Morocco has seen millennia of human habitation reaching about as far back as the earliest appearance of Homo Sapiens in Africa. Along with Iberia it seems to have provided a refuge for human populations in south-western Europe until the ending of the most recent Ice Age. During the first millennium BC, several Phoenician colonies were founded along its coastline, including Chellah (or Sala Collonia, to the south of Rabat), Lixus (now ruins), and Mogador (the colony of Arambys). Rule from Carthage followed, which was replaced by Roman control. Invasions by Vandali and Visigoths cut the final ties with Rome, but both were superseded by Byzantine governance. This in turn was ended by the Arabs, who invaded in 682 in the course of their drive to expand the power of Islam.
Except for the Jews, the inhabitants of Morocco, both Christian and pagan, soon accepted the religion of their conquerors. Berber troops, who themselves had a kingdom in the region for about three centuries until 33 BC, were used extensively by the Arabs in their conquest of Visigoth Spain, which began in 711.

3rd cent BC

The Berber kingdom of Mauritania is formed in the third century, although this state is actually located in modern Morocco, not modern Mauritania.


682 – 788
North Africa is separated from Byzantium by the Islamic empire.
The Islamic Idrisids become independent from Arabia.


Idrisid Dynasty
AD 788 – 974
The first Arab dynasty to rule over the whole of Morocco was named after Idris, a refugee from the east who was the great-great- grandson of Fatima, daughter of the prophet Muhammad. In 793 Idris was poisoned, apparently by an emissary from the Abassid caliph Harun ar-Rashid, from whose usurpation he had fled. Idris’ son made Fès his capital, which was to become a centre of Islamic and Arab culture throughout the centuries.

788 – 793
Idris I
Refugee from the east.

793 – 828
Idris II

828 – 836
Muhammad ibn Idris

836 – 848
Ali ibn Idris / Ali I


848 – 864
Yahya ibn Muhammad / Yahya I


864 – 874
Yahya ibn Yahya / Yahya II


874 – 883
Ali ibn Umar / Ali II


883 – 904
Yahya ibn Al-Qassim / Yahya III


904 – 917
Yahya ibn Idris ibn Umar / Yahya IV


922 – 925
The Idrisids are overthrown by the Tunisian Fatamids.
925 – 927
Hassan I al-Hajjam


927 – 937
The Idrisids are again overthrown by the Tunisian Fatamids.
937 – 948
Al Qasim Gannum


948 – 954
Abu l-Aish Ahmad


954 – 974
Al-Hasan ben Kannun / Hassan II
Not to be confused with Hassan II of the Alawis, b.1929.


The last Idrisid makes the mistake of switching allegiances back to the Fatamids, and is deposed and executed by the caliphate of Cordoba.


1054 – 1055
Abdullah Ibn Yasin is now able to lead an army of nomads northwards from the depths of sub-Saharan western Africa towards the major trading city of Sijilmasa in Morocco, immediately to the south of the Atlas Mountains. The city contains 50,000 people and occupies one of the biggest oases in Africa, and it falls to this new army. Immediately, ibn Yasin leads his forces south around the edge of the Sahara to captures the source of Sijilmasa’s wealth in gold at Awdaghust. Now they have a virtual monopoly in the Sahara region of this most lucrative trade. Ibn Yasin’s followers gain the name ‘Almoravids’ from a phrase meaning ‘Those bound together in the cause of God’.


1062 – 1147
With their attacks on ‘heretics’ and the extra territory they are able to continually add to the new kingdom, the Almoravids have effectively conquered southern Morocco by 1062. Not content with remaining in the luxurious but strategically vulnerable Aghmat, the Almoravids return to the Sahara side of the Atlas Mountains and found a new capital for themselves in 1070, Marrakesh. What begins as a collection of tents pitched in the desert quickly becomes an established city.

1130 – 1147
Berber leader of the Almohads.

After almost twenty years of laying siege to Marrakech, the Almohads finally break through the city’s mighty walls. They begin their reign by tearing down all of the Almoravid mosques in the city, citing that they are not properly aligned with Mecca so they must be rebuilt. All that remains of Almoravid power is in the Balearic Islands which they continue to occupy.

Almohad (Muwahid) Caliphs of Spain & North Africa
AD 1147 – 1269
The Berber Almoravids had made sweeping conquests of north-western Africa in the mid-eleventh century, driven by a conviction that the Muslims of the region were not practising their faith properly, and they wanted to correct that. However, while they were at the height of their power, a new Islamic force was building in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in the shape of the Berber Almohads. They were just as convinced that the Almoravids were not practising their faith properly, and they also wanted to correct that. The Almoravids, unable to pin them down, began to fear them and were largely trapped inside Marrakech for twenty years while the Almohads besieged and finally defeated them.

