Morocco is a mere 8 miles from mainland Spain, but the North African country isn’t synonymous with sun, sand and sea, even though it’s on the Med. It does have history though, and some of these historical facts may surprise explains guest writer Jennifer Adams:

Anyone considering a little Mediterranean break is likely to think along the lines of Spain, France, Italy…or maybe even Greece. But Morocco? Probably not.

A quick glance at any Mediterranean map reveals that the North African country is very much part of the ‘Med’ scene, you just probably associate the country more with ‘Africa’ than with the archetypal sun, sand and sea resorts that the Mediterranean is now synonymous with.

Indeed, Morocco is only eight miles from Spain. That’s practically swimming distance, though I wouldn’t recommend it.

What I would recommend, however, is that you visit Morocco at least once in your lifetime. And despite its ideal location on the shores of the Mediterranean to the east, and the Atlantic to the West, it’s the history of this country that will really blow you away.

With that in mind, here are 5 fascinating historical facts about Morocco that you may, or may not, already know.

The world’s oldest university…University of Al-Karaouine

Now, you may know that the city of Fes is where the fez hat, made famous by legendary comedian Tommy Cooper, hails from. But Fes, Morocco’s second largest city is, is also home to the world’s oldest university.

The University of Al-Karaouine has been teaching Islamic students since 859 AD, quite an impressive track record, pre-dating the world famous Oxford University in England by some two hundred years.

Image Lietmotiv

Home of John the Baptist?

This is a real curious one. John the Baptist, the man who baptised none-other than Baby Jesus in the waters around Jordan, is said to be buried in the Shrine of Sidi Yahia, in the Moroccan city of Oujda, in the east of the country.

Morocco and the USA: a strong alliance

Morocco was the first country to recognise the USA as a sovereign nation, independent to the United Kingdom. This was way back in 1777, and was a key moment for US/Morocco relations. Today, Morocco remains one of the US’s closest allies in the Middle Eastern region.

French & Spanish rule

From 1912 until 1956, Morocco was ruled by France, with Spain also controlling small parts of the country for the same period. This period of colonisation has had a lasting impact on Moroccan culture, evident today in its cuisine and the language. Both French and Spanish are recognised national languages across the country, though don’t have official status.

Marrakesh: a spiritual rock-star hangout

Contrary to popular belief, Marrakesh isn’t the capital of Morocco. But it is a very significant city, and one that led The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin  to embark on holidays to Marrakesh in the sixties and seventies.

Many other hippies and spiritual nomads have made the pilgrimage to this fantastic country, and it’s easy to see why. It may be Africa, but it also has a strong European flavour throughout. Morocco gives you the best of two continents.

Jennifer is a part of the digital blogging team at Digital Crosstalk who work with a growing number of travel brands.

Handycraft shop in ouarzazate, Morocco in Morocco