full Arabic name of the country, Al-Mamlaka al-Maghribiya
translates to the Western Kingdom. Al Maghrib (meaning the
west) is commonly used. The name “Morocco” in
many other languages originates from the name of the former
capital, Marrakech. The Berber/Amazigh word Murakush means
Land of God.
The constitutional monarchy known as Morocco
has a long coastline on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches
past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea.
It borders Algeria to the east, the Mediterranean Sea and
a relatively thin water border with Spain to the north,
and the Atlantic Ocean to its west. There are also two Spanish
exclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, bordering Morocco to the north.
The border to the south is disputed; Morocco claims ownership
of Western Sahara and has administered most of the disputed
territory since 1975.
788, about a century after the Arab conquest of North Africa,
successive Moorish dynasties began to rule in Morocco. In
the 16th century, the Sa’adi monarchy repelled foreign
invaders and inaugurated a golden age. In 1860, Spain occupied
northern Morocco and ushered in a half century of trade
rivalry among European powers that saw Morocco’s sovereignty
steadily erode; in 1912, the French imposed a protectorate
over the country. A protracted struggle for independence
with France ended successfully in 1956. The internationalized
city of Tangier and most Spanish possessions were turned
over to the new country that same year.
northern coast and interior are mountainous with large areas
of bordering plateaus, intermontane (basins lying between
two mountain ranges) valleys and rich coastal plains. The
Atlas Mountains extend about 1,500 miles through Morocco,
Algeria, and Tunisia, including The Rock of Gibraltar. The
highest peak has an elevation of 13,665 ft.. The Atlas ranges
separate the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from
the Sahara Desert. The population of the Atlas Mountains
is mainly Berber in Morocco and Arab in Algeria.
first phase of three emergences of the formation of the
Anti-Atlas Range was formed in the Paleozoic Era as the
result of continental collisions. North America, Europe
and Africa were connected millions of years ago. The Anti-Atlas
mountains are believed to have originally been formed as
part of Alleghenian orogeny (the folding, faulting and uplift
of the earth’s crust, often accompanied by volcanic
and seismic activity), when Africa and America collided,
and were once a chain rivaling today’s Himalayas.
Today, the remains of this chain can be seen in the Fall
line in the eastern United States. Some remnants can also
be found in the later formed Appalachians in North America.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain were similarly formed
in this continental collision.
Satellite Image of Atlas Mountains
second phase took place during the Mesozoic Era and consisted
of a widespread extension of the Earth’s crust that
rifted and separated the continents mentioned above. This
extension was responsible for the formation of many thick
intracontinental sedimentary basins including the present
Atlas. Most of the rocks forming the surface of the present
High Atlas were deposited under the ocean at that time.
in the Tertiary Era (about 65 millions to 1.8 million years
ago), the mountain chains that today comprise the Atlas
were uplifted as the land masses of Europe and Africa collided
at the southern end of the Iberian peninsula. Such convergent
tectonic boundaries occur where two plates slide towards
each other, forming a subduction zone (if one plate moves
underneath the other) and/or a continental collision (when
the two plates contain continental crust).
case of the Africa-Europe collision, it is clear that tectonic
convergence is partially responsible for the formation of
the High Atlas, as well as for the closure of the Strait
of Gibraltar and the formation of the Alps and the Pyrenees.
However, there is a lack of evidence for the nature of the
subduction in the Atlas region, or for the thickening of
the Earth’s crust generally associated with continental
collisions. In fact, one of the most striking features of
the Atlas to geologists is the relatively small amount of
crustal thickening and tectonic shortening despite the important
altitude of the mountain range. Recent studies suggest that
deep processes rooted in the Earth’s mantle may have
contributed to the uplift of the High and Middle Atlas.
Morocco, it's possible to see the Atlantic and the Mediterranean
at the same time.
