History of Morocco: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

For 5000 years, humans have called the northwestern tip of Africa home. Today it's home to Morocco, but it's had a lot of different names and rulers. Learn about how people from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East influenced the history of Morocco.

Bridge Between Land and Sea

Imagine you made money as a merchant, buying goods in one place and then selling them somewhere else. Before eBay existed, you had to transport things for sale -- like gold or spices or even ivory, the horns of elephants -- by ships. When you take a look at the Mediterranean Sea on the map, you can tell there's only one way in or out for your ships. That means that the area of Africa touching Europe is pretty important, since whoever controls it also controls the Mediterranean itself. This area is today known as Morocco.

Mediterranean Sea: one way in, one way out
Mediterranean map

We know that Morocco was part of some of the big ancient empires like Rome. Rome liked conquering people, and Morocco was no exception: when the Romans took over northern Africa, some native Moroccans rebelled. The Romans decided to cut out their tongues and then send them to islands off the coast so that they wouldn't be a problem anymore.

Muslim Invasions

The Islamic religion began in the 600s and quickly spread throughout much of the Middle East and northern Africa. In fact, just 50 years after the great Muslim prophet Muhammad died, Morocco became part of a larger Islamic empire called the Umayyads (pronounced ooo-my-ads), one of the largest empires in history. While Morocco sat pretty far away from the Umayyad caliph, or king, it was still an important part of the empire. The Muslims launched an invasion of Spain through Morocco and controlled Spain for almost a thousand years. Islam remains the major religion in Morocco today.

Map of Umayyad Empire. Morocco is all the way on the left!
Map of Umayyad Empire

Building Up

Morocco proved important as part of a much larger trade network. Traders could use camels to travel into the Sahara Desert to cities like Timbuktu and bring goods to Morocco's ports. Trade goods like salt and gold and slaves were particularly valuable. While Morocco changed hands from invading armies over hundreds of years, everyone kept the trade routes open so that the money kept on coming. In addition to trade, Morocco became a place of study and learning, with tribal chiefs building a ribat school for students to learn about religion.

Camel caravan. Be careful, camels spit!
Camel caravan

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