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History of Morocco

Arab Sharifian Dynasties

The first Sharifian dynasty (1554-1660), the Saadians, provided a revival for Morocco. Sharifs are rulers who claimed descent from the prophet Muhammad. The reign (1579-1603) of Ahmed I al-Mansur is regarded as the golden age of Morocco. The country benefited enormously from the influx of nearly a million Moors and Jews who were expelled from Spain after 1492. The country was unified and relatively prosperous, with flourishing arts and architecture. Al-Mansur became master of the gold route from West Africa and encouraged the cultivation of sugarcane. Morocco became one of the chief suppliers of sugar to England and other parts of western Europe.

In 1666, the Saadians were succeeded by the second Sharifian dynasty, the Alaouites, who remain on the Moroccan throne to this day. The Alaouites succeeded in stabilizing their position and, while the kingdom was smaller than previous ones in the region, it remained quite wealthy. The Alaouites also managed to acquire territory in their region over the course of several centuries: they annexed Tangier in 1684; they reconquered El Jadida from Portugal in 1769; and in 1895 they bought Cape Juby from the British Empire.

Despite the weakness of its authority, the Alaouite dynasty distinguished itself in the 18th and 19th centuries by maintaining Morocco’s independence while other states in the region succumbed to Turkish, French or British domination. However, in the latter part of the 19th century, Morocco’s weakness and instability invited European intervention to protect threatened investments and to demand economic concessions. The first years of the 20th century witnessed a rush of diplomatic manoeuvring through which the European powers, and France in particular, furthered their interests in North Africa. Disputes over Moroccan sovereignty were links in the chain of events that led to World War I.

   
Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh (late 16th Century)                       Moulay Ismaïl Mausaleum in Meknes            

 

History: Berber Dynasties   History: European Influence

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