Morocco Geography

The beautiful country of Morocco is a Northern African country, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  Morocco stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to mountainous areas, and the Sahara(desert). Maghreb’s (Northern Africa) highest mountains are located in Morocco and the mountains of the Rif and the Atlas, which consists of three ranges, are Morocco’s water reserve. Two thirds of the country features mountains terrain with many mountains towering over 4000 meters. The country’s highest peak, Djebel Toubkal, is 4,167 km high. Morocco is renowned for being a country of incredible geographical contrast from the snowy mountaintops to the lush palm groves, from the golden sands of the Sahara to green and verdant meadows.

The Rif

The Rif, its rocky hills bordering the Mediterranean, reaches from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the north of the country. The Rif’s highest peak, the Djebel Tidighine, is 2,456 m, decreases in height as it reaches the lower hills of the south. The chain separates into steep-sided, short and narrow valleys with precipitous eroding slopes. To the west, plant life consists of fir trees, pines and cedars and to the east, toward the Mediterranean, is the rugged domain of arid steppes and maquis.

This harsh landscape makes farming extremely challenging and contributes to the increasing migration of local inhabitants to the larger cities of Morocco.

The Atlas

The atlas consists of three ranges on a south-east/north-east axis: the Middle Atlas to the North, the High Atlas in the middle and the Anti Atlas to the South.

The Middle Atlas, Morocco’s water tower, consists of limestone plateaus in the west (2,100 m), and a jagged relief to the east (3,000 m).

The High Atlas is a set of mountainous massifs, 80 km wide, extending to the Northeast for 700 km. Those massifs consist of plateaus, towering and ancient massifs, including the Djebel Toubkal, and craggy and uneven limestone mountains.

The Anti Atlas is an ancient massif stretching from East to West, with heights ranging from 1,000 m to 200 m.

Plains and Plateaus

The plains of Morocco are vast and seemingly, endless.The Sbou River, the second largest river in Morocco, provides water to the country’s most fertile region, the Gharb, running from its source in Wadi Guigou in the Middle Atlas Mountains into the Atlantic Ocean.

From the mountains of the Rif to the Middle Atlas, the Sebou River Basin (36,000) consists of low plateaus, watercourses, hills and fertile plains. The Gharb plain is 3,000 km, and is home to plantations of sugar beet, rice, sugar cane, and tobacco as well as cork, oak and eucalyptus grown in the Mamora forest.

The high plateau area is in Eastern Morocco, between the sides of the Atlas, Algeria, and the Mediterranean coast.

The Desert

Beyond the ranges of the Atlas lie the pre-Saharan and Saharan Morocco with rocky desert  plateaus, pebble plateaus (erg) , sand covered plateaus of closed depressions (Sebkha)  and plateaus lower than sea level (- 40 to -50 m).

The Cherbi erg, near the Algerian border, with dunes peaking as high as 200 meters, is the largest expanse of sand in inland Morocco.

It’s extremely dry ecosystem supports only minimal vegetation.

Water Sources

Thanks to its numerous mountains, Morocco has an excellent source of water with the exception of the pre-Saharan and Saharan areas of Marrakech. The available sources of water used mainly for consumption and field irrigation, but also flow through some hydroelectric dams.

In the winter, the high mountains of the Rif, the Middle and the High Atlas receive a considerable quantity of snow. This snowfall supplies

plentiful water reserves, the source of some of the largest rivers of the Grand Maghreb. The Moulouya (450 km) flows into the Mediterranean while the Sebou (500 km) flows into the Atlantic and, with the exception of the far end of the Sebou, cannot be navigated due to their uneven courses. During the spring and autumn, the sudden and uncontrollable rising of the rivers can result in floods of the coastal plains that frequently create problems for the farmers in the region.

The flow of groundwater is significant in Morocco. The Ziz and Rhéris wadis come from the Atlas and flow into the sands of the desert. Lakes can be found in vast valleys, and strong, continuous rainfalls often create short-lived expanses of water.

The Vegetation

Maghreb’s (northwestern Africa) wooded areas reside in Morocco. Cork oaks, holm oaks, junipers, cedars, fir trees and pines abound in these majestic mountains facing the Atlantic. The woods benefit from autumn and winter rains, yet are continually weakened by fires, tree cutting and ground erosion.

The plains irrigated by wadis and the rivers are the cultivated lands of the plain of Sous where the famed arganiers can be found; these trees are only found in this area, and are the origin of the famous and  highly prized argan oil. Commercial gardens and orchards shaded by date palms are located inside the oasis.

Mining Resources

The Moroccan subsoil is rich in mining resources such as phosphate, zinc, lead, manganese, iron, cobalt, copper, barite and silver. It also contains marble, gypsum, limestone and energy resources such as coal, barium, and a few oil wells.

Three quarters of the world phosphate reserve is located in Morocco, the world’s leader in phosphate export, with an annual production of 3 millions tons. Morocco is also the number one lead exporter in Africa, and exports cobalt and barite as well.

Despite its native energy resources, the development of hydroelectric and central power plants (Hassan the 1st, Matmata, Jorf Lasfar) and the resumption of offshore oil drilling in Essaouira, Morocco imports large quantities of its energy sources.