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Morocco: Geography
Country Study > Geography

GEOGRAPHY


Location: Morocco is located in the northwestern corner of Africa across the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain.

Size: Morocco has an area of 446,300 square kilometers, not including 250 square kilometers of coastal waters, which makes it slightly larger than California. Western Sahara, claimed by Morocco, has an area of about 266,000 square kilometers.

Land Boundaries: Morocco’s land boundaries measure 2,017.9 kilometers, including a 1,559-kilometer border with Algeria and a 443-kilometer border with Western Sahara. Morocco also shares a border with Spain around that nation’s two African enclaves at Ceuta (6.3 kilometers) and Melilla (9.6 kilometers).

Disputed Territory: Morocco does not recognize Spain’s claim to several Spanish enclaves on the Mediterranean coast of Africa, principally Ceuta and Melilla. Morocco claims Western Sahara and, since 1979, has administered the territory as its own, although the International Court of Justice ruled in 1975 that Morocco has no legitimate claim to Western Sahara. A cease-fire between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front independence movement in Western Sahara has been in effect since September 1991, but the United Nations-sponsored referendum on self-determination has never been held, and periodic negotiations designed to resolve the status of Western Sahara have failed.

Length of Coastline: Morocco’s coastline along the Northern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea measures 1,835 kilometers.

Maritime Claims: Morocco claims a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles, a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles, and an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles, as well as a continental shelf to a depth of 200 meters or to the depth of exploitation.

Topography: Four rugged mountain chains dominate Morocco’s topography and divide the country into three geographic regions: the mountainous interior, including plateaus and fertile valleys; the Atlantic coastal lowlands; and the semiarid and arid area of eastern and southern Morocco where the mountains descend gradually into the Sahara Desert. In the north, the Rif mountain range runs parallel to the Mediterranean. South of the Rif range, a series of three Atlas Mountain ranges somewhat overlap one another as they slant across the country on a generally northeast-southwest axis. The most northerly of the three, the Middle Atlas range, is separated from the Rif by only a narrow corridor. The lofty High Atlas range is situated immediately to the south of the Middle Atlas range and is parallel to it. Farther south and to the west lies the Anti-Atlas range.

Principal Rivers: Morocco has the most extensive river system in North Africa. Its two most important rivers are the Moulouya, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea, and the Sebou, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

Climate: The Rif and Atlas mountain ranges divide Morocco into two climatic zones: one that receives the westerly winds from the Atlantic and one that is influenced by the proximity of the Sahara Desert. Western and northern Morocco have a Mediterranean (subtropical) climate, with mild winters and hot, dry summers. On the Atlantic Coast, the mean temperature is 16.4º C to 23º C. By contrast, the climate is more extreme in the interior, where it is subject to wide seasonal variation, with temperatures ranging from 10º C to 27º C. The pre-Saharan south has a semiarid climate. Rainfall varies from moderate in the northwest to scanty in the south and east. The rainy seasons are April–May and October–November. Only the mountains receive rain in the summer. Because of its inconsistent rainfall, Morocco is subject to periodic droughts, which take a considerable toll on agriculture.

Natural Resources: Morocco’s store of natural resources is relatively modest, with one notable exception. Morocco is home to two-thirds of the world’s reserves of phosphates, which are used to produce fertilizers. Other resources include copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, salt, silver, and zinc.

Land Use: In 2005 Morocco’s land use was distributed as follows: arable land, 19 percent; permanent crops, 2 percent; and other, 79 percent.

Environmental Factors: The Moroccan Ministry of Territorial Development, Water, and Environment is responsible for environmental protection. In July 2003, the ministry announced an action program to improve Morocco’s environment. The most serious environmental challenge is water quality. A 2003 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ranked Morocco in next-to-last place among 122 countries in water quality. Morocco’s poor standing was attributable to erosion, salinization, and urbanization. Land degradation and desertification as well as oil pollution of coastal waters also are problems. In June 2004, the United States and Morocco signed an agreement to cooperate on environmental protection.

Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time.




Last Updated: May 2006


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Morocco was first published in 2006. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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