The Almohads very quickly took over the rest of the Almoravid empire, drawing much of eastern Algeria, plus Mauritania, and Tunisia into their realm, while also controlling all of Islamic Spain. Almohad Spain was distinguished by intellectual brilliance and by intolerant oppression which was mirrored in Marrakech, where all of the Almoravid mosques were pulled down and rebuilt because they were supposedly not correctly aligned to Mecca. By the early thirteenth century, the Christian kingdoms of Spain, mostly notably Leon, had made large in-roads into the Islamic territories, and the Almohads soon lost most of Spain, abandoned the peninsula, and then were even overthrown in North Africa.

1147 – 1163
Abdul-Mumin / Abdelmoumen El Goumi
Commanded the Almohads from 1130.


The collateral line assumes the Fatamid throne in Tunisia and is no longer considered to be Shiite Imams. The Almohads occupy Tunis, stretching the empire farther east than the Almoravids had done before them. They also encroach into modern Libya, keeping mainly nearer the coast. Then they enter Spain, making Seville their second capital after Marrakech.

1163 – 1184
Yusuf I abu Yaqub


1170 – 1171
Yusuf invades Spain, conquering the region of al-Andalus (Andalusia) and attacking both Catalonia and Valencia. In the following year he establishes a capital at Seville, his second after Marrakech.

Marching across the Straits of Gibraltar with an army to besiege Santarem, Yusuf is wounded by a crossbow bolt fired by the forces of Afonso I of Portugal. He dies soon afterwards, on 29 July 1184. The Christian victory is a major success, and a major blow for the presence of the Almohads in Spain. Yusuf’s son and successor is temporarily delayed in his plans for revenge by fighting against the dethroned Almoravids in Africa.

Ongoing battles between the Almohads and the Iberian Christians would end up in North African defeat at the Battle of Los Navos de Tolosa in 1212


1184 – 1199
Yaqub al Mansur / Moulay Yacoub
Son. Last strong Almohad ruler.


1191 – 1195
Fresh from failure in front of the walls of Tomar, stronghold of the Portuguese Templars, Yaqub recaptures Paderne Castle and nearby territory around Albufeira, Portuguese holdings since 1182. This victory and other seizures allow him to return to North Africa in triumph but as soon as he leaves Iberia, the Christians resume the offensive. They take several Islamic cities, including Beja, Silves, and Vera, necessitating another campaign. This time Yaqub returns to inflict a further defeat on them, taking hostages to sell as slaves. Once he leaves Iberia again, the largest Christian army of the period is assembled. Determined to put a halt to this, Yaqub defeats the army which is commanded by Alfonso VIII of Castile, slaughtering thousands of his men.

The death of Yaqub al Mansur means that his vision of building the world’s largest mosque remains unfulfilled. To this day, the incomplete mosque still stands, uncapped by a minaret. Al Mansur is the last of the strong rulers of the Almohad dynasty. His successors squabble amongst themselves to see who will succeed him, and the instability that this brings with it allows other Berber tribes to become more powerful. In Spanish Andalusia, the fundamentalist Christian crusade gains the upper hand against their equally fundamentalist Islamic opponents.

1199 – 1213
Muhammad al-Nasir ibn Yaqub


Muhammad has been fighting off the Banu Ghaniya in their attempts to conquer Tunis. As a result he appoints Abd al-Wahid as his governor there, a plan which eventually backfires when the Hafsids declare independence.

Muhammad suffers a devastating defeat by the Christian Iberians of Aragon, Castile, Navarre, and Portugal at Los Navos de Tolosa. Humiliated, they are forced to give way, and their army never fully recovers from the disaster. In the east, the empire fades as local tribes begin to rebel against Almohad rule. Libya soon falls out of Almohad control. The rebel areas stop paying taxes, so internal expenditure is slowly crippled, and control over more territory is gradually lost, along with domination of the western Mediterranean Sea.

1213 – 1224
Yusuf II Abu Yaqub
Son. Acceded aged 10. No heir.


1213 – 1224
Yusuf II Abu Yaqub largely leaves the handling of the empire in the hands of his viziers and relatives. The heavy losses suffered by the Almohad army in 1212 have weakened the empire’s defences, and that, plus the lack of central control, encourages a serious of rebellions to break out during Yusuf’s reign. The Almohads are hard pressed to put them down.

Abdul-Wahid I / Abu Muhammad
Great-uncle. Selection disputed. Murdered.


