Tuesday, May 21, 2013
76. Morocco - Introduction
The English name "Morocco" originates from Spanish "Marruecos" or the Portuguese "Marrocos", from medieval Latin "Morroch", which referred to the name of the former Almoravid and Almohad capital, Marrakech. In Persian Morocco is still called "Marrakech". Until recent decades, Morocco was called "Marrakech" in Middle Eastern Arabic. In Turkish, Morocco is called "Fas" which comes from the ancient Idrisid and Marinid capital, Fez.
The word "Marrakech" is made of the Berber word combination Mour N Akoush (Mur N Akuc), meaning Land of God.
From the 1st century BCE the region was part of the Roman Empire as Mauretania Tingitana. Christianity was introduced in the 2nd century CE and gained converts in the Roman towns, among slaves and some Berber farmers.
In the 5th century CE, as the Roman Empire declined, the region was invaded from the north first by the Vandals and then by the Visigoths. In the 6th century CE, northern Morocco became part of the East Roman, or Byzantine Empire. Throughout this time, however, the Berber inhabitants in the high mountains of the interior of Morocco remained unsubdued.
In 670 CE, the first Islamic conquest of the North African coastal plain took place under Uqba ibn Nafi, a general serving under the Umayyads of Damascus. The Umayyad Muslims brought their language, their system of government, and Islam to Morocco. Many of the Berbers slowly converted to Islam, mostly after Arab rule had receded. The first independent Muslim state in the area of modern Morocco, was the Kingdom of Nekor, an emirate in the Rif Mountains. It was founded by Salih I ibn Mansur in 710, as a client state to the Rashidun Caliphate. After the outbreak of the Great Berber Revolt in 739, the Berbers formed other independent states such as the Miknasa of Sijilmasa and the Barghawata.
According to medieval legend, Idris ibn Abdallah had fled to Morocco after the Abbasids' massacre of his tribe in Iraq. He convinced the Awraba Berber tribes to break their allegiance to the distant Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad and he founded the Idrisid Dynasty in 788. The Idrisids established Fes as their capital and Morocco became a centre of Muslim learning and a major regional power. The Idrissids were ousted in 927 by the Fatimid Caliphate and their Miknasa allies. After Miknasa broke off relations with the Fatimids in 932, they were removed from power by the Maghrawa of Sijilmasa in 980.