How Morocco came to have its name

Nii Ntreh Nov 6, 2020 at 04:30pm

November 06, 2020 at 04:30 pm | Uncategorized

Nii Ntreh

Nii Ntreh | Associate Editor

November 06, 2020 at 04:30 pm | Uncategorized

Chefchaouen in Morocco is a popular tourist destination. Photo: Trimm Travels

Morocco lies on the northern frontier of the African continent and the country is separated from Europe, specifically Spain, by a little more than 600 miles of Mediterranean water and rocks.

The Mabhrebian nation is one of the richest countries in Africa. Retail, manufacturing, finance and tourism happen to be Morocco’s key areas of wealth generation with the country boasting of some of the most famous holiday destinations in the world. But modern Morocco is a project that has taken over half a millennium.

The area we now call Morocco has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age. However, it was at the time of the Carthaginians in about 8th century BC that Morocco, then a province of the Berber kingdom of Mauretania, was recognized distinctly as a nation of Berber tribes.

Mauretania was an economic and political subordinate of Rome but it united most of the Berber peoples of North Africa. This was convenient for the Roman empire since violent opposition was curtailed by the strength of Mauretania. However, in about the 3rd century CE, Mauretania was overcome by Berber revolt.

Byzantine, the eastern Roman empire, re-asserted control over Mauretania in the mid 5th century CE but a weakening empire meant that vassal states could not be held together for long. By the 7th century CE, Mauretania fell to Arabs from the modern-day Gulf states who invaded North Africa.

The north of Africa was Islamized and with that came a different culture than the Christianity and local faiths the people had known. As well as their identities, North Africans were speaking Arabic by the Middle Ages.

Those were not the only changes the Arabization of North Africa brought. The Arab conquerors were effectively responsible for the geographic segmentation of the region which incidentally created nations out of the autochthonous peoples and Arabs who called the area home.

Al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyyah or, Kingdom of the West, was what the Arabs called the area that is now Morocco. Sometimes, they called it Al-Maghrib al-Aqṣá, meaning the The Farthest West, pointing to how far Morocco lies from Arabia.

But the word Morocco itself is thought to proceed from Marrakesh, incidentally a famous city in the modern country and formerly the capital of the Almoravid dynasty that ruled this part of the Maghreb. Marrakesh’s etymology is disputed but some researchers say it comes from two Berber words, amur and kush, which translate loosely as Land of God.

Indeed, English speakers came to say “Morocco” as a result of what the Spaniards called Marrakesh, Marruecos, from around the Middle Ages.

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