Morocco (Arabic: ??????? al-Magrib; French: Maroc), officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Geographically, Morocco is characterized by a rugged mountainous interior and large portions of desert. It is one of only three countries (with Spain and France) to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. The Arabic name al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyah (Arabic: ??????? ?????????, meaning "The Western Kingdom") and Al-Maghrib (Arabic: ???????, meaning "The West") are commonly used as alternate names.
Morocco has a population of over 33.8 million and an area of 446,550 km2 (172,410 sq mi). Its political capital is Rabat, although the largest city is Casablanca; other major cities include Marrakesh, Tangier, Tetouan, Salé, Fes, Agadir, Meknes, Oujda, Kenitra, and Nador. A historically prominent regional power, Morocco has a history of independence not shared by its neighbours. Its distinct culture is a blend of Arab, indigenous Berber, Sub-Saharan African, and European influences.
Morocco claims the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara as its Southern Provinces. Morocco annexed the territory in 1975, leading to a guerrilla war with indigenous forces until a cease-fire in 1991. Peace processes have thus far failed to break the political deadlock.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The King of Morocco holds vast executive and legislative powers, especially over the military, foreign policy and religious affairs. Executive power is exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the Assembly of Representatives and the Assembly of Councillors. The king can issue decrees called dahirs which have the force of law. He can also dissolve the parliament after consulting the Prime Minister and the president of the Constitutional court.
Morocco's predominant religion is Islam, while the official languages are Berber and Arabic. Moroccan Arabic, referred to as Darija, and French are also widely spoken. Morocco is an influential member of the Arab League and a part of the Union for the Mediterranean and the Organisation internationale de la francophonie. It has the sixth-largest economy in Africa.
Agriculture accounts for about 16% of GDP but employs 40–45% of the Moroccan working population. Agriculture has always been one of the major contributers to the Moroccan economy. The North-West regions being the most productive due to their fertile lands, notably Saiss, Dokkala-Abda and Gharb plains. However, precipitation patterns are inconsistent from year to year, and lower rainfall can affect the agricultural production since irrigation projects are not fully developed. In the other hand, Morocco remains the first agricultural country and the biggest exporter of crops in North Africa.
The major resources of the Moroccan economy are agriculture, phosphates, and tourism. Sales of fish and seafood are important as well. Industry and mining contribute about one-third of the annual GDP. Morocco is the world's third-largest producer of phosphorus after China and the United States, and the price fluctuations of phosphates on the international market greatly influence Morocco's economy.
Morocco suffers both from unemployment (9.6% in 2008), and a large external debt estimated at around $20 billion, or half of GDP in 2002.
Although Morocco runs a structural trade deficit, this is typically offset by substantial services earnings from tourism and large remittance inflows from the diaspora, and the country normally runs a small current-account surplus.
There are around 56,986 km (35,409 mi) of roads (national, regional and provincial) in Morocco. In addition to 1,416 km (880 mi) of highways.
The Tangier-Casablanca high-speed rail link marks the first stage of the ONCF’s high-speed rail master plan, pursuant to which over 1,500 km (930 mi) of new railway lines will be built by 2035. The high speed train – TGV – will have a capacity of 500 passengers and will carry 8 million passengers per year. The work on the High Speed Rail project was started in September 2011. Construction of infrastructure and delivery of railway equipment will end in 2014 and the HSR will be operational by December 2015.
Morocco's official languages are Arabic and Berber. The country's distinctive group of Moroccan Arabic dialects is referred to as Darija. Approximately 89.8% of the whole population can communicate to some degree in Moroccan Arabic. The Berber language is spoken in three dialects (Tarifit, Tashelhit and Central Atlas Tamazight). In 2008, Frédéric Deroche estimated that there were 12 million Berber speakers, making up about 40% of the population. The 2004 population census reported that 28.1% of the population spoke Berber.
French is widely used in governmental institutions, media, mid-size and large companies, international commerce with French-speaking countries, and often in international diplomacy. French is taught as an obligatory language at all schools. In 2010, there were 10,366,000 French-speakers in Morocco, or about 32% of the population.
According to the 2004 census, 2.19 million Moroccans spoke a foreign language other than French. English, while far behind French in terms of number of speakers, is the first foreign language of choice, since French is obligatory, among educated youth and professionals. Spanish is spoken by a small population in the north of the country, especially around the Spanish enclaves Melilla and Ceuta.