Morocco has a rich history that began with the Berbers and has been ruled by many dynasties. Spanish and Portuguese influences have contributed to a rich cultural heritage that every Moroccan is proud of. Let us take a trip down memory lane.
The kingdom of Morocco that is at the crossroad of Europe and Africa is an awe-inspiring country with its beautiful culture and interesting history. The country has a very strong sense of culture. Various rulers that ruled the country influenced the country’s cultural diversity. The original inhabitants are, however, the Berber people. They were general big tribes with rules laid down by their leader and these rules would not even be the same for two Berber tribes.
Phoenicians and Roman Morocco
The Berber tribes were far removed from each other and this was one reason why Morocco was often invaded. In the 12th century B.C Phoenicians were the first invaders to the country who conquered most of the coastal regions easily. The Carthaginians in turn defeated them later. They set up their trade routes and developed trade with the Berber tribes. By the 5th Century B.C they had extended their domination across most of North Africa. The Berber kings ruled in the shadow of the Carthage and Rome. In 2nd century B.C, the Romans attacked the country and captured all Carthage strongholds. The Romans generally controlled their territories with alliances with the tribes. The Mauri or the Moors also ruled the region and the whole area were called as Mauretania. Christianity was also introduced in the second century and there were some converts in towns and Berber slaves and farmers. There were schismatic and heretical movements and a substantial Jewish population also grew.
The Arabs conquered this country in the 7th century and introduced their civilization. Islam found following and many Berbers also converted. They shaped Islam in their own image and embraced schismatic Muslim sects. During 741 – 1058 the region of Barghawata became the first Muslim country. The region then overcame control of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad under Idris Ibn Abdallah who founded the Idrisid Dyanasty. Morocco became a major center of learning. The 11th and 12th centuries saw the Berber dynasties growing and replacing the Arab Idrisids. These dynasties were led by religious reformers and were based on a tribal confederation that dominated the Maghrib for around 200 years. The Saadi Dynasty ruled from 1511 to 1659 and the Alaouites have been the dynasty in power since the 17th century. Short but intense fights between the various tribes left the country instable for some years. However Ahmed I al Mansur was able to rule the country better and bring stability to the country. This helped the country flourish and between 1579 and 1603, the Jews and Moors from Spain also settled down in the country. Each added to the culture and art of Morocco and you can glimpse it even now
In 15th century the conflict between the Spanish and Portuguese found the Portuguese in control of the Port of Cueta. The Moroccans rose against them in 1578 and gained control of the port and also pushed them out of other coastal towns by 1700. The Alaouite dynasty was able to maintain Morocco’s independence in the 18th and 19th centuries. However the first few years of the 20th century saw a rush of European powers and the French in particular furthering their interests in North Africa. In 1904 the when France got recognition for its sphere of influence in Morocco there were strong reactions from the Germans. A resolution was reached in 1905 -01906 and France was entrusted policing of a major portion of Morocco along with Spain who were to be the protecting power over northern and southern Spain. Under the protectorate Morocco remained a sovereign state but the Sultan was not the ruler though he reigned. Germany made an attempt to gain control in 1911 but war was averted and they were given some concessions.
Independence of Morocco
In 1950 the Sultan of Morocco requested for independence and when Sultan Mohammed became king in 1957 it wasn’t long after that when Spain relinquished it hold. In 1974 King Hassan undertook a campaign to claim control over the Sahara, which was owned by Spain. With his persistent efforts and tough negotiations the split was done as Morocco, Spain and Mauritania. In 1978 Polisaro front succeeded in forcing the Mauritania out of Sahara and to this day the area is a disputed territory though a referendum organized by the UN was generally agreed upon. On July 23, 1999 King Hassan died concluding his monarchy in modern history of a total of 38 years. His son Crown Prince Mohammed ascended the throne in July 1999 after his death. He is known for his modern views and his taking great efforts to bring about change in Morocco and lead the country to greater heights.
