Somewhere near Asilah, a difficult road leads to the arid landscape, where more than one hundred and fifty menhirs are planted around a tumulus. Very few tourists venture there. It is however there that the first known inhabitants of Morocco lived, some five thousand years ago. At that time, North Africa was hot and humid, the Sahara a savanna populated by large animals, the green valleys of the South (the Drâa, the Dadès) were large rivers. Many centuries later (12th century BC), the Phoenicians, great navigators, created a port at Lixus, near Larache and another on the island of Mogador, facing our current Essaouira. Then Carthage is established there, as in practically all the Mediterranean basin. The ports that are today Melilla, Tangier, Asilah date from this period (6th century BC), and for nearly five centuries, Carthage reigned over most of the Moroccan territory that we know.
The kingdom of Mauretania (not to be confused with Mauritania. north of Senegal) will keep its name after the fall of the Carthaginian Empire (146 BC) and for the first Berbers, these maritime territories will be added to western Algeria. The kingdom is rich. He exports olive oil, dried and marinated fish, and sends to Rome, for the circus, wild animals - lions and elephants - which still abound in Mauretania. It is a mistake. So much wealth attracts Caligula; he had Ptolemy, the son of the Berber sovereign Juba Il, assassinated and, after four years of a pitiless war, the Emperor Claudius declared Mauretania a Roman province (in 42), which made it a natural continuation of the Betic provinces ( Andalusians), where Claude is already established...
He cautiously sticks to the cities he needs: Ceuta, Tingis (Tangier), Sala, Volubilis (the richness of the site shows the profit drawn from their new territories by the Romans ) and let the Berber lords govern the rest of the territory and bring their tribute to it. It lasts six centuries. As always in history, it is the wealth of the country that attracts enemies. The Arabs from Tunisia will take thirty years to submit the Berbers, but in 710, Ibn Noussair takes power; he appoints Tarik governor of Tangier and, in order not to be encumbered by such a combative man, he sends him across the Mediterranean to conquer the Iberian peninsula, then in the hands of the Visigoths. It's done in three years (711/713). Around 740, Morocco, still very little Christianized, was converted to Islam.
From Idrissids to Alawites
in 788, an Arab Sharif settled in Volubilis, made friends with the Berber chiefs and created a city, Madinat al-Fas (Fez), of which he crowned himself king, under the name of Idriss 1st. For two hundred years, assassinations follow one another; Spanish Umayyads and Tunisian Fatimids clash. Just as, in Andalusia, the war of Visigothic succession had opened the door to the Berbers, a large tribe of Saharan nomads will settle the Moroccan conflicts by seizing power. In 1073, an Almoravid leader, Youssef ben Techfine began the conquest of northern Morocco, Algeria and al-Andalus, a powerful Muslim empire, over which the Almoravids reigned until the middle of the 12th century,
before their leader is assassinated by the Almohades. In 1150, the Almohad caliph Abdel Moumen reigns over a gigantic empire. Spain, the entire Maghreb and as far as Libya. The Spanish Catholic Monarchs were not long in taking back part of it from him. The reconquista lasted two hundred and eighty years (1212/1492), and this long period was also the beginning of the end for the Almohades. The Mérinides, a tribe of nomads who came this time from southern Algeria (Tlemcen), advanced towards the north of the territory, creating along the way the caravan tracks they needed, and which foreshadowed part of the current roads.
In 1276, the first Merinid sultan, Abou Youssef Yacoub settled in Fez and went up to Marrakech. More cultured than warriors, the three Merinid sultans who succeeded each other in ninety years, did not enlarge their kingdom, but they gave Morocco an intellectual impetus, they built the imperial cities, with this splendor of which we find traces ( the Koutoubia, the Hassan tower, the Giralda in Seville) and will encourage scholars and travelers to go and see the world, to tell what is happening in the strange countries they ignore.
This is how Ibn Battuta will visit Mecca, part of Russia and Central Asia, India, the Maldives and as far as Beijing and Ceylon, before Spain and black Africa. And, for decades, his stories will be the authority in the world, in terms of geographical knowledge. This elegant culture is not enough to keep them the throne. The last of the Merinids was assassinated by a relative and, after the long period of mismanagement that followed, the Portuguese seized the Moroccan Atlantic coast. It is to them that the ports of Asilah, Tangier, Larache, Agadir, Essaouira, Safi... owe their massive fortifications. Their brutalities, the raids, the assassinations in which they engage, will end up provoking a revolt in the population.
Shorfa (cherif, in the plural), who claim to be descendants of the Prophet, spread through the countryside, advocating jihad, resistance to the Portuguese Christians, who are therefore infidels. The Saadians, so-called chorfa, who take the lead in the movement, obviously do not have the sole defense of religion in mind. They act as opportunists, taking over the caravan trails. Their excess of ambition will bring the Portuguese back and offer power to other dynasties. In short, we can say that from 1511, arrival of the Saadians, to 1664, wars against the Christians and civil wars follow one another. Until the arrival of Moulay Ali Chérif, the first of the Alawites. Almost eight centuries later, after wars and a protectorate, the dynasty is still in power...
From the Age of Enlightenment to Independence
with ups and downs, the sons of Moulay Chérif will end up giving Morocco most of its current splendour. The most brilliant of the Alaouite sovereigns, Moulay Ismaîl, a contemporary of Louis XIV, notably created Meknes, but also had Essaouira built, as we know it, and at the foot of the hill of Anfa, built the city which was to become the most important North African port, Casablanca. But peace seems an empty word in Morocco. The great Moulay Ismail died in 1727, the tribes of the Atlas, no longer having to fear his iron hand, began to stir, seek to conquer the coasts; religious factions wreak havoc in the countryside; sons and brothers vie for power. Morocco is crippled with debts, has no army.
