11 Facts About Morocco You Probably Didn’t Know
By: Lindsey Penn/Arab America Contributing Writer
Morocco is a wonderful country with a different history than many other Arab countries. Morocco’s Spanish, French, and Berber influences contribute to the unique aspects of the country’s architecture, culture, language, and infrastructure. Below are just a few of the extraordinary facts about Morocco.
1. Jebel Toubkal is the highest mountain in North Africa.
Jebel Toubkal is located in the Atlas Mountains and in the center of Toubkal National Park. It is about 37 miles south of Marrakesh. The mountain is 13,671 feet tall. It is also the highest mountain in the Arab world.
2. University Al-Qarawiyyin is the first (and therefore, oldest) university in the world.
The University of Al-Qarawiyyin (or al-Karaouine) was built in 859 CE. Fatima al-Fihri built the university. It continues to give degrees today. UNESCO (and the Guinness Book of World Records) consider the university to be the oldest and longest continually-inhabited university in the world. It is located in Fez, Morocco.
3. Morocco’s Tarfaya Wind Farm has the highest capacity of wind farms in Africa.
The entire Tarfaya complex (located in the territory disputed by the Western Sahara and Morocco) was built in just two years and completed in 2015. It is about 100 square kilometers in total with 12 waves of turbines. Each year, the turbines save about 900 tons of CO2 emissions and $200 million in oil imports.
4. Morocco produces and exports the largest amount of sardines.
In general, Morocco is 17th in the world for the most important fish producing countries, after exporting more than 1.35 million tons of fish in 2016. As for sardines specifically, Morocco became the leading exporter in 1988 when the supplies Peru, Japan, and Chile dangerously decreased. Sardines are about 62% of the fish caught and exported from Morocco.
5. It is the first country that signed a treaty with the United States.
Called the Moroccan-American Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Morocco and the United States became allies in July of 1786. The original treaty expired in 1837, but the two governments replaced it in 1836. Morocco and the United States have been allies ever since.
6. Morocco’s camels are dromedaries.
The type of camel native to Morocco is the dromedary camel. They have one hump, instead of the two humps that other camels from other regions have. In Morocco, the camel is used for transportation, in addition to its milk and meat. In total, there are more than 600,000 camels in Morocco.
7. The Morocco Mall is the biggest mall in all of Africa.
Located in Casablanca, the mall opened in 2011. It is a whopping 2,000,000 square feet and has an aquarium inside. Davide Padoa, an architect with Design International, designed the building.
8. The Sahara Desert is growing, so the government combats this by planting trees.
From 2001 to 2016, Morocco lost 31,724 hectares of tree cover with the growth of the Sahara Desert. In that same time period, there was only a gain of 19,541 hectares of tree cover. Forests cover about 13% of Morocco’s territory. To counter the loss of the trees, the Moroccan government decided to introduce a partnership with civil society organizations to plant 800,000 trees across the country by the end of 2024.
9. The second-largest film set in the world is in Morocco.
Atlas Film Studios is the Moroccan studio that is the second–largest in the world, at 322,000 square feet. Mohamed Belghmi established the studio in 1983, after realizing how popular Morocco was as a set for international films. The film studio is in Ourzazate, Morocco, and is available for tours.
10. The national animal is the Barbary lion.
Morocco’s national animal is the Barbary lion, which is native to all of North Africa. However, the lions are now extinct in the wild; all of them are in zoos. The last Barbary lion known in the wild was hunted in 1942 in Morocco.
11. In 2004, Morocco reformed the personal status code to give women more rights.
Morocco’s personal status code, called Moudawana, was changed to secure women’s rights to divorce and custody of children in 2004. It was also changed to allow women to have the right to self-guardianship, a concept that Morocco’s government had not had before. In general, it gives women more freedom to travel and be independent. Although women’s rights still has a long way to go in Morocco, many reformist groups worked together to take the country in a crucial step forward for women.
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