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An Overview of Morocco

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Morocco is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea (N), the Atlantic Ocean (W), Western Sahara (S), and Algeria (S and E). It is officially known as the Kingdom of Morocco, it covers 171,834 sq miles and has an estimated population of 33,000,000. (2006)

Two cities, Ceuta and Melilla, and several small islands off the Mediterranean coast remain part of Spain; at various times Morocco has sought to gain control of these enclaves.

Most recently in the "Parsley Island War" in 2002 when a small group of Moroccan soldiers occupied an uninhabited (apart from the goats who had eaten all the parsley!) rock. The "conflict" developed into a farce that would not have embarrassed an Ealing comedy and eventually the small band of Moroccans were forced to evacuate.

Even today, about half of Morocco's workforce is employed in agriculture, which suffers from a high (more than 20%) unemployment rate. In the rainy sections of the northeast Morocco wheat and other cereals can be raised without irrigation. On the Atlantic coast, where there are extensive plains, olives, citrus fruits, and wine grapes are grown, largely with water supplied by artesian wells.

Forests yield cork, cabinet wood, and building materials. Agadir, Essaouira, El Jadida, and Larache are the important fishing harbours, where most of the inhabitants rely on fishing for their income.

Casablanca is the largest port and an important industrial centre. The significant industries include textile and leather goods manufacturing, food processing, and oil refining.

In the northern foothills of the Atlas Mountains there are large mineral deposits; phosphates are the most important, but iron ore, silver, zinc, copper, lead, manganese, gold, and coal (the only sizable coal deposits in North Africa) are also found. Marrakech, Meknès, and Fès are the most important centres in the mineral trade. A few oases in southern Morocco, notably Tafilalt, are all that relieve the desert wastes.

Morocco's coastal areas and the mineral-producing interior are linked by an expanding road and rail network, and port facilities are being further developed. Tourism is important economically, as are cash remittances from Moroccans working in France.

The main exports are phosphates, clothing, shellfish, citrus fruits, and vegetables. The chief imports are petroleum, chemicals, machinery, and plastics.

France and Spain are the leading trading partners.

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy and is governed under the 1972 constitution (revised in 1992). The king holds effective power and appoints the prime minister. The parliament consists of two houses; a 270 seat chamber of councillors and 325 seat chamber of representatives. Administratively, the country is divided into 37 provinces and two municipalities.