Coastal nation of NW Africa, bordered by Algeria on the E, Mauritania on the S, the Atlantic Ocean on the W, and the Mediterranean Sea on the N. Morocco’s early inhabitants were Berber farmers living in small tribal units. Circa 1000 b.c. Phoenicians from Tyre established a coastal trading presence here. Carthage, founded by the Phoenicians, succeeded them and settled several trading posts along the Mediterranean coastline. Present Morocco was part of the old kingdom of Mauretania and was within the sphere of influence of Rome. Though the capital appears to have been at Opar, the city of Tingis, now Tangier, was of major importance. The country became the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana in a.d. 40 and remained under Roman rule until the Vand al invasion of 429.
Morocco was brought under the control of the Byzantine Empire during the sixth century a.d. but fell to the irresistible wave of Arab Muslim conquest that began in 682. In 788 Idris I founded a small Arab kingdom around the former Roman capital of Volubilis. After his death in 793 his successor, Idris II, shifted the seat of government to the city of Fes. From the 11th through the 14th centuries Morocco was ruled by Berber dynasties. Under the Almoravid and Almohad caliphates, a Moroccan empire spread across all of North Africa and included Muslim Spain. By 1268, however, when the Beni Merin took power, all imperial ambitions ended, and Spain was escaping Muslim control. However, the influx of Spanish Muslim art and architecture enriched Morocco during this time. Magnificent mosques, gateways, and minarets were built in Fes, Marrakech, and Rabat.
In the late 15th century Portugal and Spain captured Morocco’s port cities and held the coast. But by the late 16th century a resurgent Morocco had regained most of the coast and had extended its rule to the bend of the Niger River, destroying the great Songhai Empire and capturing control of the West African gold trade. However, by the 19th century Morocco’s once powerful armies found themselves hopelessly antiquated and powerless as France, Great Britain, and Spain pressed their colonial ambitions on the country.
In 1912 Morocco was made a protectorate entirely under French administration except for a small Spanish territory in the N. Rebellion flared in the 1920s, but a strong independence movement did not emerge until the 1950s. In 1956 Morocco became an independent monarchy led by Mohammed V. His successor, Hassan II, consolidated his absolute monarchical power. In 1976 the oil-rich territory of the Spanish Sahara in the SW was taken over jointly with Mauritania. In 1979 Mauritania renounced its interest in the face of bitter guerrilla fighting for Saharan liberation, and Morocco assumed full control of the region. In 1988 Algeria and Morocco normalized diplomatic relations, and Algeria cut off support for the Posisario rebels in the Spanish Sahara. In 1991 Morocco and the Polisario agreed to a cease-fire. King Hassan died in 1999 and was succeeded by his son Crown Prince Sidi Mohammed, as Mohammed VI. In 2002 Morocco occupied an uninhabited islet off Ceuta that is claimed by Spain. After Spanish forces removed the Moroccans, both sides agreed to leave the islet unoccupied.
Introduction of Tafilalt - Saharan oasis in Ksar es-Souk province, stretching 30 mi along the Ziz River, S of the High Atlas Mts, S Morocco. The old capital of the oasis was the Berber stronghold of Sijilmassa, which was founded on a Saharan caravan route in a.d. 757. It became a prosperous city but was destroyed in 1363 and again in 1818 by Ait Atta nomads. Although the French occupied it after 1917, they did not completely subjugate the region until the 1930s. Today the oasis is the site of fortified villages and palm groves.