U.S. Africa Command is responsible for military relations with 54 African countries across the continent. Morocco is one of the northernmost, located in West Africa, bordered on one side by the North Atlantic Ocean and by Algeria on the other. This month Morocco is host to African Lion, a Marine Forces Africa partnership exercise that focuses on air and land combat.
Population: About 32.3 million people live in Morocco. Of 238 countries listed in the CIA Factbook, Morocco ranks 38th in size.
Languages: Arabic is the official language, but French is also widely spoken, especially in government and business. The indigenous Berber dialects are also spoken.
Religion: Predominantly Islam.
Politics: Hereditary monarchy with a prime minister chosen from the largest party in parliament. In the wake of the Arab Spring last year and protests in his country, King Mohammed VI agreed to some constitutional reforms.
Geography: Morocco covers about 446,000 square kilometers and is slightly larger than the size of California. The northern coast is mountainous and prone to earthquakes.
Strategic importance: The country sits on the Strait of Gibraltar, an important trade route that allows ships to pass from the Mediterranean Sea directly to the Atlantic Ocean. At its narrowest point, the strait separates Europe and Africa by just 8 miles.
Border controversy: Morocco claimed sovereignty over the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, to the south, in 1979, prompting a guerrilla war that ended in a 1991 UN-brokered ceasefire. A referendum was promised to decide Western Sahara’s fate but so far has not happened.
U.S. Partnerships: African Lion, currently taking place in Morocco, is the largest bilateral exercise on the continent.
You might know it because: Morocco is home to the city of Casablanca, made famous in America by the iconic 1942 film named after it. The movie was not actually filmed in Morocco, but on studio sets in California.
(To learn more about Africa, watch for our occasional “Africa Snapshot” series. Our previous snapshot featured Benin, a small country on the Gulf of Guinea.)