The selection of Abdul-Wahid is disputed by various members of the Almohads. Abdallah Abu Muhammad, the governor of al-Andalus, arrives to clear out the group at court that had forged ahead with the selection, and murders the caliph. His usurpation, whatever the legal implications, triggers a lasting period of instability within the empire which eventually contributes to its downfall. The sons of the powerful governor of Ifriqiyya, Abd-Allah, are some of the few not to fall in line with the usurpation.

1224 – 1227
Abdallah Abu Muhammad
Brother of al-Nasir (1199). Former governor of al-Andalus.
1227 – 1235
Yahya Abu Zakariyya
Nephew. Faced opposition during his entire reign.


Having succeeded Abdallah following the latter’s untimely death in a bath tub, Yahya has more general support but immediately faces the threat of a pretender named Idris I. He seizes parts of the empire and a civil war breaks out. Idris calls for support from Ferdinand III of Castile, and the 12,000 knights he receives enables him to conquer Marrakech and exterminate the sheiks who have supported Yahya. Idris rules virtually all of the empire until his death.

1227 – 1232
Idris I ibn Yaqub
Rival caliph who gained much of the empire.


1228 – 1229
Under Idris, the Almohads effect the abandonment of Spain in order to secure their hold on the rest of the empire. Only the Nasrid kings of Granada remain there in the far south. In the following year, the Almohads lose Tunis. They had appointed a governor there in 1207. Now, with the empire looking increasingly shaky, the new Hafsid governor of Tunis, Abu Zakariya, declares independence. Abu Zakariya and his Hafsid dynasty rule the former Roman province of Africa along with the modern Maghreb.

1232 – 1235
Yahya captures Marrakech while Idris is besieging Cueta. Idris dies on the march back to his capital, leaving Yahya able to re-secure some level of power in the empire. His success is soured by the son of Idris, Abdul-Wahid II, who proclaims himself the rightful caliph. Yahya dies just three years later, leaving Abdul-Wahid II as the sole caliph.

1232 – 1242
Abdul-Wahid II ibn Idris
Son of Idris. Sole caliph from 1235.


The emir of Tlemcen (located in north-western Algeria) declares his independence from the fragmenting empire. He founds the Zayyanid dynasty which eventually wrests virtually all of Algeria from Almohad control.

1242 – 1248
Ali ibn Idris
Brother. Killed in an ambush.


The Berber Merinids capture and make Fès their capital. Almohad attempts even to launch a retaliatory strike against Fès come to nothing when Ali’s governor dies under mysterious circumstances. By now the Almohads are left only with parts of Morocco.

1248 – 1266
Abu Hafs Umar ‘al-Murtada’ ibn Ishaq
Reduced to Marrakech and surroundings.

With his territory reduced to the region around the capital, Marrakech, the Almohad empire is no more. To make matters worse, Umar is forced to pay tribute to the increasingly dominant Merinids. In 1266 he even loses his throne when his cousin usurps his position while he is defending Marrakech from a Merinid siege.

1266 – 1269
Abu al-Ula Idris II ibn Muhammad
Cousin and usurper. Assassinated by a slave.


The Zayyanids capture Marrakech, ending Almohad rule in Algeria. North Africa breaks up between the Hafsids, Merinids, and the Algerian Abdul-Wadids and Zayyanids). None of them are strong enough to reunite the empire and rule a strong North Africa, so they fight amongst themselves for pockets of territory, and none of them are dominant until the sixteenth century Saadi dynasty comes to power.

Merinid Dynasty / Marinids / Beni Merin
AD (1195) 1248 – 1465
The Berber Merinids originally came from south-east of present-day Morocco, from which they were expelled in 1224 by another tribe, the Hilali. As early as 1145 the Merinids engaged in battles with the Almohads, who defeated them until 1169. In 1169, the Merinids began their pursuit of taking Morocco from the Almohads.

Following their expulsion from the south, they moved northwards under command of Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq and took Fes in 1248, making it their capital and marking the beginning of their dynasty. The Merinid leadership installed in Fes declared the war on the Almohads with the aid of Christian mercenaries there. Capturing Marrakech in 1269, they took control of most of the Maghreb towards the end of 1268, including present-day Morocco, Algeria and part of Tunisia.

1195 – 1217
Abd al-Haqq I
Died in combat against the Almohads.
1217 – 1240
Uthman ibn Abd al-Haqq / Uthman I
Assassinated by one of his Christian slaves.
1240 – 1244
Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Haqq/Muhammad I
Killed by officer of his own Christian militia.
1244 – 1258
Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq
Death through illness.


The Berber Merinids capture and make Fès their capital. Almohad attempts even to launch a retaliatory strike against Fès come to nothing when Caliph Ali’s governor dies under mysterious circumstances. By now the Almohads are left only with parts of Morocco.

