Morocco History

September 5, 2023

Paul Kay

If you think of Africa, do you think of Morocco? Most people don’t because it’s part of North Africa and you can see it from Gibraltar (in Europe) on a clear day. What about Morocco as a destination location? Did you know that Morocco is well known as a destination location for films? Morocco's Atlas Film Studios, located near Ouarzazate, is one of the largest film studios in the world. It has been a popular filming location for many movies and TV shows, including "Gladiator," "Game of Thrones," and "Lawrence of Arabia." 

I read the George R.R. Martin books for Game Of Thrones before the HBO series Game of Thrones was on the air. I was fascinated by the scenery, and I wondered if Morocco might have been used. What I found is that 3 locations were used. Ait Benhaddou, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site located near Ouarzazate served as the backdrop for the city of Yunkai in the show. Its distinctive mud-brick buildings and fortified walls provided a perfect setting for the fictional city. The coastal city of Essaouira was transformed into the city of Astapor in "Game of Thrones." The city's ramparts and stunning beach provided a unique backdrop for scenes featuring Daenerys Targaryen and the Unsullied.

Ouarzazate is also known as the "Gateway to the Sahara." The city is home to Atlas Film Studios and has been used for various film and TV productions. In "Game of Thrones," it served as the filming location for the city of Pentos, where Daenerys Targaryen began her journey. If the Game Of Thrones locations aren’t enough motivation, maybe UNESCO sites will intrigue you.

We love UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Morocco boasts nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the historic cities of Marrakech, Fes, and Meknes, the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis, and the stunning landscape of the Atlas Mountains. It’s time to look at Morocco’s history in preparation for your trip.

Madeline and I visited Morocco previously because we were very interested in its history. We probably first learned of Morocco with the movie Casablanca. It won three Oscars, and it is a classic.

Morocco has a long and rich history that spans several millennia, with influences from Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Berbers and more. The earliest known human settlements in the region date back to the Paleolithic era, with the discovery of rock paintings and other artifacts in the Atlas Mountains and other areas of the country.

Phoenician Fleet Morocco

In the 8th century BC, the Phoenicians established trading posts along the Moroccan coast, and in the 5th century BC, the Greeks and Romans also established settlements in the region. The Vandals, Byzantines, and Visigoths also left their mark on the area during their invasions.

The Phoenicians were an ancient civilization that existed in the eastern Mediterranean around the 15th to 5th century BCE. They were known for their seafaring and trading skills and established a network of city-states along the coast of modern-day Lebanon, Israel, Syria, and Palestine. The Phoenicians are also known for their invention of the alphabet, which was a major contribution to the development of written language. Some of the most important Phoenician city-states were Tyre and Sidon.

Idrisid Dynast Map Morocco

The Islamic conquest in the 7th century AD brought Arab and Berber tribes to the region, which greatly influenced the culture and history of Morocco. The Idrisid dynasty, named after Idris I, a great-great-grandson of Hasan ibn Ali, established itself in the 8th century and Morocco became a major center of learning and culture. The Idrisids built Fez as their capital, and it became one of the most important cities in the region.

The Idrisid dynasty was a Muslim Arab dynasty that ruled in parts of present-day Morocco from the late 8th century to the 10th century. The dynasty was founded by Idris I, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad's companion, Hassan. The Idrisids established their capital at Fez and built the Great Mosque of Fez, one of the oldest mosques in Africa. They also made significant contributions to the development of Islamic culture and learning in the region and played an important role in the spread of Islam in North Africa.

Idris I, the founder of the dynasty, was a religious and political leader who sought to unite and govern the various Arab and Berber tribes of the region. He was able to establish a stable and centralized state, and his descendants continued to expand the kingdom and promote the growth of Islamic culture and learning. They also made alliances with the Caliphate in Baghdad and the Umayyad in Cordoba.

