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Ancient Arab geographers dubbed Morocco (al-Maghreb al-Aqsa) “the land of the setting sun” because it lay on the westernmost edge of their world, but Morocco’s location had already drawn the attention of numerous ancient Mediterranean civilizations. A series of external cultures – Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, and Africans – traded with and settled among Morocco’s native populations.

In the 7th century, Arab tribes swept across North Africa, conquered the local population, introduced Islam, and created the first federated state in the region. Since that time, Morocco has been ruled by a series of dynasties, beginning with the Idrissids, who established the first Islamic state in Morocco. In the 11th and 13th centuries, the Almoravids and Almohads created an empire that stretched across North Africa and incorporated Andalusia (modern day Spain). Successive dynasties resisted French, Spanish, and Portugeuse incursions, but by the early 20th century, both Spain and France established protectorates in Moroccan territory.

Morocco gained independence in 1956, and it is a constitutional monarchy, ruled today by King Mohammed IV. Morocco is a strong ally and partner of the United States (it was one of the first nations to recognize the newly independent United States in 1777 and signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship in 1786) and European nations.

Morocco today is a mix of Arab, Berber, and African cultures, and many of its people speak several languages. Although many people in the countryside still live traditional lives, the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, and Marrakech are cosmopolitan, with no shortage of restaurants, Internet cafes, and shopping opportunities. Each of the cities you will visit has a distinct personality: Casablanca is the commercial capital, Rabat is the seat of government, Fes is considered to be the cultural capital, and Marrakech is a crossroads uniting Arab, Berber, and African culture.







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