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The first American official contacts with Morocco began in 1777, when the Sultan of Morocco accorded recognition to the maritime commerce of the fledgling United States. Thus, Morocco became the first nation to recognize the U.S. as an independent nation. Marrakech (also spelled Marrakesh) dates back to 1062 when, as the encampment of Yusef ibn-Tashfin, it marked the founding of the African capital of the Almoravides dynasty. The city was captured in 1147 by the Almohades, a Berber Muslim sect who ruled Spain and Morocco in the 12th and 13th centuries. Marrakech was the capital of Morocco until 1259, and again from 1550 until 1660. It was founded as a modern European town in 1913. The city still evokes thoughts of mystery and espionage, and of desert caravans (it was, in fact, once a starting point for slave caravans to the Sahara and Timbuktu). It draws thousands of tourists who are fascinated by the fabulous 12th-century gardens and beautiful marble palaces, and, mostly, by the minaret which has dominated the landscape since its completion in 1190. Fez (also spelled Fès) is the oldest city in Morocco. It was founded early in the ninth century by the Muslim ruler, Idriss II, and is still a religious and cultural center. It is, as one of the most sacred places in the country, a city of ornate mosques and ancient tombs. The Qarawiyin University of Fez is the oldest university in the world and houses a library containing one of the finest collections anywhere of Islamic manuscripts. The ninth-century Karaouyine Mosque is the oldest institute of higher learning in the world. Morocco’s rich cultural and artistic history combines both Moorish and Berber influences, visible in Moroccan music, dance, art, architecture, and literature. Africa’s closest approach to Europe, Morocco lies some 20 miles away across the Strait of Gibraltar. Twice, it was the stage for invasions of Europe-the Moorish assault on Spain in the eighth century and the Allied assault on the continent in World War II. encyclopedia.com Morocco (kingdom) | Encyclopedia.com MOROCCO Kingdom of Morocco Major Cities: Rabat [1], Casablanca, Tangier, Marrakech [2], Fez [3], Meknès, Oujda Other Cities: Agadir [4], Ceuta, El Jadida [5], Kenitra, Safi, Tétouan EDITOR’S NOTE This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Morocco.

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