Visitors to Marrakech in late autumn might like to know that Independence Day (Eid Al Istiqulal), is celebrated on 18th November each year to commemorate the return of King Mohammed V from French-imposed exile in Madagascar and the declaration of Moroccan independence from both France and Spain in 1956.
European Interest and Treaties
European interest in Morocco during the late 1800s sparked conflicts between several imperial powers, notably France and Spain. These conflicts resulted in an international conference (the Algeciras Conference) in 1906 during which the US and European states discussed and subsequently solemnised France’s special interest in Morocco. Following this conference, the 1912 Treaty of Fez declared Morocco a French Protectorate. An agreement signed by France and Spain the same year handed control over Tarfaya, south of the river Draa, and Tangiers in the north, as well as Ifni and Rif on the southwest Atlantic Coast, to Spain.
By the mid-1920s, first signs of rebellion against France and Spain’s colonial rule began to surface but the demand for Moroccan independence only gained real momentum at the end of WWII. In 1944, King Mohammed V, backed by the nationalistic Istiqlal (Independence) Party, pressed Morocco’s demand for complete independence. In response, France exiled the highly revered King Mohammed to Madagascar in 1953, replacing him with the widely opposed Mohammed Ben Aarafa.