1258 – 1286
Abu Yusuf Yaqub ibn Abd Al-Haqq
Uncle. Death through illness.


With Caliph Umar’s territory reduced to the region around the capital, Marrakech, the Almohad empire is no more. To make matters worse, Umar is forced to pay tribute to the increasingly dominant Merinids. In 1266 he even loses his throne when his cousin usurps his position while he is defending Marrakech from a Merinid siege.

North Africa breaks up between the Hafsids, Merinids, and the Algerian Abdul-Wadids and Zayyanids). None of them are strong enough to reunite the Almohad empire and rule a strong North Africa, so they fight amongst themselves for pockets of territory, and none of them are dominant until the sixteenth century Saadi dynasty comes to power.

1286 – 1307
Abu Yaqub Yusuf an-Nasr
Son. Assassinated by a court eunuch.
1307 – 1308
Abu Thabit Amir
Son. Death through illness.
1308 – 1310
Abu al-Rabi Sulayman
Brother. Death through illness.
1310 – 1331
Abu Said Uthman
1331 – 1348
Abu al-Hasan ibn Uthman
Son. Imprisoned until at least 1366.
1337 – 1348
The Merinids conquer Zayyanid Algeria.
1348 – 1358
Abu Inan Faris
Son. Assassinated by his vizir. Merinids begin to decline.
1352 – 1359
The Merinids again conquer Zayyanid Algeria.


The Merinids had begun to decline during Abu Inan Faris’ reign, and his murder begins a period of instability, with the viziers raising several claimants to the throne in succession. King Pedro of Castile supports the third of these, Abu Salim Ibrahim, in a clear show of increasing Spanish influence on North Africa.

Abu Zian as-Said Muhammad ibn Faris
Installed by viziers. Lasted a few months.
Abu Yahya abu Bakr ibn Faris
Lasted a few months.
1359 – 1361
Abu Salim Ibrahim
Son of al-Hasan. Installed by viziers. Replaced.
Abu Umar Tachfin
Reigned a few months. ‘Reign of the vizirs’ ends.
1362 – 1366
Muhammad ibn Yaqub
Son of al-Hasan. Assassinated by his vizier.
1366 – 1372
Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ali
Son of al-Hasan. Died through illness.
Muhammad as-Said
Young son. Died without gaining the throne in 1373.
1372 – 1384
Abu al-Abbas Ahmad
Supported by Nasrids of Granada. d.1393.
Following the instability caused by the death of Abu Faris Abd and his young son, the Merinid empire is partitioned in two: based at Fez (the Merinids) and Marrakech (a splinter state).
1384 – 1386
Abu Faris Musa ibn Faris
Interim replacement made by Nasrids of Granada.
1384 – 1387
Abu Zayd Abd ar-Rahman
Reigned at Marrakech.
1386 – 1387
Interim replacement made by Nasrids of Granada.
1387 – 1393
Abu al-Abbas Ahmad
Restored to overall control.
1393 – 1396
Abu Faris Abd al-Aziz ibn Ahmad


1396 – 1398
Abu Amir Abdallah


1398 – 1420
Abu Said Uthman ibn Ahmad
Benefiting from the anarchy within the Merinid kingdom, Henry III of Castile invades Morocco, seizes Tetouan, massacres half of the population and reduces it to slavery.
King John I of Portugal seizes Ceuta, marking the beginning of European expansion into Africa.
1420 – 1465
Abu Muhammad Abd al-Haqq
Son. Acceded aged one. Throat cut during popular revolt.


Edward of Portugal, supported by his brothers, Henry and Fernando, attacks Tangiers with a view to improving his trade and exploration base in North Africa. The attack succeeds but at a cost. Fernando is captured and dies in prison and Edward himself dies of plague the following year.

1458 – 1471
It is a troubled period in the sultanate. The king of Portugal decides to expand his interests along the coastal section of Morocco, so his forces start with the conquest of Alcacer Ceguer in 1458. At the same time there is unrest inside Morocco, demonstrated the following year when Abu Muhammad Abd revolts against his own Wattasid viziers. Only two Wattasid brothers survive and it is they who become the first Watassids sultans in 1472. Before this can happen, Tangiers is conquered by the Portuguese in 1460 and is won and lost on multiple occasions up until 1464, and Henry IV of Castile takes Gibraltar in 1462.

1465 – 1472
The sultan is murdered in Fes in 1465, and Tangiers is secured by the Portuguese as they benefit from the chaos. while they also seize Arzila in 1471. Central control of the country is compromised until the former Wattasid viziers succeed in taking over in 1472.

