|Early history of North Africa, or the area known
to Arabs as the Maghreb (‘sunset’), is relatively
unknown. Morocco’s history is usually lumped together
with that of the rest of its neighboring countries. Although
only fragments of evidence suggest early inhabitants in the
area, archaeologists place humans in the area 200,000 years
ago and possibly earlier.
The native people of Morocco are called Berbers, an ancient clan
whose descendants remain in the area till this day. Throughout history,
Berbers have been known to be fierce and dominating warriors, having
resisted the influx of foreign invasion. Physically, they are unlike
other natives of the Maghreb, with much lighter skin, eyes and hair
color. Although their arrival in Morocco remains a mystery, it is
thought they are of Caucasian race. Despite the area being ultimately
populated and developed by Arabs, Berbers have held on to their
culture and way of life even as their native land was dominated
by foreign invaders.
Because of its location and its proximity to western nations, Morocco
has endured centuries of such invaders. The first of these were
the Phoenicians, who set up trading posts along the entire North
African coast. Their most lucrative and powerful base has been dated
back to the 8th century B.C. at Carthage, in what is today Tunisia.
Centuries later, Carthage had become one of the richest cities of
its time, and the Carthaginians invaded the Phoenician colonies,
establishing them as part of their grand empire.
In the second-century BC, Carthage fell to the glorious Roman Empire.
Rome ruled the Mediterranean African coast for the next six hundred
years. Once the Roman Empire declined, the area was invaded first
by Vandals (c. AD 429) and later by the Byzantine Empire (c. AD
533). The Idrisid Dynasty ended Byzantine rule with its invasion
of Morocco in the 7th century AD.
By the early 8th century, the introduction of Islam had spread
throughout most of North Africa and it was during this time that
pagan and Christian inhabitants of the land converted to the new
religion. Arab invaders who introduced the religion to the people
of Morocco were not warmly received by the Berbers, and social and
religious uprisings ensued, successfully ridding the land of the
Although their rulers were deposed, Arab citizens remained in large
quantities and together with the Berbers, new and powerful dynasties
took over. The most notable of these empires were the Almoravids,
who ruled from 1062 through 1147 and the Almohads, whose reign followed
the Almoravids, from 1147 to 1258.
During the 16th century, the Spanish Reconquista saw the expulsion
of thousands of Jews and Moors from Spain. Settling in Morocco,
the Jews and Moors (and Spaniards who refused to convert to Christianity
and were thus expulsed as well) combined their varied ethnic and
cultural backgrounds. This gave way to a flourishing and prosperous
time period known as Morocco’s golden age. It was also during
this time that Spanish and Portuguese colonizing powers began to
establish their dominance in the country. In 1415, the Moroccan
post of Ceuta was captured by the Portuguese.
Spain and Portugal were not the only European powers interested
in North Africa. In 1830, France took a keen interest in neighboring
Algeria, and by the 20th century, Morocco was regarded as a French
sphere of influence. By 1904 the country was divided between France
and Spain, with France having a much larger interest in the area.
Morocco remained under foreign control until the middle of the 20th
century. In 1955, after other attempts at requesting self-governments
had failed, Morocco was finally granted independence, and Sultan
Mohammed V became Morocco’s first king.