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The Kingdom of Morocco is in Northwest Africa, separated from Spain to the north by the Strait of Gibraltar. It has a long border with Algeria and Mauritania. Morocco has a long coastline, on the Atlantic Ocean and the Alboran Sea.

Its border with Mauritania is in the Western Sahara region, and that is a disputed territory. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Morocco proper to the north, Algeria to the northeast, and Mauritania to the east and to the south, Western Sahara is one of the least populated places in the world, as it is mostly desert flatland. Parts of the region is claimed by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic claims sovereignty over all of Western Sahara, which it refers to as the Sahrawi Republic, but is not fully recognized. SADR controls about 25% of the land that it claims, which it calls the Liberate Territories.

Politically, the unresolved conflict has continued to make headlines. Morocco threatened to expel the United Nations peacekeeping force when the UN Secretary General used the word "occupation" to refer to its presence in Western Sahara. Tensions again flared when Morocco deployed troops to its border with Mauritania, which once fought a war over Western Sahara, but has since withdrawn its claims to the region.

Although Morocco had resigned from the African Union after that body admitted the Sahrawi Republic, but has since rejoined. Morocco is also a member of the UN, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and other international and regional organizations.

The area of Morocco has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era, as early as 190,000 BC, and possibly even earlier. During the Upper Paleolithic, the region more closely resembled a savanna than a desert, as it was a fertile land.

More so than most other African lands, Morocco was drawn into the European world by the Phoenicians, who had established trading posts there early on. Later, Morocco became part of the ancient Carthage civilization.

The Muslims took control of the region in the mid-1600s, bringing Islam, Arabic culture, and the Arabic language to Morocco. The later Berber dynasties adopted Islam, and was followed to a succession of Arab dynasties.

Morocco was the first nation to recognize the independence of the United States in 1777, placing American merchant ships under the protection of Morocco.

During the 1800s, portions of Morocco were made protectorates of France and Spain, after which thousands of French colonists entered the country, buying up agricultural land, starting mining operations, and exploiting the harbors. To protect the interests of French businessmen, France was pressured to exert more control.

The French decision to exile the Sultan to Madagascar in 1953 sparked violent opposition against French and Spanish civilians and military. In March of 1956, France ended its protectorate, and Spain ceded all but its two Mediterranean coastal posts, Ceuta and Melilla, to the new state. The previously exiled Sultan became king in 1957. After the death of King Mohammed V, Hassan II was made King of Morocco in 1961 and suspended the parliament in 1965. An attempted coup failed in 1971.

In 1973, a movement began to establish an independent state in the Spanish Sahara (Western Sahara), so the King of Morocco called for volunteers to move to the Sahara. Spain agreed to leave the Spanish Sahara, and to transfer the northern portion to Morocco, and the southern portion to Mauritania, despite threats from Algeria.

Moroccan and Algerian troops went to war in Western Sahara, and the region was divided between Morocco and Mauritania in 1976, with Morocco taking two-thirds of the region. With a change of administration in Mauritania and pressure from independence forces, Mauritania ceded its claim in 1979, after which Morocco moved to occupy the entire region. Algeria's border with Morocco has been closed since 1994.

A significant part of Morocco is mountainous, including the Atlas Mountains in the central and southern part of the country, and the Rif Mountains in the north. Most of the southern part of Morocco, including the Western Sahara, is in the Sahara Desert, and lightly populated. Most of the country's population is north of the mountains and along the coast.

Morocco's climate can be compared to that of California, with green forests in the north and central mountain ranges, becoming drier further south, with inland deserts. Temperatures in the coastal plains of Morocco are moderate even in summer. Unlike the southern Sahara region, the coastal plains are fertile agricultural areas. Only about five percent of the land in Morocco is used for agricultural purposes, however.

Most of the people in Morocco are Muslim with all other religions accounting for less than one percent of the population, largely Christians and Jews.



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