Morocco is a country in the north of Africa, with coasts on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It is separated from the continent of Europe by a small strip of land known as the Strait of Gibraltar. Morocco is home to four mountain ranges (the Rif, High Atlas, Middle Atlas and Anti-Atlas). The third largest and certainly most visited desert in the world (the Sahara) begins to the south of the Anti-Atlas. The climate in Morocco is warm and sunny, with temperatures standing at around 12ºC in winter months and around 25ºC in the peak of summer. The mountainous areas, temperatures are lower and more humid. The Sahara has its own unique desert climate, with a mean temperature that can ascend to more than 30ºC; summer is sizzling indeed, with the thermometer sometimes marking 47ºC or more!
Morocco is famous for its cuisine (which include couscous and fish or meat tajine dishes), as well as its romantic desert landscapes and rich cultural heritage, which bears influence from Africa, Europe and the Arab world. Visitors love buying colourful spices, pottery, carpets and clothing at Moroccan souks (markets), while those into adventure cannot resist a camel ride along part of the Sahara. Morocco is known for its burgeoning leather industry; many tourists choose to visit tanneries to see how beautiful bags and accessories are made. Those who want to experience the more luxurious side of Morocco choose to stay at a riad (a traditional palace or mansion, usually boasting a traditional courtyard and cosy terraces). The spa tradition is very big in this country; locals and visitors alike often spend a day at a hammam, enjoying a relaxing mud treatment, which leaves skin baby smooth.
Many ancient empires settled in Morocco, including the Romans, Visigoths, Vandals and the Byzantine Empire. In the late 7th century, the Arabs invaded North Africa, bringing their rich culture and the Islamic religion. In 1465, many Jewish and Muslim people were expelled from Spain and sent to Morocco. In 1660, the Alawite dynasty began its long rule, which continues to this day. In 1860, the Spanish occupation of Morocco place. In 1912, the Treaty of Fez saw Morocco become a protectorate of France. When France forced Sultan Mohammed V into exile, replacing him with another leader, the people of Morocco rebelled, expressing their desire for independence. In 1955, Mohammed V was allowed to return; the following year, Morocco achieved its much yearned-for independence from both France and Spain, though Spain still has control over two territories (Ceuta and Melilla).
Morocco is home to a plethora of interesting plant and animal species. The coast is peppered with citrus, casuarina, eucalyptus, acacia and many other trees, while the mountainous regions contain jujube trees, shrubs, poplars, willows and tamarisks. The plains, meanwhile, are home to cork oaks, olive and argan trees; the latter are the source of the valuable argan oil, used in cosmetics and hair products. Morocco’s animal kingdom is also rich and includes barbary macaques, lizards, fennec foxes, flamingos, tawny eagles and grebes (freshwater diving birds).
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