Morocco is a beautiful and fascinating country located in North Africa. With its rich culture, stunning landscapes, historic cities, and warm hospitality, Morocco has so much to offer visitors.
In this article, we will uncover 40 fun and interesting facts about Morocco that will make you want to visit this amazing country.
From its role in history and Hollywood to its amazing food and geography, read on to learn more about this incredible destination.
1. Morocco is Home to the World’s Largest Medieval City
The ancient walled city of Fes is the largest contiguous car-free urban area in the world.
Founded in the 9th century, Fes el-Bali, as the old city is known, is an intriguing web of 9,000 narrow lanes, dead-end alleys, mosques, palaces, and artisan workshops.
Losing yourself in its maze-like streets is one of Morocco’s most memorable experiences.
2. Morocco has Incredible Linguistic Diversity
Morocco’s population speaks a unique blend of languages. Most Moroccans speak Moroccan Arabic as their mother tongue. About 40% to 45% speak Berber languages like Tashelhit, Tarifit, and Tamazight.
French and Spanish are also widely spoken as a legacy of Morocco’s history as a French and Spanish protectorate.
The country’s location as a crossroads has shaped its linguistic diversity.
3. Couscous is the National Dish
Couscous is to Morocco what pasta is to Italy. This staple consists of steamed semolina sprinkled with vegetables, meat, or fish. Locals enjoy this national dish of Morocco on Friday, which is the holy day of the week in Morocco.
Some of the tastiest couscous is served in the old medina of Marrakech.
4. Morocco Was the First Country to Recognize the United States
In 1777, Morocco became the first country to formally recognize the newly independent United States. The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1786. This relationship is the United States’ oldest unbroken friendship.
The Tangier American Legation in Tangier is the first property acquired abroad by the U.S. government.
5. Morocco has Two Coastlines
Morocco is the only African country with coastlines on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Its 3,500 km of coastline has fantastic beaches as well as major ports like Casablanca and Tangier.
Surfers flock to spots like Taghazout near Agadir.
6. Morocco is a Surfing and Windsurfing Hotspot
With favorable winds blowing along its Atlantic coast for over 300 days a year, Morocco is one of the world’s top surfing and windsurfing destinations.
7. The Sahara Desert Covers a Large Part of Morocco
The Sahara Desert makes up around two-thirds of Morocco, an area larger than the whole United Kingdom.
Vast sand dunes, oasis towns, Saharan hamadas (rocky plateaus), and snow-capped peaks like Jebel Toubkal make up Morocco’s diverse desert landscapes.
Camel treks and camping under the stars are iconic Sahara experiences.
8. Morocco has the Highest Ski Resort in Africa
The Oukaimeden Ski Resort sits at an altitude of 3,250 meters in the High Atlas Mountains near Marrakech, making it the highest ski resort in Africa.
Its slopes are open from November to April and attract ski enthusiasts from across the continent.
9. Morocco has Two Capital Cities
Rabat (7th largest city in Morocco) is the administrative and official capital of Morocco where government institutions, foreign embassies, and the monarch’s palace are located.
However, the country’s largest city Casablanca is considered the economic and business capital. Casablanca is home to Morocco’s busiest port and airport.
10. Morocco is Famous for its Vibrant Markets
From the labyrinthine souks of Fes and Marrakech to the bustling fish markets of coastal cities like Essaouira, Morocco’s markets are a feast for the senses. Vendors sell fragrant spices, handmade crafts, colorful textiles, and more.
Don’t miss the famous Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakech, where you can experience street food, performers, and souvenir stalls.
11. Moroccan Architecture is Unique
Morocco’s architecture brilliantly blends Berber, Arab, Andalusian, and European influences.
Discover mudbrick kasbahs, colonial French mansions, vividly painted riads (courtyard houses), and the Hassan II Mosque’s soaring minaret, once the tallest structure in Africa.
Fes is filled with medieval wonders like the 14th-century Bou Inania Madrasa.