Wattasid Dynasty / Banu Wattas
AD 1472 – 1554
Like the Merinids, the Wattasids had their origins in the Berber Zenatas. The two families were related, and the Merinids had recruited many viziers from the Wattasids. These viziers seized power in 1465.
The Wattasid sultans only controlled northern Morocco, the south being dominated by the Saadi dynasty, who eventually replaced them. The period from 1465 to 1472 was unstable, and the last of the Moroccan possessions in Al Andalus were lost. Ceuta had already been lost to Portugal, and the Spanish and Portuguese campaigned constantly in Morocco. Nevertheless, good commercial relations were maintained with the Iberians.

1472 – 1504
Abu Abdallah sheikh Muhammad ibn Yahya
One of the two survivors from the 1459 massacre.

1504 – 1526
Abu Abd Allah al-Burtuqali Muhammad

Abu al-Hasan Abu Hasan Ali

1526 – 1545
Abu al-Abbas Ahmad

1545 – 1547
Nasir ad-Din al-Qasri Muhammad

1547 – 1549
Abu al-Abbas Ahmad

Abu al-Hasan Abu Hasun Ali

Saadi Dynasty / Saadite / Bani Zaydan
AD (1509) 1554 – 1659
The Moroccan Saadis began with the reign of Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh in 1554. From 1509 to 1554 they had ruled only in the south of Morocco. Saadian rule ended in 1659 with the reign of Sultan Ahmad el Abbas.

Before they conquered Marrakech, Taroudant was their capital city. Two of their most important achievements were ousting the Portuguese from Morocco and defending the country against the Ottomans. They saw themselves as ruling so that they could ensure that their subjects would follow Islam properly, must as their Almohad and Almoravid predecessors had done before them. But this dynasty was not a Berber one from north-western Africa, it was Arabic.

1509 – 1517
Abu Abdallah al-Qaim
Ruled southern Morocco.
1517 – 1544
Ahmad al-Araj
Ruled southern Morocco.
1544 – 1557
Mohammed ash-Sheikh
Ruled all of Morocco after 1554. Assassinated.


Despite the support of the Ottoman sultan for Khayr al-Din Barbarossa and his exploits in securing Algiers, it is only now that his son, Hasan Pasha, becomes the first official governor of the regency to be appointed by Constantinople. Algiers is now the main base for the ongoing Ottoman war against Spain in the Mediterranean and for operations against Morocco.

1554 – 1555
Mohammed ash-Sheikh is able to take over the north, removing the Wattasids from power in Fez. He also captures Tlemcen, ending Zayyanid rule there. However, thanks to ash-Sheikh’s refusal to cooperate with the Ottomans, Salah Raïs, the beylerbey of Algiers, occupies Fez.

1557 – 1558
Mohammed ash-Sheikh continues to refuse to give his allegiance to the Ottoman sultan. Instead, he forms an alliance with the Spanish. As a result, Hasan Pasha is appointed beylerbey of Algiers for the second time so that he can deal with the problem. He arranges to have ash-Sheikh assassinated by one of his own bodyguards and then invades the country early in 1558. His forces meet those of the Moroccans at the Battle of Wadi al-Laban (Oued el Leben, the ‘river of milk’) to the north of Fez, which results in a stalemate. Hasan is forced to retreat when he receives news that the Spanish are preparing to assault Oran.

1557 – 1574
Abdallah al-Ghalib


1574 – 1576
Abu Abdallah Mohammed II


1576 – 1578
Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik I


The young king of Portugal, Sebastian, dies at the Battle of Alcacer-Quibir in Morocco.
1578 – 1603
Ahmad I al-Mansur


1578 – 1603
Ahmad I is the most famous of the Saadis. A contemporary of Elizabeth I of England, he is responsible for building the El Badi Palace in Marrakech. His death robs the country of a strong ruler and anarchy sets in, with rival rulers claiming the throne, most notably the Alawi in the east, and the rest of the state divided between the late sultan’s sons.

An invasion of the Songhai empire to the south hastens its decline. Morocco rules Mali.
1603 – 1608
Abou Fares Abdallah
Lost part of Morocco to the Saadis in Fes.

1603 – 1627
The main Saadi rulers of Morocco are based in Marrakesh, but a splinter faction governs a limited territory from Fes with only local power during the reign of Zidan Abu Maali. At the same time, the Alawi begin to increase their power in southern Morocco.