Marrakech is a fantastic city that first comes to mind when you think of Morocco. No trip to Morocco is complete without a visit to this city. Let us take a look at what drives everyone to Marakkech.
Marrakech is the second largest city of Morocco and is known as the Red City. It has about 800,000 inhabitants and most of the houses are colored read. Marrakech MedinaIt is truly a colorful city of entertainment and is called the one of the pearls of morocco. It is the major economic center and has several upcoming industries and markets. It lies at the foot of the Atlas Mountains and this gives it a very beautiful location. Like many north African cities it is mainly divided into medina which is the old fortified city and a modern city nearby (called Gueliz). The city has a wonder climate with shimmering white snowy winters and warm humid summers. It is the warmth and the sociability of the inhabitants that is world-renowned.
The name probably has been derived from Berber words ‘ mur(n) akush ‘ which means the land of god. Till a few decades ago, the Arabs, Persians, and Europeans, called Morocco the Kingdom of Marrakech. It was founded in the 11th century and was the capital of an empire that stretched from Spain to Senegal. In earlier times it was a major location on the crossroads of caravans going in the direction of Timbuktu for trade.
Though initially just used as a resting place it was later was taken over by the leader of Almoravids, Abou Bekr as a strategic location for troops. His cousin Youssuf Ibn Taschfin built the first mosque and a house. The 12-century saw it being further developed by the Almohads. Even now you can find the 9km red earth wall built during the Almoravid rule. It became came under the Saadian Empire of Ahmed El Arj in the 16th century. They build many impressive buildings and tombs which have been well preserved. Later on it was conquered by the Sultan of Alaouits- Moulay Ismail. 1917 saw it being governed by Pasha El Glaoui under the French rule. In 1956 it was taken over by King Mohammed V but after his death the fortunes were confiscated. Later on the capital was shifted to Rabat and Marrakech became a provincial capital. It is now the capital of Marrakech Tensift el Haouz region with an area of 31,160kms.
What to see?
Marrakech VisitYou would find it very interesting to roam around the city of Marrakech. The little souks in the small alleys and squares are very interesting and you can find them dedicated to specific crafts. You can even watch part of their process of making them. The best time to visit them is early morning or late afternoon when they auction their stuff. You can go around the souks in about 3 hours. A major attraction with tourists is the Rue Souk Smarine a major textile market which is at the vicinity of the Ouessabine mosque.
The Djemaa el Fna is another important tourist destination. It is a major square and market place in the median quarter or the old city. During daytime you can find many orange juice stalls, water seller in colorful costumes, snake charmers and youths with chained Barbary apes. It gets crowded as afternoon approaches and the evening is even more crowded with all sorts of people, storry tellers, Chleuh dancing boys, magicians, peddlers of traditional medicines etc. As night falls it is filled with dozen food stalls. On the other side of the square you can also find café terraces from where you may glimpse the souk but away from noise and confusion.
You can also visit the Marrakech museum that has many traditional and contemporary sculptures and other art exhibits. You can find the small bookshop and café at its entrance worth a visit. If you are visiting during the summers the gardens are the best place to be with cool and quiet surrounding and lake sized pools to cool off. There are many gardens and parks like Majorelle Garden, Menara garden and olive grove, Koutoubia Mosque park etc.
Eat, Drink and Sleep
The medina part of Marrakech is the best location to find some great eating options. There are many French style cafés, bistros and restaurants. The food stalls at the Djemaa el Fna are a must try that offer many inexpensive Moroccan style traditional cuisines. Most of them have bars. There are several cheap and mid range hotels that you can select from. Most of them are modern hotels with wonderful pools and traditional interior designs. Medina has mainly the cheaper hotels while Hivernage and Semlalia has mostly the luxury ones. You may even find villas as well as self catering studio apartments. The period around Christmas, Easter and New Year is the most popular time to visit.
So if you are planning a Marrakech trip just have a map in hand are be ready to explore the colorful world that has found mention by many a artists.