Morocco is a spectacular mix of Arab, Islamic, Berber, Jewish, African, and European influences. Fascinating landscapes range from miles of unspoiled beaches to magnificent snow-capped mountains, from lush river valleys to vast tracts of oasis as well as labyrinthine walled medinas (ancient city) and Berber fortresses. A wealth of beautiful handicrafts in city souks (markets). Traditional townhouses (known as riads) and kasbahs (fortress) have been tastefully restored to create hidden guesthouses, varying from luxurious to comfortably basic. You will be offered the signature cuisines of Morocco - delicious home cooked tagines with a choice of various meats and/or, vegetables, and couscous which is the staple of the Moroccan diet.
Morocco dates back to prehistorical times. New immigrants from the near east joined the existing tribes and became the ancestors of the Berber tribes, occupying the Rif Mountains since Neolithic times. After the destruction of Carthage (146 B.C.), the Roman Empire established an African province which eventually absorbed the Berber Kingdoms to its west. Rome remained in control until 429 AD, when an army of Vandals crossed over from Spain. The Vandals, in turn, were defeated by the Byzantines who remained in power for the next two centuries. Although there were Muslim raids across Northern Africa, it was not until 710 that the Arab conquest of Morocco was achieved. In the ninth and tenth centuries a Berber tribe, named the ALMORAVIDS, consolidated power during the chaos caused by the Arab invasion. They were able to rule Morocco by controlling lucrative caravan routes. They founded Marrakech and made it their capital. Traces of their civilization can still be seen in the city walls and the palm groves they planted. By the 12th century the ALMORAVIDS reached Spain. However, they lost power at home and this paved the way for the consolidation of another rival Berber tribe. The ALMOHADES, "Unitarians". After an 11-month siege, this tribe gained control of Marrakech, overthrowing the ALMORAVIDS. Their leader, Abdel Moumen, reconquered Spain and had several victories in Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Morocco by that time was Mecca for scholars and intellectuals. In the 14th century, like the ALMORAVIDS before them, the ALMOHADES' power declined in Europe and weakened at home. Again, a new nomadic Berber tribe united to take power. This tribe, the MERENIDS, who are said to descend from the prophet Mohammed, seized Fez in 1248, and by 1269 controlled Marrakech. Their period is the era of the greatest Muslim geographers and explorers such as Ibn Khaldon and Ibn Batuta.
Following the pattern established by previous dynasties, the Portuguese conquered Mogador (Essaouira) and other ports, until the emergence of a new movement. The SAADIANS” (1549-1668). The Portuguese were defeated by them in both Santa Cruz (Agadir) in 1541 and in the famous battle of The Three Kings (1578). THE SAADIANS consolidated their power and were able to rule Morocco. Their leader, Sultan Ahmed El-Mansour "The Victorious" (1578-1603), crossed the Sahara to secure the caravans routes and enslave the locals. By that time Mauritania and Mali were under control of the Saadians. However, when the Sultan died, they could not retain control and Morocco fell into a civil war.
This allowed another group to emerge that would seize power. Entering from the South. The ALAOUITE, who rule Morocco today, settled in Tafilalite region. They seized Marrakech in 1668 after they had taken Fez. Moulay Rachid was the first ALAOUITE Sultan. His younger brother and successor, Moulay Ismail (1672-1727), built a new imperial capital at Meknes. He used his black guards to enforce his authority. And in order to avoid succession problems, he sired 888 children. It’s said that he was the most cruel and tyrannical ruler in Moroccan history. He ruled for 54 years. At his death, Morocco was ungovernable until the ascent of Ben Abdullah, an ALAOUITE. He managed to stabilize the country and attempted to activate trade by inviting in the English, Jewish, and French merchants.
By the 19th century dynasties had come and gone and Morocco remained basically unchanged. Meanwhile European colonial expansion focused on Morocco. The Spanish took Tetouan and the Western Sahara. France isolated Morocco from the Islamic world while the British forced the Sultan, Moulay Hassan, to sign a preferential trade treaty in 1857. By the time of Moulay’s Hassan’s death, Morocco was in debt and in a state of unrest. His successor, Sultan Abdel Aziz (1894/1908), was too young to rule the country. He amused himself with games and spent millions on expensive and frivolous European goods. Morocco became heavily indebted to European banks opening the door for a French invasion. Aziz was deposed by his brother, Moulay Hafid (1908/12), who had no alternative but to accept French domination. This is explicated in the Treaty of Fez, 1912, in which the sovereignty of Morocco is essentially abdicated. The French government promoted economic development, particularly the exploitation of Morocco’s mineral wealth, creation of a modern transportation system, and the development of a modern agriculture sector geared to the French market. As a result, the treaty was perceived as a betrayal by Moroccan nationalists.
In 1927, Mohammed V had succeeded his father Ben Yusef. He was a member of the Istiqlal (Independence) party and refused to be a French puppet. The French responded by sending him and his family into exile. Turmoil ensued throughout Morocco. Ben Arafa, the new French new puppet, was assassinated. Eventually the Sultan was allowed to return, and Morocco gained its independence. Unfortunately, Mohammed V never lived to see the first democratic elections in Morocco. His son, King Hassan II, who himself had been the object of several attempted assassinations, presided over these. There were continuing conflicts between the monarchy and opposition parties. Hassan II died of a heart attack in July 1999, and was succeeded by his 36 year old son, the current King, Mohammed VI. The King has taken several courageous actions such as eliminating his father's much feared interior minister, political exiles were permitted to return and political detainees were released. In 2004, he approved the investigation of human rights abuses during his father's reign, the revision of the "Moudawana" (laws governing personal rights) to restrict polygamy and give women equal rights as men in marriage. Mohammed VI remains popular and obviously is a more liberal-minded ruler.