1603 – 1627
Zidan Abu Maali
Ruled Morocco except Fes.
1604 – 1613
Mohammed esh Sheikh el Mamun
Ruled Fes.
1613 – 1623
Abdallah II
Ruled Fes.
1623 – 1627
Abd el Malek
Ruled Fes.
1627 – 1631
Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik II


The country’s fragmentation is further increased when Muhammad I seizes power in Tafilalt, in the central eastern region of the country. He is regarded as the founder of the Alawi dynasty.

1631 – 1636
Al Walid ben Zidan


1636 – 1655
Mohammed esh Sheikh es Seghir


1655 – 1659
Ahmad el Abbas


The last Saadi sultan is overthrown when Marrakech is conquered by the Alawi dynasty.
Alawi / Alaouite Dynasty (The Western Kingdom & Western Sahara)
AD 1664 – Present Day
The modern constitutional kingdom of Morocco is located on the north-west African coastline, in territory that contains large stretches of desert and rugged mountainous terrain. It is neighboured by Algeria to the east, and the disputed territory of Western Sahara to the south, beyond which lies Mauritania. It also controls the southern straits of Gibraltar, making it the closest point in Africa to Spain. The kingdom has its capital at Rabat, although its best-known city (and largest) is Casablanca, rivalled perhaps by Marrakech. The name, Morocco, derives from the latter city via the Spanish ‘Marruecos’ and the Portuguese ‘Marrocos’.

The Alawi (Alaouites) were natives of southern Morocco. Following the death of Saadi Sultan Ahmad I al-Mansur in 1603, the Alawi initially ruled only in Tafilalt (in the central eastern region of the country), along with some parts of southern Morocco. Their opposition to the Saadi rulers was a cause of the country slipping into anarchy over the next half a century. Completing a process begun by his father, Mulay Al-Rashid, second sultan of the Alawi, united the country under a single ruler in 1666-1670 and ended any opposition, albeit with a smaller kingdom than before. The dynasty claims the same line of descent as the tenth century Fatamids of what is now Tunisia, from Ali ibn Abi Talib (the Rashidun caliph of 656-661) and his wife, Fatima.

The kingdom’s alternative name is ‘The Western Kingdom’, which is simply a comment on its geographical location in relation to the users of that name, the North African nations of the Mediterranean coast. Morocco is a blend of Arabic and indigenous Berber influences, but its proximity to Spain has allowed a good degree of European influence to seep in too. Its relations with and early twentieth century control by France has made French the dominant European language after Arabic and Berber.

The Western Sahara is a mainly desert territory that is located between modern Morocco and Mauritania. It is the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. The territory is phosphate-rich and is believed to have offshore oil deposits. Most of it has been under Moroccan control since 1976. Western Sahara fell under Spanish rule in 1884, becoming a Spanish province in 1934. A gradual increase in national consciousness and anti-colonial sentiment during the subsequent decades led to a guerrilla insurgency by the Spanish Sahara’s indigenous inhabitants, the nomadic Saharawis, in the early 1970s. The Polisario Front was set up on 10 May 1973 and established itself as the sole representative of the Saharan people. Some 100,000 refugees still live in Polisario’s camps in Algeria, and Western Sahara’s political position is still uncertain.

1631 – 1635
Muhammad I / Moulay Ali Cherif
Ruled Tafilalt.
1635 – 1664
Moulai / Moulay Muhammad II
Son. Ruled Tafilalt. Gained full independence in 1659.
Muhammad II unites the Draa river valley and the Sahara region of Morocco under his rule.


The last Saadi sultan is overthrown when Marrakech is conquered by the Alawis. Muhammad does not yet rule all of Morocco, but the only serious opposition is not in a position to prevent him from becoming the de facto power in the country.


1659 – 1664
Moulay Muhammad II
Ruled much of Morocco from 1659.


Internal feuding breaks out into open hostility when Muhammad II is opposed by his half-brother, Moulay Al-Rashid. Muhammad II is killed, allowing Al-Rashid to secure power and proclaim himself sultan of Morocco in the same year.

1664 – 1672
Mawlay / Moulay Al-Rashid
Half-brother. Proclaimed sultan of Morocco 22.10.1664.


1666 – 1670
Al-Rashid takes Fes, ending the possible rule of Saadi survivors there. Then he takes the coastal area of the country, the Sus and the Anti-Atlas areas, securing his control of Morocco. In 1670, weakened by Morocco’s internal wars, the Alawi retreat from the Songhai empire.

Muhammad I
Unknown. Another half-brother?
1673 – 1684
Al-Harrani, Abu’l Abbas Ahmad I
Often missing from lists. Possible half-brother or uncle?
1672 – 1684

Ismail Ibn Sharif
Half-brother of Moulay Al-Rashid. Joint ruler.
1684 – 1727
Ismail Ibn Sharif ‘Warrior King’
Former joint ruler (1672-1684).


