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NAME: Kingdom of Morocco. Known in Arabic as ai-Maghreb al-Aqsa-"Farthest Land of the Setting Sun"-as a result of its status as the westernmost edge of the Muslim world. SIZE: 177,000 square miles, not including the disputed territory of Western Sahara. POPULATION: 30 million GEOGRAPHY: Perhaps best known for its vast expanses of flat desert, the majority of Morocco is neither desertlike nor flat. The country is surprisingly green and nearly 20 percent of the total area is forested. 33 percent of Morocco's terrain is mountainous and the country has an average elevation of 2,600 feet. There are large swathes of desert in the southern and eastern reaches of the country. CLIMATE: The geographical diversity of Morocco brings an equally wide range of climates. The coastal regions are generally Mediterranean with warm, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The interior of the country can get scorch ingly hot. Expect chi lly conditions in the mountains, especially at night. In the winter months, snow clogs the passes of the High Atlas and coats the slopes of the ski areas in Oukaimeden. The desert has shockingly wide intra-day temperature swings. I TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT DAILY WAGE FOR THE AVERAGE MOROCCAN: US$4 DAILY WAGE FOR GOVERNMENT MINISTERS: US$260 "He who enters with a rug, leaves wi tb a b " Fez money ago -Moroccan saying SLOWLY TOWARDS DEMOCRACY "We aren't ready to unleash complete democracy yet and realizing this has been our biggest help."-progressive Moroccan high school English teacher from Marrakech Monarchies may be old news elsewhere in the world but not in Morocco. The king is everything and everywhere (it's illegal not to have a picture of him hanging somewhere in your place of business). The current king, Mohammed VI (M6), came to power in 1999 following the death of his father Hassan II. M6 inherited a kingdom that-for the Arab world-was unusually liberal, secular and pro-Western. Sti ll, Hassan II was not averse to heavy-handed rule and Machiavellian guile. Countless enemies-from army rebels to traitorous ministers to outspoken religious leaders-ended up dead or disappeared. He stoked nationalistic sentiments by annexing Western Sahara and countered Islamist fundamental ists by claiming to be a descendent of the Prophet Mohammed. With Hassan II 's death, M6 became Commander of the Faithfu l and the secular head of state_ He wields absolute veto power over the government. Morocca ns know very little about his personal life. In fact , they aren't even sure if he is married or not. Al l they know, thanks to a few slick photos now in mass circulation around the souks of Marrakech, is that M6 loves jet-skiing and Ray Bans. M6 has been cautiously pursuing a policy of increased freedoms and respect for law and human rights. In one of his first public speeches, M6 called for more opportunities for women, asking, "How can we imagine building a civilized and prosperous community when the interests of women ... are betrayed?" Unfortunately, M6 is learn ing that liberty can bring both risk and opportunity. MINT TEA Mint tea is Morocco's national beverage and favorite pastime. Steeped in ritual and ceremony, tea is the very minimum served to a guest in a home or shop. Even a family without electricity, furniture or an adequate roof wil l likely own a silver tray and pot for servi ng tea. Tea is served flavored witb . fresh Moroccan mint and heavily sweetened (15 sugar cubes per tiny pot is average!). The tea is usually poured with a great flourish from at least one foot above the glass. It's always teatime in Morocco and any place will do for the party-an open field, a shady tree, or the pavement ina crowded market square. The Islamist movement-long-suppressed in an effort to avoid the brand of fundamentijlism that is reshaping Algeria- has been exploiting its newfound freedom, to speak out against equality for women. In March 2000, 500,000 Islamic protestors took to the streets of Casablanca, claiming that M6's initiatives-including greater educational opportunities for women, court divorces and equal division of money and property in the event of a divorce-are a betrayal of the holy Koran. Many view this as a warning message to M6 and the new king has been conspicuous in maintaining strong ties with the army. -0 " ~ ~ o ~ Ci., on street corners together, don't hold hands >-- e neck in the movie til eater. From tile time they hit >--::1 Q) ;.> 0 " walking down the street and definitely don 't O ~ Q) -0 c:a c: >- , .... 1-J Q) v ': 0 - ~,_ .... c: 0 1-J ::;: you fit on the Islamic spectrum, premarital sex is Q) ...--..1-J .... a >- 0-0 though not officially sanctioned, is widespread • - c: w _ ~ Q) Q) t::: Q) bJ)0 ::1 C:' - happen at all·---happen in secrecy. ~ ~ ~ 0.... . t A strict division of sexes exists in Moroccan ...,J ~ ~;:j ;; public life. Young men and women don't loiter .... ..0 SEX AND SEXUALITY ,...; 0 g adolescence it is understood tilat boys hang OLit 0 witil boys and girls with girls. No matter where 0::1 I forbidden. A woman wilo loses her virginity ~ family and by men looking to marry. Encounters ,...; Q) C/) acknowledgment that sexual impulses are irresistible (for men). Female prostitution, ;:j ~ ~ ~ these homosexual relations, there is no self- bJ) C/) ~~" in Morocco and homosexual relations are Q) ~ ...--.. common between young men and boys. Despite identified gay community and homosexuality is only acceptable as an emulation of a male/ female dynamic. In the public mind, female homosexuality doesn't exist. before marriage IS considered tainted by her with members of the opposite sex---if they Ironically, there is an underlying ETIQUETTE Like most Arab countries, Morocco is an extremely difficult place to photograph people. For Muslims, a piGture suggests vanity and individuality and is a violation of the tenets of Islam. A popular myth exists among ci rcles of Moroccan women that embodies their concern about having their picture taken. As the story goes, a Moroccan woman unknowingly had her picture taken and subsequently put on postcards sold in Marrakech. On his way to sell his sheep in the souk, her husband saw the postcard, came home and divorced her. Whether most people believe this myth or not, picture taking without permission can cause offense. While clothing requirements aren't as stri ct as they are in more fundamentalist Muslim countries, wear conservative attire. Amongst the tribes of the High Atlas, T-sh irts are seen as underwear, so make sure to bring button-down shirts and trousers. 58

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