Moroc'co, or Marocco (Arab. Maghreb-el-Aksa, ' the farthest west'), is an empire or sultanate in that part of north-west Africa bounded on the E. by Algeria, and on the S. by Cape Nun and the Wad Draa, though both here and on the Sahara side of the Atlas the limits of the empire are rather indeterminate. It contains about 314,000 sq. m., of which the ' Tell,' or fertile region west of the Atlas contains 78,000, the Steppes or flat sterile upland pastures 27,000, and the Desert or Sahara 209,000 sq. m. Politically, Morocco comprises at present the old kingdoms of Fez and Morocco and the territories of Tahlet (Tafilalet) and Sus; but the latter two are almost independent, recognising the sultan only as the Prince of True Believers, an office which he holds as the most powerful of the Shereefs or descendants of Mohammed. Many of the Arab and most of the mountain tribes are practically independent. The pop. has been variously estimated at from 2,500,000 to 13,000,000 - the actual number being perhaps between three and four millions. Morocco is, as a rule, mountainous, the Atlas (q.v.) traversing it in several chains from south-west to north-east, and by various spurs both to the coast country and to the desert. There are, however, numerous level plains, some of which are of great extent, and very rich. There are also numerous more or less level plateaus similar to those of Algeria. Most of the country has been denuded of timber. Consequently the country looks bald, with its rolling hills and monotonous plains, green in spring, brown during summer and autumn. Farther south, and on the other side of the Atlas, where long droughts, followed by famines, are common calamities, and the rainfall is at the best of times scanty and uncertain, sandy wastes are the prevailing characteristic. In western Morocco, though the soil is sometimes thin, actual desert is rare.
The central range of the Atlas forms the watershed separating the streams which flow into the Atlantic and Mediterranean from those which run southward toward the desert, where they are often lost in marshy 'sinks.' And of the streams falling into the Atlantic and Mediterranean, many are in the hot season or after long droughts little better than a succession of pools connected by threads of water, though rolling in brown floods from bank to bank during the wet season. None of them are navigable for any distance. The climate of Morocco varies much, though the western slope, being tempered by the sea-breezes and protected from the hot desert-winds by the Atlas, is temperate, the thermometer seldom falling below 40° or rising above 90o But in summer the interior valleys are very hot, and in winter snow often falls in Fez and Mequinez. Farther south extremes of heat and drought are more common, though as a rule the climate is equable, and, unless in swampy places during summer, extremely healthy. In the Sus country and the region of Tafilet rain is scarce and in places almost unknown. But farther north, and on the Atlantic and Mediterranean slopes, it falls with tolerable regularity every year between October and April, the amount being at times so great that the low lands are flooded and the rivers impassable. The Atlas is capped deep with snow in winter. Morocco is thus fitted for growing any crops of the temperate and tropical zones, and under a better government would become, as Barbary was in Roman times, the granary of Europe. Wheat and barley, were they allowed to be freely exported, would be produced in immense quantities. Maize forms the chief export of Mazagan. Various gums, oranges. figs, almonds, lemons, and dates are among the other vegetable products, with cotton, hemp, and sugar. Most European fruits grow well. The exports (maize, beans, chick-peas, olive-oil, wool, almonds, dates, fowls, eggs, hides, bones, esparto, cattle to Gibraltar, etc.) amount to near £1,600,000, and the imports (cotton goods, cloth, tea, coffee, sugar, candles, hardware, etc.) to £2,800,000, more than half being from Great Britain. The interior of the country is so little known that little can be said with certainty regarding its mineral wealth. But enough has been ascertained to enable us to assert that gold (placer and in quartz), silver, copper, tin, argentiferous galena, nickel, antimony, iron, manganese, and rock-salt abound. Coal and petroleum have been indicated. But these mineral deposits are scarcely touched, and no European is allowed even to visit the mines. The flora of Morocco is essentially European on the western side of the Atlas. The fauna partakes of a similar character, the Barbary fallow-deer, wild boar, Barbary monkey (found also in Gibraltar), a species of porcupine, and wild cat being the most characteristic mammals; the lion is now very rare in the inhabited parts of the country. The birds and fishes are those of southern Europe; of the forty species of reptiles and amphibia known, twenty-two also belong to Spain - facts pointing to a time when the Strait of Gibraltar did not divide Europe from Africa. Locusts often devastate the country. The inhabitants consist of six principal groups - Berbers or Kabyles (Tuaregs, &c), the aborigines, Arabs, Jews, a few thousand Spaniards, Moors (Arabs with an admixture of Spanish blood, living in towns, though the name is often given to all'the Mohammedan inhabitants), and Negroes.
