Morocco’s emergence as a nation state is astonishingly recent, dating from the occupation of the country by the French and Spanish at the turn of the twentieth century, and its independence in 1956. Prior to this, it is best seen as a kind of patchwork of tribal groups, whose shifting alliances and sporadic bids for power defined the nature of government. With a handful of exceptions, the country’s ruling Sultans controlled only plains, the coastal ports and the regions around the imperial capitals of Fes, Marrakesh, Rabat and Meknes. These were known as Bled el Mekhzen – the governed lands, or, more literally, “Lands of the storehouse”. The rest of the Moroccan territories – the Rif, the three Atlas ranges and outlying deserts – comprised Bled Es Siba “Lands of Dissidents”. Populated almost exclusively by Berbers, the region’s original (pre-Arab) inhabitants, they were rarely recognized as being under anything more than local tribal authority.