From the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea to the peaks of the Atlas Mountain range and into the ever-shifting dunes of the Sahara, Morocco is one of the most diverse countries on the African continent.
It’s an oasis of different cultures, languages, religions, traditions, customs and cuisines that have profoundly influenced this part of the world for centuries – a heady blend of European, Berber, Arab and African influences.
This is Morocco – the gateway to Africa.
A French protectorate since 1912, Morocco gained independence in 1956 when Sultan Mohammed became king. He was succeeded by his son Hassan II in 1961, who ruled for 38 years playing a prominent role in reshaping the future and fortunes of this great African nation.
King Hassan II’s son and successor Mohammed VI became the monarch in 1999. Not only did he bring about political and economic changes but also initiated investigations into human rights violations during his father’s reign.
Mohammed VI introduced the Mudawana – a law granting additional rights to women – which he claims is in accordance with the principles laid down in the Holy Koran. However, the religious hardliners have opposed the move.
Rabat, the capital of Morocco and its second largest city; the royal seat of power; home to King Mohammed VI, is a fascinating modern metropolis in perfect harmony with its cultural heritage and monumental works of art.
One of Morocco’s four imperial cities along with Fez, Marrakesh, and Meknes, Rabat is home to some of the country’s most important museums, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, and the Royal Palace, in addition to several other tourist attractions and historical landmarks.
The streets of Rabat’s New City, or Ville Nouvelle, are lined with beautiful buildings of French colonial architecture. It is home to the Archaeological Museum and the uniquely interesting Postal Museum on Mohammed V Avenue housing an impressive collection of Moroccan stamps, telephones, and telegraph machines.
South side of the Ville Nouvelle is Rabat’s19th century Royal Palace – Dâr-al-Makhzen, the current residence of the incumbent King Mohammed VI and hence, not open to the public. However, the nearby Sunna Mosque offers excellent views of the palace’s exterior.
One of the top tourist draws in the capital, the 12th century Kasbah Oudaias is located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River. Within the fortified walls of the Kasbah, an Andalusian-style neighborhood exists – small and tranquil, with winding narrow blue and white alleys.
The Kasbah affords excellent views of Salé and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Kasbah Mosque on the Rue el Jamma, built in 1150 AD, is Rabat’s oldest mosque and a must-see attraction in the old district.
The red sandstone Hassan Tower is what remains of an incomplete mosque started in 1195 by the then ruler Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour. When the Sultan died in 1199, the construction of the mosque came to an abrupt halt and the Hassan Tower we see today is all that remains of the Sultan’s grand plans, in addition to 200 columns and some newly begun walls of the mosque.
Mausoleum of Mohamed V
Located on the opposite side of the Hassan Tower, on the Yacoub al-Mansour esplanade, is the glittering modern mausoleum of Mohammed the V. It is also the final resting place of the king’s two sons King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah.
The tomb chamber is brilliantly decorated in traditional Moroccan design with Zellige mosaic tile work covering the walls surrounding the grand marble tomb.
Located in the metro area of the capital, the Chellah is a fortified Muslim necropolis of medieval times on the south side of the Bou Regreg estuary.
Originally it was the site of Phoenician colonies called “Sala,” later occupied by their Carthaginian successors followed by the Romans who built their own city on and around the site. It continued to exist under the Christian Berbers.
However, when the Muslim Arabs came in the 7th century, the site was mostly in ruins.
Today, the site boasts scenic landscaped gardens alongside royal tombstones and the excavated Roman ruins.
Zoo de Rabat
The Rabat Zoological Park is home to 130 incredible African wildlife species in a simulated mountain, desert, savanna & rainforest habitats. The zoo inhabitants include hippopotami, crocodiles, rhinos, flamingos, and the great Barbary lion, which is now extinct in the wild.
The Salé Medina district is home to the Salés’ Grand Mosque, and the Sidi Ben Ashir Mausoleum, Fondouk (khan) al-Askour as well as some exotic souks where you can brush up your haggling skills.
Abul Hassan Medersa
There are several Medersas (Islamic Scool of Learning) and mausoleums in the town of Salé across the Bou Regreg River facing Rabat, the Abul Hassan Medersa being the most important among them.
Dating back to the 14th century, the Medersa’s interior boasts beautifully restored examples of traditional religious decoration, including zellige tile-work and carved wood panels. The roof of the Medersa affords excellent views of Rabat across the Bou Regreg.
Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI)
One of the 14 museums of the National Foundation of Museums of Morocco, the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art was founded by the current King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, which opened to the public as recently as 2014.
The museum boasts a rich collection of modern and contemporary art, both Moroccan and international, with exhibits by over 200 Moroccan artists, including Hassan Hajjaj and Ahmed Yacoubi.
Being the capital of Morocco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since2012, and a popular tourist destination, Rabat was the automatic choice for the museum’s location.
The inaugural exhibition was entitled “1914 – 2014: 100 Years of Creation.”
Rabat Archaeological Museum
Opened to the public in 1932, the Rabat Archaeological Museum is home to Morocco’s most varied and extensive prehistoric and pre-Islamic archaeological finds from Volubilis, Banasa, and Thamusida. It includes human remains from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Neolithic period stretching all the way back to 4000 BC.
The museum had to be expanded considerably to accommodate new finds in 1957 which elevated the museum’s status to National Museum.
Hellenistic-style bronze exhibits including the “Dog of Volubilis” and the marble ‘Ephebe Crowned With Ivy and Head of a Young Berber are also housed in the museum along with pre-Roman and Roman civilization artifacts.
(Source: Google, Wikipedia, Planetware)