Morocco has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era, sometime between 190,000 and 90,000 BCE. Berber tribes have lived in the region for millennia, and were first mentioned in ancient Egyptian writings. Early villages such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aït-Benhaddou remain strongholds of the Berber culture, music and arts. In addition to the Berbers, Morocco’s heritage also encompasses Jewish and Muslim communities. In 1492, a heavy immigration of Jewish refugees arrived, having been expelled from Spain and Portugal. That heritage is seen throughout the country from the Mellah and Roben Ben Sadoun Synagogue in Fes to the coastal town of Safi, known as Little Jerusalem. Morocco’s old-world medinas and narrow, twisting lanes compete with stylish cafés, boutique shops and modern city centers. Long beaches, scenic rocky coves and classic resorts make cities such as Casablanca and Rabat appealing. The imperial cities of Meknes and Fes showcase Islamic customs while interior cities are warm and exotic set amid hills and groves of ancient palm. Morocco’s fabled desert oases dot historically important travel routes. The rugged, snow-capped Atlas Mountains stretch 1,500 miles through Morocco and beyond. The country has six national parks and reserves that are home to more than 200 species of birds, including 11 threatened species found only in Morocco; and 105 species of mammals that include golden jackal, red fox, leopard and 18 other threatened species. Morocco’s distinctive landscapes and enduring cultural heritage offer an enticing journey into the heart of North Africa.
With the launch of its sustainable tourism charter in 2016, Morocco has signaled its determination to become a sustainable tourism leader, based upon protecting its environment and celebrating its cultural heritage. Since 2009, the country has awarded the Morocco Sustainable Tourism Trophy to the country's best-of-the-best tourism businesses and hotels, and is increasingly focused on tourism and conservation strategies as part of its overall Vision 2020 for the country. Supporting cultural heritage preservation is also very high on the list of Morocco's priorities – from the King’s spectacular Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech, which was constructed using Morocco's most famous artisans, to the serene oases that stretch beyond the towering Atlas Mountains and into the Sahara Desert. Morocco’s goal today is to ensure that tourism goes beyond the beach resorts of the past to benefit Morocco’s natural and cultural attractions across the country into the future.
Destination stewardship planning is underway at the national level with multiple stakeholders, including government, NGOs, private sector and communities, to increase understanding and awareness of sustainable tourism best practices.
With no fossil fuel reserves of its own, Morocco has set its sights on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. The desert landscapes are the site of a giant solar complex, Noor One, which uses concentrated solar power (CSP), instead of photovoltaic. Giant mirrors reflect the sun’s rays onto tubes of liquids that are superheated to power turbines. The complete project will include four locations that will add some 350 MW to Morocco’s energy grid. Sustainable wind power farms will eventually dot the country’s landscapes.Why the Elephant Ranking?