Wide regions of Morocco, from the Meseta to the High Atlas, have experienced km-scale upward vertical movements during Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous times following the appearance of oceanic crust in the Central Atlantic. The area experiencing exhumation was flanked to the W by a domain of continuous subsidence, part of which is named the Essaouira-Agadir basin. Comparison with vertical movement curves predicted by lithospheric thinning models shows that only 50-60 % of the subsidence documented in the Essaouira basin can be explained by post-rift thermal relaxation and that <30-40 % of the observed exhumation can be explained by processes (in)directly related to the evolution of the Central Atlantic rifted margin. Syn-sedimentary structures in Middle Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous formations of the Eassouira-Agadir basin are common and range from m-scale folds and thrusts to km-scale sedimentary wedges. These structures systematically document coeval shortening generally oriented at high angle to the present margin. As a working hypothesis, it is suggested that regional shortening can explain the structural observations and the enigmatic vertical movements. © 2012 The Author(s).