12. Morocco has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Morocco has nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Medina of Fes and the Ksar Ait-Ben-Haddou, an ancient fortified village. Fes is home to the world’s oldest university, the University of al-Karaouine, founded in 859 CE.
The university is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records and UNESCO as the oldest continuously operating educational institution in the world.
13. The Second Tallest Minaret in the World is Located in Morocco
At 210 meters high, the minaret of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the second tallest minaret on Earth.
Completed in 1993, this enormous mosque stands on reclaimed land jutting into the Atlantic and can accommodate over 100,000 worshippers.
Non-Muslims can take guided tours to admire the intricate artisanship.
14. Morocco is Incredibly Film-Friendly
Over the years, Morocco has hosted the filming of many Hollywood blockbusters.
Some recent major movies shot here include “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”, “Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation”, “Spectre”, “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven”.
Morocco’s diverse landscapes and historic cities provide filmmakers with amazing backdrops.
15. Morocco has Incredible Biodiversity
Although a rather dry country, Morocco harbors outstanding biodiversity due to its fertile north, two mountain chains, and varied coastal habitats.
Over 25,000 species of vascular plants grow in Morocco. Its fauna includes over 400 birds and 180 mammal species, like the iconic Barbary macaque.
As a bridge between continents, Morocco encapsulates elements from both Europe and Africa. The best place to appreciate Morocco’s ecosystems is its network of national parks.
16. Morocco is Located Close to Europe
Situated just 15 kilometers south of Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco is one of Africa’s countries closest to Europe.
In around 90 minutes, you can catch a ferry from southern Spain across the Mediterranean Sea to Morocco’s port city of Tangier. Many Europeans visit Morocco for a taste of exotic Africa on their doorstep.
17. The Official Name of Morocco is Fascinating
Morocco’s official name is the Kingdom of Morocco. Its full Arabic name is Al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyah, which translates to “The Western Kingdom”.
The name references Morocco’s position as the only North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
18. Morocco is Home to the Largest Functioning Mosque in Africa
The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the largest functioning mosque in Africa and the 7th largest in the world.
The mosque stands in part on reclaimed land over the Atlantic Ocean, a symbolic bridge between land and sea. Its intricate artistry makes it a must-visit destination in Casablanca.
19. The National Sport of Morocco is Football
Football (soccer) is by far Morocco’s most popular sport, with millions of Moroccans avidly following local clubs and the national team.
The Moroccan national football team, known as the Atlas Lions, became the first African team to reach the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup in 1986.
20. The National Food “Couscous” Takes Ample Time to Prepare
Couscous is loved across Morocco and North Africa but originally comes from the Berber people of Morocco. Locals usually prepare couscous from scratch over several hours.
First, they hand-roll semolina flour and water into tiny granules that are steamed. Then they top it with meat, vegetables, chickpeas, and spices. It’s labor-intensive but delicious!
21. The Moroccan Dirham is Tricky to Understand
Morocco’s currency is the Moroccan dirham (MAD), divided into 100 centimes. Banknotes come in 20, 50, 100, and 200 denominations.
Since 1 Moroccan dirham equals about 10 US cents, large transactions require counting stacks of bills. Many prices are still negotiated, especially at markets.
22. Tangerines Were Named After Tangier
Sweet tangerines were first grown near the Moroccan port city of Tangier in the 19th century. Exported to Europe and America, the small orange was so tasty foreigners named it after its place of origin.
Next time you eat a tangerine, thank Morocco!
23. Morocco Has Incredible Geographic Diversity
Morocco exhibits significant geographic diversity for a country of its relatively small size.
- The Kingdom of Morocco borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north, providing extensive coastline along two major bodies of water.
- To the east, Morocco shares a border with the country of Algeria, though relations between the two nations have often been strained.
- To the south, Morocco’s territory gives way to the disputed Western Sahara region, which acts as a buffer between Morocco and the countries of Mauritania and Mali where the Sahara Desert merges into the Sahel savanna.
In addition to its coastal access, Morocco is characterized by considerable topographical variation, including four mountain ranges and the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert which covers approximately 60% of its total land area.