The Idrisid dynasty came to an end in the 10th century, with the rise of the Fatimids in Egypt and the emergence of the Caliphate of Cordoba in Spain. But the legacy of the Idrisid dynasty lives on in Morocco and their contribution to the spread of Islamic culture and learning in the region.

During the 16th century, the Saadian dynasty came to power and built the city of Marrakesh as their capital. The dynasty saw a cultural and economic flourishing, during which many palaces, gardens, and monuments were built. The Saadian era was marked by the golden age of Moroccan art and architecture.

Saadian dynasty Morocco Map

The Saadian dynasty was a Moroccan dynasty that ruled in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The dynasty was founded by Muhammad ibn Abdallah, who seized control of Morocco in 1549 after defeating the last Wattasid sultan. The Saadians established their capital at Marrakech and expanded the kingdom through military campaigns and diplomatic alliances.

The Saadian sultans were known for their patronage of the arts and culture. They built many palaces, gardens and monumental buildings, such as the Bahia Palace and the El Badi Palace, which are still standing today and are tourist attractions. They also encouraged the growth of Islamic scholarship and learning and were patrons of many scholars and poets of the time.

The Saadian dynasty came to an end in 1659, when the Alaouite sultan Moulay Rashid seized control of Morocco, and ordered the execution of most of the Saadian princes and members of the royal family. The Saadian tombs were then sealed off and remained hidden for over three centuries, rediscovered only in 1917, by the French authorities. The Saadian tombs are a historic monument in Marrakech, where the remains of the Saadian sultans, their families, and their court are buried.

The Saadian dynasty was a significant period in Moroccan history, and their legacy is still visible in the many architectural and cultural achievements that they left behind.

Alaouite Dynasty Map Morocco

The Alaouite dynasty, which still rules Morocco today, took control in the 17th century under the leadership of Moulay Ali Cherif. The dynasty was able to restore stability and unity to the country, and it became a major center of trade and commerce. The Alaouites built many palaces, gardens, and fortresses, and also expanded the country's infrastructure by building roads, bridges, and ports.

In the 19th century, Morocco faced increasing pressure from European powers, particularly France and Spain. In 1912, France established a protectorate over Morocco, and Spain took control of parts of the country. The protectorate regime introduced many reforms, such as the construction of roads, schools, hospitals, and other public works. However, it also faced resistance from the local population.

King Mohammed V of Morocco

In the mid-20th century, the Moroccan nationalist movement gained momentum, and in 1956, Morocco gained its independence from France and Spain. The country's first post-independence leader, King Mohammed V, worked to modernize the country and promote economic development. He also established a constitutional monarchy and implemented a series of political and social reforms.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Morocco experienced significant economic growth and modernization, but also faced political challenges. In 1971, King Hassan II succeeded his father and ruled until 1999. During his reign, Morocco experienced a period of stability and economic growth, but also faced human rights abuses and repression of political opposition.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco

In 1999, King Mohammed VI succeeded his father and has continued to implement political and economic reforms. He has also worked to improve human rights and promote economic development and has made efforts to address social and economic inequalities. Today, Morocco is considered a relatively stable and prosperous country in the region, with a diversified economy and a growing tourism industry.

Throughout its history, Morocco has been shaped by the diverse influences of the various cultures that have inhabited the region. From the Phoenicians and Romans to the Arab and Berber cultures, to the French and Spanish colonizers, all have left their mark on the country. The result is a unique blend of art, architecture, music, and cuisine that reflects the rich heritage of Morocco.

Casablanca Movie with Ingrid Bergman Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart

In addition to its rich cultural heritage, Morocco has a long history of trade and commerce, which continues today. It is definitely some place that needs to be included on your bucket list of travel. After all, the Casablanca movie probably made it famous with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. You should watch or re-watch the movie just to relive a little history.

We enjoyed our visit to Morocco, and we want to come back. Hopefully we will see you there!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!

Get the latest Go Go 2 Slow Go updates, news and offers delivered straight to your inbox.