In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.
Morocco is in North Africa which geographically and politically is included in the United Nations definition of the area comprising seven countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. It is the twenty-fourth largest country in Africa out of fifty-four and is one of the most developed with the sixth largest economy of the continent (after Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, and Angola).
Of all the countries in Africa it is the closest to Europe and technically Britain because it is just twenty miles or so from the Overseas Territory of Gibraltar and along with France and Spain it is one of only three countries with both a Mediterranean and an Atlantic coast line.
Morocco is placed one hundred and twenty-sixth in the Human Development Index which isn’t especially good and means that it is categorised as having only medium human development in an index that ranks countries by data composed from life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income. It is sixty-sixth in the OECD Better Life Index and forty-second in the Happy Planet Index which is one place behind the United Kingdom but way ahead of the United States which is as low down as one hundred and fifth.
I wonder however if they consulted absolutely everyone. There is an awful lot of poverty in Morocco and with no welfare state payments or safety net there a lot of street beggars. Even for those in work it is not so wonderful and Morocco is in the top three countries in the World where workers are dissatisfied with their jobs, the other two are Nigeria and Japan. Japan?
Morocco has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites but the chances of visiting more than one or two in a single visit is very remote because they are spread evenly right across the country. This time we were visiting the Atlantic port of Essaouira which is included in the list. Previously we had visited three others at Marrakech, Fez and Meknes.
The country has one thousand eight hundred kilometres of coastline and twenty-three Blue Flag Beaches.
Essaouira is only one of five place names in the World that contain all five vowels in just one single un-hyphenated name. The others are Donaueschingen in Germany, Dogubeyazit in Turkey, Berrouaghia in Algeria, Alexandroupoli in Greece and Mediouna which is also in Morocco. So, with two Morocco is the clear winner in place names with all five vowels in the name.
Football is the national sport and the national team have appeared four times at the FIFA World Cup finals and fifteen times at the Africa Cup of Nations where they were winners in 1976.
I have been to Morocco before. The first time was in 1989 when I went not to Africa but to the USA and visited World Disney World!
Of all the countries at the EPCOT World Showcase the Morocco Pavilion was the only one in which the country’s government aided in the construction and they did this so that they could retain some measure of Islamist control over the design of the mosaics and to ensure that everything was as authentic as possible in the representation of the Muslim faith.
The Disney Web Site introduces Morocco like this: “A realistic Koutoubia Minaret leads the way into this faraway land of traditional belly dancers, intricate Moroccan architecture and swirling mosaics made by native craftsmen. The Morocco Pavilion has two fascinating sections: the Ville Nouvelle (new city) and the Medina (old city). Discover a bustling plaza with a variety of shops and be on the lookout for some familiar Arabian Disney friends throughout the day.”
Well, one thing that I can confirm is that they have certainly got the shopping bit completely right because Disneyland and the Souks of Morocco certainly have a lot in common when it comes to trying to part visitors from their money as I found out when taking a guided tour of the Fez souk.