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MOROCCO

Climate

The climate is Mediterranean, which becomes more extreme towards the interior regions where it is mountainous. The terrain is such that the coastal plains are rich and accordingly, they comprise the backbone for agriculture. Forests cover about 12% of the land while arable land accounts for 18%. 5% is irrigated.

Location

At 172,402 sq.mi (446,550 sq.km), Morocco is the fifty-seventh largest country in the world (after Uzbekistan). It is comparable in size to Iraq, and is somewhat larger than the US state of California. A dune in Morocco.Algeria borders Morocco to the east and southeast though the border between the two countries has been closed since 1994. There are also four Spanish enclaves on the Mediterranean coast: Ceuta, Melilla, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, Peñón de Alhucemas, and the Chafarinas islands, as well as the disputed islet Perejil. Off the Atlantic coast the Canary Islands belong to Spain, whereas Madeira to the north is Portuguese. To the north, Morocco is bordered by and controls part of the Strait of Gibraltar, giving it power over the waterways in and out of the Mediterranean sea. The Rif mountains occupy the region bordering the Mediterranean from the north-west to the north-east. The Atlas Mountains run down the backbone of the country, from the south west to the north east. Most of the south east portion of the country is in the Sahara Desert and as such is generally sparsely populated and unproductive economically. Most of the population lives to the north of these mountains, while to the south is the desert. To the south, lies the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that was annexed by Morocco in 1975 (see Green March). Morocco claims that the Western Sahara is part of its territory and refers to that as its Southern Provinces.

Morocco's capital city is Rabat; its largest city is its main port, Casablanca. Other cities include Agadir, Essaouira, Fes, Marrakech, Meknes, Mohammadia, Oujda, Ouarzazat, Safi, Salè, Tangier and Tétouan.

Economy

As is true in many former African colonies, the Moroccan economy remains heavily dependent on the export of raw materials. Also of growing importance to the economy are modern sectors, particularly tourism and telecommunications. Altogether, the modern portion accounts for more than two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP), even though it employs only about one-third of the country’s workforce.

Since the mid-1980s the Moroccan government has undertaken a vigorous program of privatization and economic reform, encouraged by major international lenders such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Measures have included selling state-owned enterprises, devaluing the currency, and changing pricing policies to encourage local production. In 1999 the Moroccan government set up a loan fund to stimulate growth and competition among small businesses. Morocco’s sandy beaches, sunshine, diverse environments, and rich cultural heritage give it outstanding potential for tourism, which the government has been actively developing.


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