From 1800, Spaniards and French will take advantage of these divisions. The Europeans begin to create "consulates", that is to say trading posts, in 1930, they are nearly one hundred thousand installed everywhere in Morocco; they will be half a million at the end of the Second World War. In 1844, the Moroccans lost the battle of Isly (Algeria); in 1859, the Spaniards launched an assault on the Sahara; as under feudal France, many caïds (lords) have more power than the sultan, such as the Glaoui of Marrakech.
In 1906, the Emperor of Germany, William II, was in Tangier. The following year, under the pretext of pacifying the region, the French, already settled in Algeria, crossed western Morocco and, after some fighting against the Spaniards (in the south) and the Germans (Agadir), offered their "protectorate" to the sultan Moulay Hafid. This one will sign with Lyautey, on March 30, 1912, the Treaty of Fez, which leaves him only apparent power.
This will not prevent thousands of Moroccans from going to fight on the bloody fronts of Verdun and the Somme, during the 1914/1918 war. However, Morocco benefits from the beginning of modernization, and its children learn "our ancestors the Gauls..." From 1939 to 1945, once again, Moroccans engage alongside the French, in the Second World War , but the hour of claims has come. The independence movements have been agitated for fifteen years and Sultan Mohammed ben Youssef demands independence. For only answer, he is deported to Madagascar in 1953.
Two years later (November 1955), France, unable to contain the factions rising from all sides, recalled him. Welcomed in triumph by his people, Mohammed V demanded independence. The treaty was signed on March 2, 1956. In October, Spain left most of the north and Tangier...
From Mohammed V to Mohammed VI
From Mohammed V to Mohammed VI In a few years of reign, King Mohammed V achieved an almost miracle: he is the man who liberated Morocco, he is unanimous around his name, his real qualities. He uses the progress that the protectorate has been able to bring to the country and has the intelligence to allow foreigners to continue their businesses, aware of what this capital adds to the economy of Morocco.
Unfortunately, he will not have the time to complete his project of democratic sovereignty. On February 26, 1961, he died on an operating table. Many Moroccans still mourned him decades later... His son Hassan He ascended the throne... and everything changed. The new king is a man of rare culture, both Arab and French. He was trained by his father, has a very high awareness of his power and rules with authority over all political, religious and military affairs. Hassan lives royally. he does not hide his Francophile sympathies. For a sometimes showy jet set, he organizes memorable parties, sumptuous diffas.
He travels. This shocks a population, a large part of which lives "below the poverty line", as it is written today i, and without the slightest medical assistance. The intellectuals are beginning to say aloud what the poor dare not say. And sleeping factions are awakening. Hassan He miraculously escapes the riots that target him, an attack even in his palace, the attack on his personal plane. I'Istiqlal, who had campaigned for independence alongside his father, rebels. As in any revolt, an intellectual, takes the head of the factions, Mehdi ben Barka. More serious for the crown, part of the army, led by General Oufkir, supports ben Barka.
Until 1972, the repressions are hard. The two men disappear and their families are exiled. In 1975, Hassan launched a brilliant action. The Spaniards (the Polisarjo) are still fighting over Western Sahara. Then the king takes the lead of a "green march" and, followed by a troop which increases with each village, marches on the Sahara. Simple people need images. Just as Mao's "long march" brought China together behind him, Hassan Il's "green march" enchants the Moroccan people, who temporarily forget their grievances. Then the propaganda skilfully highlights the chance he had of escaping the attacks.
Without a doubt, Allah protects him, he has the "baraka". In Europe, it has an excellent rating. It largely opens the country to foreign investors, who cover the Atlantic coast and the surroundings of the imperial cities (especially Marrakech) with hotels - clubs, golf courses. To the point of often annoying the Moroccan elite. He is a fine politician and it is true - among other things - that Morocco will always display a very moderate Islam and that the king almost poses as a mediator between Palestine and Israel. However, despite the spectacular “green march”, a latent guerrilla war continued with the Polisario, and the UN began to speak of intervention...
In 1990, Morocco therefore showed signs of internal relaxation. The king frees some political prisoners; a Lower House was elected by universal suffrage and the country's first elections were held in 1997. Not too manipulated... On July 23, 1999, Hassan Il died "following a long illness" and his eldest son, Mohammed VI, ascends the throne. He is thirty-five years old, and accustomed to representing his father since the age of eight. He was educated at the palace school and, unlike most wealthy young Moroccans, at the law school in Rabat; he also worked with Jacques Delors in Brussels and defended his law thesis in Nice, on the theme of cooperation between Europe and the Maghreb.
He finds a desolate internal situation. Only fifty percent of men and thirty percent of women are literate; a quarter of the urban population is unemployed; medical assistance is still non-existent... The beginning of his reign is spectacular. In a few weeks, he got rid of Driss Basri, Minister of the Interior and - it is said quite highly - very unpopular henchman, authorized the return of Abraham Sarfaty and seemed to finally want to launch Morocco towards modernity, and a policy social. He surrounds himself with young executives, whom he has known since his studies. The Rabat Stock Exchange becomes a modern monetary center. Within a few months, his popularity skyrocketed.
When he conducts an official ceremony in full traditional white dress, he reassures the old guard. When he drives his car, walks in the streets in his shirt, shakes hands, kisses the old women, he delights the people...