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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Moroccan(s).
Population (2003 est.): 31.7 million.
Annual growth rate (est.): 1.6%.
Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99%.
Religions: Muslim 99.99%, Jewish estimated at 4,000 people, Christians estimated at less than 1,000.
Languages: Arabic (official), several Berber dialects; French is often the language of business, government, and diplomacy.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--51.7%. Health: Infant mortality rate--37/1,000. Life expectancy--67 yrs. male, 72 yrs. female.
Work force(10.5 million, 2002): Agriculture--50%; services--35%; industry--15%.
People of Morocco
Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber stock. The Arabs invaded Morocco in the 7th and 11th centuries and established their culture there. Morocco's Jewish minority numbers about 4,000. Most of the 100,000 foreign residents are French or Spanish; many are teachers or technicians.
Classical Arabic is Morocco's official language, but the country's distinctive Arabic dialect is the most widely spoken language in Morocco. In addition, about 10 million Moroccans, mostly in rural areas, speak Berber--which exists in Morocco in three different dialects (Tarifit, Tashelhit, and Tamazight)--either as a first language or bilingually with the spoken Arabic dialect. French, which remains Morocco's unofficial third language, is taught universally and still serves as Morocco's primary language of commerce and economics; it also is widely used in education and government. Many Moroccans in the northern part of the country speak Spanish. English, while still far behind French and Spanish in terms of number of speakers, is rapidly becoming the foreign language of choice among educated youth. English is taught in all public schools from the fourth year on.
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 Spain and also a major port; "Arab" Fez is the cultural and religious center; and "Berber" Marrakech is a major tourist center.
Education in Morocco is free and compulsory through primary school (age 15). Nevertheless, many children--particularly girls in rural areas--still do not attend school. The country's illiteracy rate has been stuck at around 50% for some years but reaches as high as 83 % among girls in rural regions. Morocco had 288,319 students enrolled in 14 public universities in academic year 2001-2002. In some ways the most prestigious university is Mohammed V in Rabat, with faculties of law, sciences, liberal arts, and medicine. Karaouine University, in Fez, has been a center for Islamic studies for more than 1,000 years and is the oldest university in Morocco. Morocco has one private university, Al-Akhawayn, in Ifrane. Al-Akhawayn, founded in 1993 by King Hassan II and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, is an English-medium, American-style university comprising about 1,000 students.