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Brief History of Morocco


More than 6000 years ago:

Berbers are the main inhabitants of North Africa. They have small kingdoms all over the region expanding from the Atlantic Ocean to Egypt. There are many theories explaining why they ended up in this region and which son of Noah they are from, but most of the theories agree that they came a long time ago either from Sham (what is now Lebanon, Syria and Palestine) or Yemen.



1200 - 500 years BC: Phoeniciens and Romans

Phoeniciens from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea start a trading route and build few coastal cities. Some of them on the Mediterraneen and some on the Atlantic coast such as Sale, north of Rabat. Later, 5 centuries BC or so, the Romans start arriving to the northern coasts of Africa and build few trade centers. Their main capital was in Carthage, north of current Tunis, but they also succeeded in conquering few key areas. Their center in Morocco was in Volubilis (Walili in Arabic), few miles from what is now Fes.

Volubilis, Morocco


680 AD: First encounter with Arabs and Islam

When the Arab Muslims were controlling Egypt since 640, the Romans and Franj (other westerners) were controlling the main cities in Almaghreb (North Africa, from Morocco to what is Libya now) while the Berbers were having their own local leaders in different small provinces or kingdoms. At this time, Constant II (Jarjir Alfaranji) was ruling most of the area between Tangier and Tripoli in Libya. And, when the Arabs tried to expand their new religion in this part of the world, they first found a fierce resistance from both the Franj/Roman rulers and the Berbers. However, the Arabs under the leadership of Ibn Abi Sarh were stronger and they prevailed after a year or so. Fearing the worst, the Berbers and Franj allies decided to give up and made a peace treaty with the Arabs, and paid to them 30 tonnes of gold. But the King of Rome, was not happy to hear about this, and he sent his troops to extract the same amount of money from the Berbers. And when they refused, he started fighting with them and almost killed their new king Gennadius, who flew to Damascus, where he asked for help from the new Muslim Khalife, Mouawiya ibn Abi Sufiane. Mouawiya was eager to help, and he sent the Berbers a large army which fought the Romans and expulsed them from Binzert, Afriquia (Tunisia) and even Sicilia!

There were more and more Arabs in Almaghreb, and their new leader Uqba Ibnu Nafia could not trust the Berbers and Franj, and he built a new city Alqairawan, far from the vulnerable Mediterranean sea in 670. The next Arab leader was Ibn Abi Mouhajir, who unlike Uqba, befriended the Berbers especially one of their powerful kings Kusaila Alawrabi. He introduced Islam to many tribes and was the first Arab to control the middle Maghreb (what is now Algeria) and he was avoiding using armies and believed that Berbers were newborn Muslims who needed education. But when Mouawiya died, Uqba came back as the leader and he expanded his control over all the Maghrib until he reached the Atlantic Ocean. In the process, he fought several times with Berber tribes (either Christian or Majous, fire-worshipping). And although Kusaila and a lot of Berbers were fighting with him, he was not showing a lot of appreciation and trust, and his relationship with kusaila was worsening. Abu Mouhajir, who was in jail, warned him, but he could not predict what would happen next: returning after a long fight in Morocco to Alqairawan, Kusaila and his followers killed all 300 of the Arabs including Uqba and Abu Mouhajir who fought along Uqba.Then, Kusaila attacked Alqairawan and killed all the Arabs who remained there and became the ultimate leader for 5 years or so. All this happened after Damascus was shaken by the death of Yazid. But when a new strong Khalife, Abdoulmalik Ibn Marwane, had enough troops to spare, he sent a new army to Almaghreb under the leadership of Zuheir Ibn Qais who took control of Alqairawan, killed Kusaila, and chased the Berber troops until they reached Oued Malwiya, eastern Morocco.

In 711, Moussa Ibnou Noussair, the new ruler of Almaghreb, ordered his lieutenant, Tarik Ibn Ziyad to cross the sea to Andalusia, southern Iberia to spread the word of Islam. Tarik crossed from a mountain, Jebel Tarik which became later Gibraltar, and had a big success in his fights against the kings of Spain. Moussa joined later and was so successful that he was hoping to reach Damascus from the west via Roma and Constantine, a dream that scared to death the Khalife in Damascus who ordered him to stop immediately his actions and go home, meaning Alqairawane.

In the years that followed, the Berbers were affected by the ideological fights in the East such as between Shi'a and Sunna and Khawarij, a zealous extremist group which was interpreting Quran literally and succeeded in killing Ali, the nephew of the prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him. Most of the Berber leaders were either Safriya or Ibadiya, two (moderate) factions of Khawarij, which among other beliefs, did not require the Sultan to be Arab. And soon, there were many small independent kingdoms all over the place. The most important kingdom was the kingdom of Midrar who built their new capital, Sijlimassa, in southern Morocco.




Idriss one of the grand childs of the prophet arrive to Morocco, escaping prosecution by new rulers in the Arab world. He is rapidly proclamed king of Morocco by the berbers. He marries with a berber woman who gave birth to his son, Idriss II. Originally established in Volubilis, Idriss built the city of Fes in 788 which became the center of the new kingdom. 



After few centuries of Adarissa (sons of Idriss), the kingdom was becoming uncontrollable. Almoravides started a reform movement from the Sahara desert (an island in the middle of the Niger river) . Yousuf ben Tashfine, their most imminent leader, unified the country in a very short time and gave pride to the citizens of Morocco. The borders of his country were from North Andalusia to the Senegal river in the south.

Yousuf also built Marrakesh in 1056.



Rabat was built by Almowahhidines (Almohades) in 1130


Al Alawiyines started their movement from the southern part of Morocco (Tafilalt). They quickly unified the country. Moulay Ismael later built Meknes in 1666 and made his capital..

  French and Spanish rule

In 1912, France colonizes Morocco under what it calls a "protection treaty". The strategy of France was to indebt the country, start controlling the ports and key trade areas before taking over the whole country. At the same time, Spain took control of the North part of the country which it added to the southern part (Sahara) which it was controlling earlier.

General Lyautey established his headquarters in Casablanca.



Independence (1956)

After a nearly half century of civilian disobedience as well as armed defense, Moroccans could kick out the French and Spain from the country, at least officially.

Last updated in 2006/07/27