Tahar Ben Jelloun
capital city is Rabat; its largest city is its main port,
Casablanca. Other cities include: Agadir, Essaouira, Fes,
Marrakech, Meknes, Mohammadia, Oujda, Ouarzazat, Safe, Sale,
Tangier, Tiznit, and Tan-Tan, names that reverberate with
romantic vibrations to westerners, thanks to the many films
with similar titles that have fed our imaginations. Most
people live west of the Atlas Mountains, a range that insulates
the country from the Sahara Desert. Casablanca is the center
of commerce and industry and the leading port; Rabat is
the seat of government; Tangier is the gateway to Morocco
from Spain and also a major port; Fez is the cultural and
religious center; and the dominantly “Berber”
Marrakech is a major tourist center.
official language is classical Arabic with some distinctive
dialect for the region. Approximately 12 million speak Berber,
which exists in Morocco as three different dialects. French,
which remains Morocco’s unofficial second language,
is taught universally and still serves as Morocco’s
primary language of commerce and economics, in education
is an ethnically diverse country with a rich culture and
civilization. Through Moroccan history, she hosted many
people coming from both east (Phoenicians, Carthaginians,
Jews and Arabs), South (Africans), and North (Romans, Vandals,
Moors and Jews). All those civilizations have had an impact
on the social structure of Morocco, which conceived various
forms of beliefs, from paganism, Judaism, Christianity to
Islam. Each region possesses its own specificities, contributing
to the making of national culture. Morocco has set among
its top priorities the protection of its legacy and the
preservation of its cultural identity.
Chaabi, from the Agricultural Affairs Office in Rabat, was
our soil collector for this diverse country of Morocco.
He was assigned this job by his boss, Michael Fay, the Agricultural
Attache for that office, and the U.S. Ambassador to Morocco,
Thomas Riley, was informed of this important activity, the
collecting of some dirt for the Common Ground 191 project—perfect
for the Agricultural Affairs Office.
The site Hassan chose is called
Chellah, in Rabat, the oldest monument in that area, as
seen by the photos he forwarded. Here’s what Lonely
Planet had to say about Chellah:
the city walls, in the south of the city at the end of Ave
Yacoub el-Mansour at the the junction with Blvd ad-Douster,
are the remains of the ancient Roman city of Sala Colonia,
enclosed by the walls of the necropolis of Chellah, built
here by the Merenids in the 13th century. The sultan who
completed it Abu al-Hassan Ali, was intent on protecting
his dynasty from attack. Fig, olive, orange and banana trees
and all other sorts of vegetation prosper amid the tombs
and koubbas (shrines), and abundant birds and butterflies.
At the bottom are the remains of a mosque wherein lie the
remains of Abu al-Hassan Ali, his wife, and the tombs of
local venerated saints. Infertile women come here with peeled
boiled eggs to feed the eels that dwell in the murky waters
of the pool.”
Nearby is the modern Archaeology Museum,
with its displays of implements and some artifacts dating
back 350,000 years to the Pebble Culture period, as well
as rock carvings, ceramics, and statuary. The monument almost
faces the U.S. Embassy.
of us here at Common Ground 191 send our heartiest appreciation
to Mr. Hassan Chaabi and the inspired folks at the Agricultural
Affairs Office and the U.S. Embassy for all their efforts
on behalf of this project.
Morroco is a country that embodies elements both earthly
and symbolic—the many centuries of warfare on the
surface of the rumbling and shifting tectonic plates under
the earth that formed the Atlas Mountains; the negotiations
over control of the living sands of the Sahara Desert; the
wonderful diversity of its people and their veneration of
their history and culture.
The Common Ground 191 project takes the
soil of Morocco--the story of Morocco, past and present—and
prepares it for fusion with the soils/stories of the other
150-now countries who have also sent their little jars of
dirt to our studio here in Laguna Beach, California, with
the vision of Gary Simpson as the impetus to a global unity
never before experienced.
as it is is a very fine place
* * *
may be significant that the date of Hassan’s soil
collection in Morocco was September 11, 2006. It was that
date in 2001 that was the inspiration for the entire Common
Ground 191 conceptual art project. The word for peace in
Morocco is assallam.