This geographic variety gives Morocco tremendously diverse landscapes, from sandy beaches to cedar forests to snowy peaks. The High Atlas Mountains, rising to 4,167 meters, are a trekker’s paradise.
Moreover, the kingdom’s location has resulted in a culturally rich landscape shaped by indigenous, African, Arab, and European impacts.
Morocco’s mountains, deserts, and coasts appeal to adventurous travelers eager to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and cultures.
The geographical and cultural diversity found within Morocco provides much to discover for visitors interested in exploring its varied territories.
24. Morocco Has Been Inhabited Since Prehistoric Times
Archaeological evidence shows Morocco has supported human habitation since at least the Paleolithic era (Old Stone Age) 400,000+ years ago. Cave paintings at Tafoughalt provide a window into prehistoric life.
Later, the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans controlled parts of ancient Morocco.
25. Marrakech is Known as the “Red City”
Marrakech is nicknamed the Red City because most buildings within its medieval walled medina are painted red ochre. This tradition may have developed because red repels insects.
Red pigment also provides sun protection. Marrakech’s rosy ramparts and architecture make for stunning photos.
26. Morris’s Dancing has Moroccan Origins
Morris dancing, a traditional English folk dance, probably has Moorish (Moroccan) origins. English dancers copied the costumes and rhythmic stepping of Moroccan dances like the Chirigota during Morocco’s 16th-century vogue.
Morris dancing lives on as a peculiarly English pastime reborn from a craze for exotic Moorish culture.
27. Tea is the National Drink of Morocco
Morocco is one of the world’s biggest tea consumers per person. Moroccan mint tea is the national drink, made by steeping Chinese gunpowder green tea with fresh mint.
Serving mint tea is an important social custom and a show of hospitality. Tea houses fill Morocco’s medinas, while tea vendors ply the streets.
28. Morocco’s Movie Fame Goes Back to the 1920s
Morocco’s illustrious history as a movie filming destination stretches back to the 1920s and 1930s.
Old Hollywood classics shot here include “The Garden of Allah” (1936), “The Black Swan” (1942), “Othello” (1952), “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), and “Casablanca” (1942).
Morocco’s timeless landscapes and cities shone on the silver screen decades ago!
29. Morocco Created One of the World’s First Libraries
The Library of Chellah was established in the late 700s CE next to the Roman ruins of Sala Colonia.
This library amassed thousands of handwritten books and manuscripts making it one of the oldest and most significant libraries in the world, along with the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.
30. The Almoravid Dynasty Ruled an Empire
From 1040 to 1147 CE, the Berber Almoravid dynasty created a vast empire spanning Morocco and Islamic Spain.
The Almoravids founded Marrakech as their imperial capital. Under their rule, trade, urban development, and cultural advancement flourished.
The artistic legacy of their empire remains visible today in Moroccan architecture.
31. Morocco has many Endangered Species
Sadly, Morocco’s remarkable biodiversity is threatened by development, overexploitation, climate change, and desertification.
Endangered Moroccan species include the Barbary macaque, leopard, Atlas mountain cypress, Loggerhead turtle, Northern bald ibis, and over 700 plant species.
Supporting conservation efforts helps protect Morocco’s natural heritage.
32. Morocco is Home to the World’s Largest Concentrated Solar Farm
Morocco is leading Africa’s renewable energy revolution with mega solar projects like the Noor Power Station near Ouarzazate. Noor-Ouarzazate solar complex is the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant.
Morocco aims to have 52% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
33. Morocco has Incredible Cultural Festivals
From folklore to food, music to the arts, Morocco celebrates its diverse heritage through fabulous festivals.
34. The Atlas Mountains are an Adventure Sports Mecca
Morocco’s Atlas Mountains draw adventurers seeking outdoor thrills. Their snowy peaks make winter sports like skiing and snowboarding popular.
Trekking, mountain biking, rafting, canyoning, rock climbing, and paragliding opportunities also abound. Marrakech is a base for Atlas Mountain action sports.