1679 – 1689
Ismail Ibn Sharif begins the process of creating a unified Moroccan state in the face of opposition by Berber tribes and colonising forces. He starts with defeats of the Ottomans in 1679 and 1682, continues in 1684 by seizing the port of Tangier from the English (which they had commanded since 1661), and in 1689 he drives the Spanish out of Larache. The Ottomans are defeated again in 1695-1696.

Abdalmalik is the heir of Ismail Ibn Sharif until, shortly before his father’s death, he falls out of favour. Ismail is succeeded upon his death by Ahmad II instead, although this causes further trouble in 1728.

1727 – 1728
Abu’l Abbas Ahmad II
Son. Overthrown by his own wives and Abdalmalik.
Half-brother. Usurper who reigned very briefly.
1728 – 1729
Abu’l Abbas Ahmad II
Restored. Deposed on the day of his death.
1729 – 1735
Abdallah bin Ismail as-Samin
Half-brother. Deposed.
Abdallah is deposed for the first of three times by various of his brothers as they fight for control of Morocco.
1735 – 1736
Brother. Deposed.
Abdallah bin Ismail as-Samin
1736 – 1738
Mohammed II
Half-brother of Ali. Deposed.
1738 – 1740
Half-brother. Deposed.
1740 – 1745
Abdallah bin Ismail as-Samin
Zin al-Abidin / Zein el Abdin
Half-brother of Al-Mostadi. Deposed.
1745 – 1757
Abdallah bin Ismail as-Samin
1757 – 1790
Mohammed III ben Abdallah

Mohammed ben Abdallah is the first world leader to recognise the independence of the newly-proclaimed United States, later providing some support to US vessels in Moroccan waters.

1784 – 1794
Protected from the Barbary pirates of Algiers during the American Revolution, thanks to its alliances with Morocco and France, American shipping loses that protection from 1784 and the end of the Treaty of Alliance. Subsequently, US merchant shipping continually falls foul of successive pirate raids in the Mediterranean, launched from Morocco and Algiers. Despite diplomatic efforts, large payments of tribute are demanded for the release of captured American crews, and the US regularly pays up to a million dollars a year to ensure the safe passage of its ships.

1790 – 1795
Although Yazid gains the throne following his father’s death, he is only one of six claimants for that throne, with another brother, Slimane emerging victorious from the resultant civil war in 1795.

1790 – 1792
Son. Killed.

Half-brother. Proclaimed sultan.
1792 – 1822
Slimane / Sulaiman


1801 – 1805
Having recommissioned its navy in 1794, the USA is becoming increasingly reluctant to pay tribute to ensure the safe passage of its merchant ships in the Mediterranean. The pasha of Tripoli demands fresh tribute of the new government of Thomas Jefferson which is refused, so Tripoli declares war on the USA. Morocco and Algiers do not join Tripoli in the conflict. The small but highly modern American navy defeats Tripoli’s vessels in a number of naval skirmishes during the First Barbary War, until Tripoli agrees peace terms and the US buys back its captured seamen.

1815 – 1816
The Second Barbary War is fought by the USA in response to renewed pirate raids while it has been preoccupied with the War of 1812. A squadron of US ships captures several Algerian vessels and, after negotiations, the dey of Algiers agrees to return American captives and vessels in return for a large one-off final payment. Although this concludes the war, it does not conclude the piracy threat, so the following year, Britain sends a ‘diplomatic mission’ that is eventually forced to bombard Algiers for nine hours on 27 August 1816. The dey loses many of his corsairs and shore defences, and the threat of organised Barbary piracy is ended once and for all.

1822 – 1859
Abderrahmane / Abd el Rahman
Nephew. Son of Hisham.


1830 – 1834
Algiers is annexed by France and created a colony. Sultan Abderrahmane supports the resistance movement against this occupation, encouraging Algerian Islamic scholar Abd-el-Kader to fight the European invaders. The sultan is also called upon by the inhabitants of the Algerian city of Tlemcen to invade and protect it from the French. This he does, and his nephew, Prince Moulay Ali, is named caliph of Tlemcen.

1859 – 1860
The Spanish-Moroccan War, or African War, begins with a disagreement over the Spanish-controlled coastal city of Ceuta. The Moroccan forces accept defeat after the Battle of Tetuan and Spain gains a further enclave, increasing the size of Ceuta in the process.

1859 – 1873
Mohammed IV
1873 – 1894
Hassan I
Nephew. Son of Prince Abbas.


Spain creates a protectorate of its Moroccan coastal territories, showing no sign of relinquishing its hold on them. A large swathe of this territory is the Western Sahara, a mainly desert region that is located between Morocco and Mauritania.