The sultan, who is the last independent sovereign in the Barbary States, is one of the most perfect specimens of an absolute monarch existing; his so-called ministers are simply the favourites of the hour. He receives the entire revenue, believed to be about £1,800,000 per annum, and spends as little or as much of it as he pleases. Every office is directly or indirectly purchased, small salaries or none are paid, the holders recouping themselves by plunder and oppression. All justice is bought and sold. Yet, owing to the religious fanaticism of the people, and the mutual jealousies of the European powers, whose representatives reside at Tangier, the political equilibrium is preserved. Spain has a fortress at Ceuta, four convict settlements, and a fishing-station at Ifni. The Grand Shereef of Wazan, as the nearest descendant of Mohammed, governs that city and is lord paramount of a large territory. Education is at a low ebb ; the so-called 'university' of Fez is nowadays merely a seminary attached to the chief mosque for the training of religious acolytes. There are no roads except bridle-paths, and no wheeled carriages in the interior except the sultan's state coaches. The chief industry besides the rude agriculture of the Berbers and Arabs, and the breeding of horses and mules, is the making of 'morocco' leather, harness, slippers, red 'Fez' caps, cloth for native apparel, the chiselling of brass trays, the making of rough pottery and of inlaid flint-lock muskets, and the weaving of carpets (principally in Rabat). The best mechanics and the jewellers are Jews. The army, reorganised under European officers, has about 10,000 men, drilled, armed, and clothed after an approach to the European fashion, the rest being mainly undisciplined native levies. Altogether, the sultan is believed to be able to mobilise upwards of 100,000 men. Morocco is connected with Spain by telegraph, and the telephone is in use in Tangier, Casablanca, and other coast-towns. The posts also are confined to the Europeans. Morocco has three capitals or imperial residences - Fez (q.v.), Makinas or Mequinez (q.v.), and Marakesch or the City of Morocco (q.v.). Beside these the principal coast-towns are Tangier, Tetuan, Larache (El-Arish), Rabat, Sallee, Casablanca, Mazagan, Saffi, and Mogador (q.v.). But all of them are decaying, most of them in partial ruins, and without any exception filthy, undrained, and insanitary.
Part of Mauritania under the Romans, the country fell under the Vandals in 429 a.d., but was restored to the Eastern Empire in 533. In 680 the Arab invasion began, and with little intermission the Arabs have ever since been possessors of the country, and the entire population are now the most fanatical adherents of Mohammedanism. At first, with Spain, part of the califate of Bagdad, it was not a distinct but united kingdom till the beginning of the 18th century. It is still very backward, and a passive resistance is offered to every improvement; but though Christian slavery has been abolished and traders have, nominally, access to all parts, the interior is little different from what it was a thousand years ago, and many cities and districts are still dangerous or impossible to visit. The slave-trade is as brisk as ever. The unsettled condition of affairs compelled other countries interested to come to an understanding, and by the Anglo-French Convention in 1904, the right of France to promote administrative reforms in Morocco was recognised. A difficulty raised by Germany in 1905 was referred to a Conference of the Powers.
The city of Morocco (Arab. Marakesch), the southern capital of the empire, is situated between 4 and 5 miles from the left bank of the Tensift, at the northern end of an extensive and fertile plain dotted with date-palms, 1447 feet above the sea, about three and a half days' journey from Mogador and Mazagan. It is surrounded by a lime and earth wall, now dilapidated, more than five miles in circumference, between 20 and 30 feet high, flanked at regular intervals by square towers. The town is squalid and ill-built, though it bears the marks of former grandeur. A large portion of the immense space within the walls is occupied by ill-kept gardens, open areas, and market-places. In the bazaar and merchants' quarter a considerable local trade is carried on with the country-people, the mountaineers from the neighbouring Atlas, and with Sus, Tafilet, Mazagan, Saffi, and Mogador. Morocco possesses many mosques, one of which, the Kutubia, has a tower after the model of the Hassan In Rabat and the Giralda in Seville, 230 feet high. There are several tanning and leather-dyeing establishments, though of late years European goods have been gradually displacing native manufactures. The population varies according to the presence or absence of the sultan, his court, and army. In ordinary times it does not exceed 60,000, of whom from 7000 to 8000 are Jews, living in a Ghetto. No Europeans reside permanently in the city. On the south, outside the walls, stands the imperial palace, an irregular conglomeration of gardens and buildings covering about 180 acres. Morocco was founded in 1072, and reached the summit of its prosperity in the 13th century, when it is said to have had 700,000 inhabitants. Owing to its excellent situation in sight of the Atlas, from which cool streams are always flowing, its genial healthy climate, and its command of the trade-routes across the mountains, Marakesch is safe to have a great future when Morocco knows other masters than the Moors. See books by Hooker and Ball (1878), Stutfield, Thomson, Harris, Cunninghame Graham, Meakin, Bensusan (1904); and French works by Chenier, Godard, Renou, Martiniere, Montbard.