Essay Preview: Morocco
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Morocco is a country steeped in ancient traditions, cultures, and foods. All of which have been greatly influenced by the almost constant turnover of ruling ideologies over the ages. The location of Morocco has also played a large role in the development of this nation. In this essay, I will attempt to provide an overview of Morocco and how the topography, history, and various inhabitants have shaped the country into what we now know as the jewel of the Maghreb, or what is known as north Africa..
Situated conveniently between the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and only 13 km to the south of Spain, this country has the pleasure of having an ideal location. There are four generally accepted regions that define the landscape. The Rif mountain chain runs parallel to the Mediterranean. The Atlas Mountains, which are compromised of three mountain chains and reach across the center of the country. The Meseta is the third region, a series of high plateaus, that lie within the Ðamphitheater, naturally created by the Atlas mountains. The plains and valleys south of the Atlas range, merging with the Sahara desert, make up the fourth region. The climate of Morocco cannot easily be described with one word. Along the Atlantic coast there is a subtropical or Mediterranean climate, achieved through the currents of the ocean. On the interior of the country the weather is fairly wide ranging, from hot summers to cold winters, there are fluctuations from average temperatures of 50 degrees in January to nearly 100 degrees in August. The mountain peaks usually have snow cover year round, and rainfall is heavier in the winter months. There are also many rivers that run through the country that, while they may not be able to transport much, they are important for the sake of creating electric power and irrigation, as much of the agriculture depends on irrigated water. The weather overall, while insignificant to some, is vital to the production of all of Moroccos crops.
The most commonly found crops and products are barley, wheat, beans, lentils, olives, beets, sugar, citrus fruits, corn, grapes, and sunflower seeds, and even though only 20% of total land is cultivated, Morocco is still a mainly agricultural country. With the extreme changes in the land formations and weather it only makes sense that a good portion of the agricultural production comes from the plains, valleys, and along the coasts, where the land and weather is a bit more consistent. Although the desert does produce a rich supply of dates. Large amounts of fish and seafood are also available due to the proximity of the ocean and sea. Poultry, sheep, and goats are the most common Ðlivestock since the local grains grown were excellent for feed Most of the natural ingredients were believed to be used by Berbers.
While native groups of hunter gatherers that lived around the Sahara were thought to be the first inhabitants of north Africa, recorded history of the area begins with the Phoenicians who traded along the coastline. The plains and mountains were then occupied by these Berbers, who developed the beans, lentils, wheat, and honey that the plain regions are now known for. Next were the Carthaginians, Vandals, Romans, and Byzantines. Non of which impacted Morocco as much as the Arabs did when they began to inhabit the Maghreb. Islam affected nearly every aspect of Moroccan existence. While Morocco remains, to this day, a predominantly Arab nation, France has been the biggest European influence to date. So much so, that Casablanca, the largest city, has been modeled after Marseilles.
In culinary terms all of these invaders have brought new ideas, recipes, cooking methods and traditions with them. For example, people from southern Spain taught Moroccans how to use olives, olive oil, nuts, some fruits, and herbs in their cooked dishes. Arabs introduced spices, different varieties of breads and dishes based on the numerous grains available, and the French had a huge effect on cooking procedures and the blending of classic culinary methods with the exotic flavors and unique products Morocco had to offer. In northern Morocco food,