How the only monarchy in North Africa arose from division and occupation, or better yet, how was Morocco able to centralize itself?
When you imagine Africa, countries of great historical importance are likely to come to mind, like Egypt and its tall pyramids or South Africa as the site of the apartheid. On the coast of north Africa, you can find Morocco.
Though the written history of Morocco wouldn’t begin until 1,000 BCE, archaeologists have excavated evidence of ancestral human species dating back as far as 400,000 years ago. Pre-historic humans were hunters, gatherers, and herders. Based on the bodily and material remains that have been left to fossilize, scientists have inferred that these people experienced great success in surviving.
Though the people indigenous to the land were skillful survivalists and adapted to the changes in geography, the people of Morocco would not be independent of foreign control or belong to a unified nation until the end of World War II.
The Phoenicians arrived on the coast of Morocco around 800 BCE and began setting up trade centers and colonies. As they extended their territory, they also established commercial relationships with tribes located towards the interior of the continent. One of the major settlements, Carthage, served as a hub of economic activity but political control as well.
Native, nearby Berber tribesmen formed the kingdom of Mauritania in north Morocco around 400 BCE, which fell into the control of the Roman Empire in 33 BCE. Interestingly, the Romans did not exert their military strength over the tribes of north Africa, but rather they created alliances with these groups in an effort to benefit from the thriving economies of the region.
Though the major accomplishment of the Romans in annexing Mauretania was adding to the substantial empire, they also Christianized the area during the second century.
After the Western Roman Empire fragmented and eventually fell, Muslim forces moved to conquer the Byzantine-controlled colonies in North Africa. This control and the resulting rebellions lasted for about 43 years (700-743 CE) but were key in introducing Islam to the country.
For the next three centuries, Morocco would be split and ruled by different kingdoms and dynasties that operated as independent states. Throughout this time, Islamic and Arab cultures became cemented into the people of these territories.
The country wouldn’t be somewhat united until the Almoravid Dynasty took control in the early 11th century. This political power would last well into the 12th century but would eventually become weakened after its defeat at the Battle of Ourique in 1139. The end of the dynasty is credited to the conquest of the city of Marrakech by the Almohads in 1147.
The Marinids dynasty, a kingdom of Berber origin, rose to power in 1244 CE, but due to quick changes in leadership and political anarchy, the monarchy steadily lost control until its collapse in 1465.
The Wattasid dynasty (1472-1554 CE) in the north and the Saadi dynasty (1549–1659 CE) in the south took power in Morocco soon after. Though the Saadis had more military successes than the Wattasid, the dynasty was still short-lived.
The Republic of Salé began in the early 17th century with the arrival of approximately 3,000 wealthy Moriscos from Hornachos in western Spain, who anticipated the 1609 expulsion edicts ordered by Philip III of Spain. Religious hegemony ultimately caused a civil war. Eventually, Sultan Al-Rashid of Morocco of the Alaouite dynasty, which still rules Morocco into the 21st century, seized Rabat and Salé, ending its independence.
During the late 1600s until around the mid-1800s, the ruling family first focused on creating a centralized, strong country but later allowed the tribes within its borders to keep their autonomy.
As Europe became more industrialized during the 1800s, Morocco, along with the rest of north Africa, became a point of interest for colonization for its resources.
After some disputes with Spain, in 1912, Morocco was forced to become a French protectorate. Understandably, the Moroccans resented their loss of independence, and resistance groups and riots formed in response.
In 1942, however, during World War II, the allies landed in Morocco, and Roosevelt was sympathetic to the people. In 1944 a Manifesto of Independence was published, and in 1947 the Sultan declared he was in favor of independence.
In 1953 the French deposed the Sultan, but he returned in 1956 after his replacement
was unpopular with the Moroccan people. The country eventually became independent in 1956.
Today, it remains the only monarchy left in North Africa.
Additionally, tourism is a great contributor to the country’s GDP. In 2018, tourism-generated GDP grew by 6.2%, amounting to MAD 76.9 billion, compared to MAD 72.4 billion in 2017. Ironically, France, Spain, and Germany remain the top three source markets, comprising 57.5% of the market share.