Overview of Morocco History

By | May 31, 2021

Independence Day: March 2, 1956

Head of state: King Mohammed VI (since 1999)

Head of government: Saadeddine Al Othmani

Political system: Constitutional hereditary monarchy

Democracy Status Index (BTI): Rank 104 of 137 (2020)

Corruption Index (CPI): Rank 80 of 180 (2019)

Ibrahim Index of African Governance: Rank 15 of 54 (2018)

Special features of the country’s history

According to commit4fitness, Morocco is the only country in the Maghreb that has had continuous political rule over several centuries. The Alawids have been in power for over 350 years. Morocco’s Alawids (writing varies: also Alawites, Alaouites) are not to be confused with the Alawites / Nusayri in Syria, a Gnostic sect that emerged from Shi’aism. The Alawids in Morocco are descendants of Arab immigrants from the Tafilalet.

The respective rulers of Morocco (including the Alawid dynasty) based their power not only on alliances in North Africa. In the course of their eventful history, they repeatedly entered into alliances with European actors and major powers in order to secure their power.

Another special feature in a regional comparison is that Morocco – unlike Algeria and Tunisia – was never occupied or ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Troops under Ottoman command undertook in 15./16. In the 19th century, several campaigns and attacks on Moroccan cities and caused considerable damage in Fez, among others. But they did not succeed in subjugating Morocco.

Excursus: The Alawids

The Alawid dynasty has ruled Morocco for over 350 years – currently with King Mohammed VI. (since 1999) as the 33rd ruler. The Alawids trace their origins back to immigrants from the city of Yanbu on the Arabian Peninsula. They are considered “Sherif” – in the Islamic tradition these are personalities who are particularly close to the Prophet Muhammad in terms of family or otherwise and who share in his “baraka”, his blessing. The Alavids are said to have come to Tafilalet in Sijilmassa in the 13th century. They were called Alavids because they traced their family tree to Ali Ibn Abu Talib, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.

Moulay Rachid, Morocco’s first Alawid sultan, ruled for only six years. His successor Sultan Moulay Ismail ruled a total of 55 years (1672 to 1727) and is seen today as a founder of the modern Moroccan state. Moulay Ismail led numerous campaigns: against the Ottomans, the Portuguese, the Spaniards and against renegade Berber tribes. He founded the royal city of Meknes and he consolidated the central rule of the so-called ” Makhzen “After his death, the country sank into power struggles and small wars for over three decades. The situation did not stabilize until 1757, but the end of the 18th and 19th centuries were characterized by constant wars between the tribes (Siba) and who were keen on autonomy of the Alawid dynasty (Makhzen). In order to obtain the necessary financial resources, Morocco’s Alawid sultans increasingly relied on alliances with the European colonial powers and, early on, with the USA. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an increasing strategic alliance between the monarchy and the nationalists, visible in the alliance between the Istiqlal party and Mohammed V (sultan from 1927 to 1957, king from 1957 to 1961).

Morocco History

Media and freedom of expression

The Moroccan constitution theoretically guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of expression. In fact, freedom of expression and media freedom in Morocco is severely restricted, both by the relevant laws and by censorship, concrete police violence, closures of media and NGOs as well as a bundle of tried and tested methods of manipulation, such as spreading false information, sowing rumors, paid claqueurs. This has been especially true since the unrest began in the northern Rif region since the end of 2016. Critical reports about the religion, Western Sahara, the military and above all about the king himself are prohibited. Journalists who fail to comply, like the prominent Ali Anouzla, face imprisonment and heavy fines. Several magazines and newspapers had to be closed in recent years because the reporting was too critical to the royal family or high-ranking military and intelligence officials. In the press freedom ranking of the human rights organization Reporters Without Borders, Morocco ranked 135th out of 180 countries in 2019 (descending ranking).

The Media Ownership Monitoring portal makes it clear: In the audiovisual sector in particular, the most important Moroccan media are still controlled by the state or state institutions. The royal holding SNI also plays an important role, including for the popular 2M television channel.

Some Moroccan daily newspapers are party organs (L’Opinion, Liberation, Tajdid). Others act as state / palace announcement organs, such as Le Matin du Sahara – although this newspaper is no longer financially in Moroccan hands. In general, the share of print media is falling sharply. The OJD Maroc portal provided information about the circulation and reach of the Moroccan press until 2017. The OJD’s website can still be accessed, but no current annual report is available after 2017. Most media appear in Arabic and French, media in Tamazight are the exception so far.


  • Hespress
  • Le desk

State news agency

Maghreb Arabe press

Daily press (selection)

  • Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb
  • L’Economiste
  • Aujourd’hui Le Maroc

Weekly press (selection)

  • Telquel
  • LesEco
  • La Vie Economique
  • L’interm√©diaire Casablanca


  • SNRT (state) Societ√© Nationale de Radiodiffusion
  • Medi 1 (Tangier, Moroccan-French) – one of the most popular radio stations in Morocco
  • Radio France Internationale (RFI, local on FM)
  • Radio SAWA (US State Department)


  • SNRT
  • 2M
  • AlAoula