Nature Journal

3. The name Morocco comes from the Spanish and Portuguese names “Marruecos” and “Marrocos,” which in turn, come from “Marrakesh” the Latin name for the former capital of ancient Morocco.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

A map of Morocco showing its proximity to Spain
A map of Morocco showing its proximity to Spain (Shutterstock)

4. Morocco was a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956, when the country gained independence and Sultan Mohammed became king.
– Source: BBC News

5. The tiny Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla sit on the northern shores of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast. Together they form the European Union’s only land borders with Africa and are the only piece of European territory on mainland Africa. Morocco disputes the Spanish claim and calls them the occupied “Sebtah and Melilah”.
– Source: BBC News1, BBC News2

6. Morocco is currently the only kingdom in North Africa and one of only three in Africa. The other two are Lesotho and Swaziland.
– Source: Britannica, National Geographic

7. Morocco’s flag is red with a green, five-pointed star in the centre. Red and green are traditional colours in Arab flags and the five-pointed star – known as Sulayman’s (Solomon’s) seal – represents the five pillars of Islam.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Morocco's flag
Morocco’s flag (Shutterstock)

8. On a clear day, Morocco is visible from the Spanish mainland coast across the Strait of Gibraltar which is at its narrowest of 13km (8mi) between Point Marroquí (Spain) and Point Cires (Morocco).
– Source: Britannica1, Britannica2

9. Morocco is home to the world’s oldest university. The University of Karueein was founded in 859 AD in Fez and is the oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world.
– Source: Guinness World Records

10. Morocco has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In Africa, only South Africa (10) has more.
– Source: UNESCO

Fishing boats in Essaouira
Essaouira is one of Morocco’s UNESCO sites (Shutterstock)

11. Morocco is the world’s largest exporter of sardines, accounting for over a quarter ($201 million) of the entire world’s exports.
– Source: Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC)

12. Argan trees (Argania spinosa) are endemic to the southwest of Morocco and a region of Algeria and are used to produce argan oil. The oil has been used by Berbers for centuries to treat skin conditions, rheumatism and heart disease, but has recently been utilised by the wider cosmetic and food as an anti-ageing treatment and superfood.
– Source: Financial Times

13. Around Essaouira, it’s normal to see goats in the argan trees. The goats climb into the treetops and eat the fruit. Historically, the goats were part of the production process by eating the fruit and leaving behind clean seeds in their dung.
– Source: Financial Times

goats in an argan tree
Goats in an argan tree (Shutterstock)

14. Morocco is the most westerly of the North African countries and is known as the Maghreb or Maghrib in Arabic which means “the West”.
– Source: BBC News, Britannica

15. The former garrison town of Ouarzazate is Morocco’s film capital and has been dubbed “Ouallywood” after several famous movie scenes have been shot there. Films have included Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven as well as scenes from the TV series Game of Thrones.
– Source: Lonely Planet, Financial Times

16. The medieval city of Fez is home to the world’s largest car-free urban area.
– Source: Lonely Planet

An alley with shops and people in Fez
The Fez medina (Shutterstock)

17. Berbers are Morocco’s indigenous people and are descendants of North Africa’s pre-Arab inhabitants. In Morocco, they mostly live in the High Atlas Mountains, although some maintain a nomadic existence in the desert.
– Source: National Geographic

18. Morocco has been occupying Western Sahara since 1975. The sparsely populated former Spanish colony continues to be the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between Morocco and the indigenous Saharawi people in Western Sahara, many of whom live as refugees in Algeria.
– Source: The Washington Post

19. The small mountain town of Chefchaouen in Morocco is famous for its blue-washed buildings and is known as the Blue Pearl.
– Source: The Guardian

A Chefchaouen street with blue-washed walls and pavement
A street scene in Chefchaouen (Shutterstock)

20. The UNESCO-listed ruined Roman city of Volubilis is the best-preserved archaeological site in Morocco. Founded in the 3rd century BC, the city was once the Mauritanian capital and an important outpost of the Roman Empire.
– Source: UNESCO

21. Morocco’s national symbol is the lion and the country was once home to the largest lion subspecies, Barbary lions (Panthera leo leo). Barbary lions were native to North Africa, including the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, but have been extinct in the wild since 1922 due to centuries of exploitation, poaching and habitat destruction by humans.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book, Scientific American

22. Morocco is partially covered by the world’s largest hot desert (excluding the Arctic and Antarctic deserts). The Sahara Desert, with a total area of 8,600,000sq km (3,320,000sq mi), covers much of North Africa.
– Source: Britannica

Sand dunes in the Sahara, near Merzouga, Morocco
Sand dunes in the Sahara, near Merzouga, Morocco (Shutterstock)

23. Despite the desert landscape, it’s possible to go skiing in Morocco. Just 73km (45mi) south of Marrakech, in the Atlas Mountains, is the ski resort of Oukaimeden. It is Africa’s highest ski resort with its village located at 2,600m (8,530ft) and a chairlift climbing to 3,258m (10,688ft).
– Source: The Telegraph

24. In fact, Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains are North Africa’s highest mountain range. They are known by local Berbers as ‘Idraren Draren’ which means Mountains of Mountains.
– Source: Lonely Planet

25. As such, Mount Toubkal, Morocco’s highest peak, is also North Africa’s highest peak at 4,167m (13,671ft). The High Atlas Mountains are a popular trekking destination and Mount Toubkal is Morocco’s most popular climb.
– Source: Lonely Planet

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