General country information
Exotic Morocco, located on the north coast of Africa facing Spain and Gibralta, shares a border with Algeria (which is closed) and with the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Its main cities include myth-inspiring Marrakech, Casablanca, Fez, Agadir and Tangiers.
The latter means that during Ramadan, for example, all street cafes and many restaurants will be closed until early evening. Advice is given to women to dress inconspicuously and generally to avoid wearing clothes that could be regarded as provocative, such as short skirts or low necked tops.At the gateway to the Mediterranean, the country has a cultural blend of Arab, Berber, and African influences. As Morocco was a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956, there is also still a distinctive French and European influence, French being the second language.
With the Atlas mountains running from the north east of the country to the south west, most of the major towns (Marrakech excepted) are on the coastal strip to the north and west of the mountains. Casablanca is the leading port and Rabat the seat of government.
The coastal areas have a pleasant Mediterranean climate although the southern desert areas are extremely hot and dry during day but very cold at night. The mountainous regions are much cooler and experience snow in the winter months.
The population of some 33.2m is relatively young, a third being aged under 15.
Morocco has an association agreement with the EU, its main trading partner, which envisages establishment of a free trade area between the EU and Morocco by 2012. Like other Euro-Med countries, it has expressed the wish for greater co-operation with the EU.
Around 200,000 British nationals visit Morocco each year. Most visits are trouble free but the British Embassy in Morocco warns that there is a high threat from terrorism in the country. In May 2003, 45 people were killed in a series of terrorist attacks in Casablanca including some on hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners.
The attacks prompted new anti-terrorism laws, but there has been some criticism that these have eroded human rights, about which Morocco has sometimes faced other criticisms. The country is modernising and liberalising itself within its Muslim context.
British nationals do not require entry visas to visit Morocco as tourists but those who wish to extend their stay may apply to the Immigration or Bureau des Etrangers, to be found in local police headquarters in most larger towns.
Although Morocco has relatively low economic grow, its economy has been stable in recent years with low inflation (1 per cent in 2005). According to the USA State Department, employment remains overly dependent on agriculture, which is extremely vulnerable to inconsistent rainfall. While overall unemployment stands at 11 per cent, it can be as high as 33 per cent among urban youths. Some 19 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Morocco is currently promoting overseas investment in property and has five major tourist resort developments underway.
Overseas investment has helped fuel property price rises. It is said that property prices in Marrakech, for example, have tripled in the last five years.There are no restrictions on foreign nationals owning property in Morocco (other than agricultural land). The buying and selling process is akin to that in France and involves a notary who will act for both sides. There is a land registry, with registration being proof of ownership. Buying costs, including stamp duties, registration and notary fees, are approximately 5 per cent of purchase price. There are tax breaks for foreign investors and in the case of property bought with money transferred from abroad, no restrictions on repatriation of both capital and capital gains.
Area: 710,850 sq km
Principal cities: Rabat, Marrakech, Casablanca, Fez, Agadir and Tangiers
Median age of population: total: 23.9 years
male: 23.4 years
female: 24.5 years
Language: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, and French (business)
Employment rate: 89%
Flying time from UK: 2.13 hrs
Currency: 1 Dirham = 100 centimes
Time difference from UK: GMT +0
Rate of inflation: 1.0% (2013 est.)
International dialling code: +212
GDP per person: $3,054
Climate: Mediteranean, and becoming more extreme in the interior