35. Moroccan Leatherwork is World-Famous
For centuries, Moroccan leatherworkers have handcrafted gorgeous painted and embossed leather into bags, poufs, jackets, and babouche slippers.
Fez and Marrakech contain souks piled high with quality leather goods. Moroccan leather, colored using natural dyes, is prized around the world for its artistry and supple feel.
36. The Gates of Moroccan Cities are Ornate Works of Art
The grand gates set into the fortress walls of Morocco’s ancient medinas are masterpieces. Fez has the intricate 14th-century Blue Gate (Bab Bou Jeloud).
The arched Bab Agnaou entrance to Marrakech’s Kasbah is a marvel of ornate stone carving. Studded with brass spikes, the medieval Skala de la Kasbah overlooks Tangier’s port.
Morocco’s monumental gates provide picture-perfect openings to historic cities.
37. Morocco has Incredible Mosques and Madrasas
Morocco abounds with architectural wonders created during centuries of Islamic rule.
The Koutoubia Mosque’s stone minaret looms over Marrakech, while the Ben Youssef Madrasa in the same city is a forest of carved cedar columns. The medieval Al-Attarine Madrasa’s green-tiled minaret serenely overlooks Fez.
Visiting Morocco’s historic mosques and theological colleges offers insight into the nation’s Islamic heritage.
38. Morocco’s Tourism Transformation
Morocco has undergone a tourism transformation, with visitor numbers skyrocketing past 10 million annually. This industry now employs around 5% of Moroccans, making it one of the largest industries in Morocco after agriculture and mining.
Several factors fuelled this boom.
- Morocco’s proximity to Spain, just 9 miles across the Strait of Gibraltar brings waves of European visitors who find an exotic yet accessible destination.
- Politically stable governance since 1999 created a welcoming environment for tourism investment. The government actively promoted tourism, designating 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites like Volubilis to boost Morocco’s profile.
- Massive infrastructure projects upgraded airports and built new resorts and hotels.
The goal is for tourism to support more than 6% of Morocco’s GDP, an ambitious but achievable target.
39. The Heartbeat of Moroccan Culture
Moroccan culture weaves together indigenous Amazigh traditions with influences from Arabs, Africans, Andalusians, and French colonists into a vivid tapestry.
- Local etiquette requires eating with the right hand, as the left is considered unclean.
- Food is central to family life, be it aromatic tagines or sweet pastries.
- While Westerners place the heart as love’s symbol, Moroccans consider the liver as the organ of passion.
- Moroccans celebrate three New Years: the Gregorian calendar, the Amazigh Yennayer, and the Islamic Fatih Muharram.
- Moroccan music mixes African rhythms and Arab instruments like the lute in an infectious blend. From architecture to attire, Morocco’s cultural fusion fascinates visitors.
40. The Barbary Lion is the National Animal of Morocco
The Barbary lion is a subspecies of lion that originally inhabited the Atlas Mountains and other parts of North Africa. It is considered extinct in the wild, with the last reported sighting in 1942 in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains according to the IUCN Red List.
Also known as the Atlas lion, the Barbary lion was the largest lion subspecies with a thick black mane. It roamed from Egypt to Morocco.
Though extinct in the wild, the Barbary lion remains a prominent national symbol in Morocco, featured on the coat of arms and coins.
So in summary, the Barbary lion is the extinct national animal of Morocco, a source of pride and a symbol of power.
Summary For the Surprising and Fun Facts About Morocco:
- Ancient cities like Fez and Marrakech have a rich history and give Morocco incredible cultural depth
- Landscapes range from Mediterranean beaches to the tallest sand dunes on Earth
- World-class surfing, trekking, and skiing draw adventure travelers
- Moroccan markets, food, and hospitality make every visit memorable
- Centuries of indigenous traditions and foreign influences created a dynamic culture
- Conservation of ecosystems and historic sites protects Morocco’s natural and manmade treasures
With epic landscapes, welcoming people, and layers of history and culture, Morocco rewards visitors with unforgettable experiences.
Let these surprising facts about Morocco inspire you to begin planning your own Moroccan adventure with your spouse and kids!