1894 – 1908
Abdelaziz / Abdul Aziz
Son. Deposed following concessions by France. Died 1943.


1904 – 1906
As a progression of the increasing colonial hold over Morocco, France and Spain carve out zones of influence in the country. France’s sphere of influence is recognised by Great Britain but this provokes a strong reaction from the German empire. A looming crisis in 1905 is resolved at the Algeciras Conference in 1906.

1908 – 1912
Abdelhafid / Abdul Hafid
Elder brother and rival sultan. Abdicated.


Under the terms of the Treaty of Fez, a French Protectorate is established in Morocco which consists of the territory between the Corridor of Taza (between the Rif Mountains and Middle Atlas Mountains in the north of the country) and the River Draa. A small protectorate of northern territories near the Straits of Gibraltar remains under Spanish control, and Spain also gains protective powers over the northern and southern Sahara zones. Colonists pour into the country, buying up the best land, modernising its infrastructure, and exploiting its resources. The Moroccan tribes war amongst each other, some having sided with the French from the first instance, but eventual agreement is reached and a joint Franco-Moroccan administration is created.

1912 – 1927


1921 – 1926
A Berber uprising in the Rif Mountains is led by Abd el-Krim. This leads to the declaration of the ‘Republic of the Rif’. The uprising is eventually suppressed by French and Spanish troops. The French move the court from Fez to the more secure Rabat, and this remains the country’s capital from this point onwards.

1927 – 1953
Mohammed V
Son. Deposed. Exiled to Madagascar 1953-1955. Restored.

Western Sahara becomes a Spanish province. A gradual increase in national consciousness and anti-colonial sentiment during subsequent decades leads to a guerrilla insurgency by the Spanish Sahara’s indigenous inhabitants, the nomadic Saharawis (in the early 1970s).

The Moroccan cause receives a boost with the foundation of the Istiqlal Party (the Independence Party), which presses for independence with discrete support from the United States. It is the Istiqlal Party that subsequently provides most of the leadership for the nationalist movement.

1953 – 1955
France exiles Sultan Mohammed V in 1953 to Madagascar. The unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa is selected as his replacement, sparking active opposition to the French and Spanish protectorates. In Oujda, Moroccans attack French and other European residents in the streets in one of the most notable acts of the unrest. France is forced to give way and allow Mohammed V to return in 1955, and negotiations that lead to Moroccan independence get underway in the following year.

1953 – 1955
Mohammed Ben Aarafa
Distant relative and French puppet king. Abdicated.
1955 – 1961
Mohammed V
Restored. First king of Morocco in 1957.


1956 – 1957
Morocco gains independence from France and Spain in 1956, ending the protectorates, but not reclaiming the two coastal enclaves from Spain despite the full restoration of the sultanate of Morocco. The following year, Sultan Mohammed drops his traditional title in favour of calling himself malik, or king of Morocco. Mohammed also captures Spanish Sahara during the Ifni War (which is known as the Forgotten War in Spain – Ifni is officially handed over to Morocco in 1969).
The return of Mohammed V to Morocco in 1955 from his exile in Madagascar was a symbol of the country’s growing independence.


1961 – 1999
Hassan II
Son. Died July.


The Sand War is fought against Algeria when Morocco claims portions of western Algerian territory. The war quickly bogs down into a stalemate which remains unresolved until an agreement is reached in 1972. In the same year, 1963, Morocco holds its first general elections.

With parliament suspended by the king since 1965, an attempt is made to depose him in this year. The intent is to establish a republic but the cause fails.

1975 – 1991
Having claimed the non-self-governing territory of Spanish Sahara as its ‘Southern Provinces’, Morocco now annexes the territory despite protests by Algeria, and it soon becomes known as the Western Sahara. This prompts the region’s inhabitants to launch a guerrilla war which lasts until a ceasefire is agreed in 1991. Various subsequent attempts to conduct a peace process fail to break the political deadlock.

1999 – Present
Mohammed VI Ben Hassan
Son. Born 1963.

A wave of popular protests against a deeply unpopular and dictatorial government in Tunisia forces the president to flee the country, paving the way for fresh elections and a new start. The protests strike a chord in Arabs across North Africa and the Middle East, and similar protests are triggered in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen. Morocco’s protests are much less forceful than in some places, with the king enjoying a strong following amongst his people. Force is not used to quell the protests, with the police being told to keep a low profile, and constitutional reform is promised by the king.

Crown Prince Moulay Hassan
Son. Born 2003. Heir apparent, to succeed as Hassan III.


Originally posted: African Kingdoms North Africa