Either love it (which most people do) or hate it, Morocco is easily visited from southern Spain and really is an experience never to be forgotten. You can independently take a ferry, either on foot or with a vehicle, or fly from Malaga or Gibraltar. Accommodation is plentiful and varies from extremely cheap hostels to five star hotels – the main criteria for me nowadays is to have access to a bathroom with a proper toilet and not just a hole in the ground! Alternatively, the local travel agents and tour companies offer cheap package deals all year round.
I spent a gap year travelling around Morocco and the, then, Spanish Sahara during 1970 and 1971 – (returning to the UK to find a new decimal currency in place). In Morocco then, as now, I found overwhelming hospitality and a sense of ‘coming home’.
Morocco occupies an area of approximately 446,550 square kilometres (172,413 square miles) in the northwestern corner of the African continent. The Atlantic Ocean forms the country’s western perimeter whilst the north is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea. The Algerian border lies to the east and southeast and the Moroccan Sahara extends along the far south of the country.
Morocco occupied what was called the Spanish Sahara (now the Moroccan Sahara) in 1979 and sustained a long battle with Polisario guerillas for control of the region. In 1974 Morocco had embarked on a campaign aimed at forcing Spain to withdraw from this Western region of the Sahara. The International Court of Justice, meeting in the Hague in 1975, rejected Morocco’s claim for full sovereignty over the region. Morocco ignored this decision and resolved to continue the fight alone, organising a massive demonstration known as the Green March. Spain entered into secret negotiations and a deal was struck, whereby the region was divided into three, and administered by Morocco, Spain and Mauritania. The Polisaro front, a Saharan nationalist movement, hotly disputed Morocco’s right to the territory and guerrilla fighting ensued. In 1978, the Polisaro Front succeeded in forcing Mauritania to relinquish its Saharan interests, but was unable to do the same with Morocco. The United Nations continued to mediate in this dispute throughout the eighties, and by 1990 a referendum proposed self-determination by both sides. Although this was formally accepted by those concerned, Morocco continues to assert its claim for full control over the Moroccan Sahara.
Between 1912 and 1956 Morocco was divided into French and Spanish protectorates. Traces of French and Spanish influences remain in the culture and language of the country. Several Mediterranean Islands off the coast of Morocco are still under Spanish sovereignty.
Morocco has four distinct geographic regions:
1) The Rif mountains in the north which rise as high as 2,440m (8,000ft), parallel the Mediterranean coast.
2) The Atlas Mountains extend across the country southwest to northeast between the Atlantic Ocean and the Rif. The highest mountain in North Africa is Jebel Toubkal (4165m/13,665ft), located in the Great Atlas.
3) Wide coastal plains extend in an arc along the country’s western seaboard, bounded by the Rif and Atlas Mountain Range. Most Moroccans inhabit this region.
4) Lowlands south of the Atlas merge with the Sahara along the southeastern borders of the country.
Morocco has many rivers, the chief of which are the Moulouya, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea, and the Sebou, which flows into the Atlantic.