History in Morocco

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Merinides / Fez

Merinides / Fez


Before Oqba bin Nafi brought Islam to Morocco in 680 AD. the Berber population had seen their fair share of invadors: Romans, Byzantines and Vandals. But this time things were different. Both the Arab conquerors and their new faith took firmly root in all of North Africa. From Morocco, the Arab conquest continued: fifty years later, the army of Islam, strengthened by new Berber converts was half way in France, having taken hold of almost all of Spain.

However, it did take some time before Morocco was an established part of the Islamic Empire. In many remote parts of the country, Berber tribes were either still not converted or had made their own religious mix of old habits and new influences. An important step towards mainstream Islam was set by the Idrissids. Moulay Idriss, a refugee from the family of the Prophet Mohammad, set up a court near the still existing Roman town of Volubilis. His son Moulay Idriss II founded Fes and a dynasty: The Idrissids. It was to control most of Morocco for the coming centuries.

When the Almoravids, the zealous defenders of the faith, came from the Mauritanian desert, the Idrissian empire had crumbled into warring principalities. In 1054 Youssef bin Tachfin led his warriors to Ghana in a holy war. Having conquered Ghana, he turned North and in 1062 set foot in Marrakech. It didn't take them much longer to subdue the whole of Morocco and a big part of Spain.

As fast as the Almoravides took control of North-Africa, they lost it. In 1145, a new group of Berber puritans led their troops down from the Atlas mountians into the fertile valley of Marrakech: The Almohads. Led by Ibn Toumert, they attacked Almoravides for being subject to Andalucian corruptions. The Almohads were extremely succesful. The third Sultan Yaqoub el Mansour had conquered all of North-Africa and hab given the Christians a beating in Spain by the time of 1195.

Almohad rule ended during the first half of the 13-th century. Other dynasties followed: Merinids, the great builders of Fes and Marrakech, the Wattasids, their Viziers, and the Saadians, who did their best to fire the Christians from Morocco. But none of them had the power and the success of the earlier ones. Morocco became a bit of a backwater under their rule. In these years of relative weakness and isolation, Moroccan society and culture did find its shape, e.g. the institution of the Makhzen (the governing power) was firmly established.

In 1665 the Alouites, the shereefs from the Tafilelt Oasis, came to power. Their dynasty proved, in some ways, to be the most successful. Morocco had a last touch of Imperial Grandeur under Moulay Ismail, the Louis XIV of Morocco. The rule of his heirs extends to our present day with King Mohamed VI.

During the long reign of the Alaouits, the French colonization made a 50 year interception. In 1912, the Moroccan Sultan Moualy Hafid was forced to sign a treaty by which he placed the throne under the protectorate of the French. In the following fifty years, Morocco was modernized quickly by the French and all of the land was brought under central control, something that had been quite rare in the prededing centuries. The end of French rule in Morocco was hastened by the brave conduct of Mohamed V. He formed the head of the resistance and thus not only got his countries' independence but also made sure his dynasty could continue.

His son Hassan II took control after his death in 1961. He has tried to combine the roles of the progressive head of the state, the traditional ruler and the religious leader in his person. To some extent, he has succeeded well. Morocco did go through some rough times in the seventies, but is back on its feet again. Political change, a bigger focus on human rights and economic growth make the Moroccan model stand out in both Africa and the Arab world.

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