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Rabat is located on the magnificent shores of the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River, and is one of the largest cities in Morocco. The name in translation from medieval Arabic means “Fortress”, even if today’s name is a junction of two words “Ribat al-Fath”, meaning “Fortress of Victory”. The river Bou-Regreg serves as a link between the capital and the city of Sale, forming a separate agglomeration.
It is a calm and elegant city in which the gardens emerge through its avenues turning the walks into an authentic delight for the senses. Not in vain is it known as “the city of gardens”.
The history of the city is quite interesting and full of events. From the third century BC it was successively occupied by Phoenicians, Carthaginians and finally Romans who founded the Sala colony, making it a very important commercial center. Sultan Yakub al-Mansour, who ruled the state in the 12th century, strove to strengthen the maritime borders, having formed the capital of the state in the city of Rabat. To strengthen the coastline, a powerful fortress was built, called Kasbah of the Udayas.
But the heyday of the city was not long, after the death of the ruler, the state of Rabat came to a severe decline. In the 17th century, power was captured by pirates who connected Rabat and Sale, where a small pirate state was formed, with its own rules and laws. They took advantage of such a successful location for seizing past passing ships.
The rule of the corsairs lasted until the 19th century, until the country fell under the protection of France. In 1956, Mohammed V came to power, who became the first king of Morocco. One of the first decrees was the return of the country’s capital to the city of Rabat. From this important historical moment the city began to actively develop and prosper.
The city with such a rich history left a lot of attractions for its descendants. The main pride of Rabat is Kasbah of the Udayas, which introduces visitors to the wonderful origins of Rabat.
From this point, through a row of whitewashed houses, with blue frames and latticework, you reach the main street, where an ancient mosque, built in 1150, is located. Also note the Garden of the Udayas ( Hispanic-Muslim style). From the terrace of the fortress breaks a dizzying panorama of the Atlantic Ocean and the city of Sale.
Indispensable to take the pulse of the city is to know the Medina of Rabat. It is protected by a powerful wall and has rare features of tranquility and dimensionality, not typical for the eastern markets. The atmosphere of the medina fascinates from all sides where you can see rare and picturesque carpets, ornaments from copper and other handicraft. Many artisans make works of art in front of astonished visitors.
From the city center the market is separated by Hassan II avenue, passing through a string of structures connecting the past and present of Rabat. One can walk to the remnants of the Hassan Tower and see the mausoleum of King Mohammed V.
The Hassan Tower was built in the 12th century under Sultan Al-Mansur. The sultan dreamed of building the world’s largest mosque so that his entire army could come to prayer. It was planned to build a 90-meter-long minaret, but all plans were never realized. At the time of the death of Sultan Al-Mansur, the altitude was only 44 meters, after which the construction of the mosque stopped. In the following years the building was left to the erosion of time, which was also helped by the 18th century earthquake.
In our days only the columns and the minaret are preserved, reminiscent of the great ruler. Opposite is a beautiful white building – this is the mausoleum of the great Mohammed V, built by the decree of his son – Hassan II. Interior decoration of marble walls, mosaics and gold affects every visitor.
The journey through the history of Rabat leads to the Necropolis of Chellah, which was the first human settlement in this region. Everything is surrounded by an imposing wall and a beautiful door that invites to pass. In the interior a beautiful garden, an allegory of the Muslim “Garden of Paradise”, is populated with fig trees, orange trees and all kinds of exotic trees and flora.
Rabat, as a city with a rich history, has many museums on its territory that will introduce every visitor to its cultural and historical heritage. If there is no time to pay attention to each museum, then it is worthwhile to look into two of them.
In the neighborhood of Kasbah Udayas there is a Oudaias Museum, erected by Sultan Moulay Ismail in the second half of the 17th century. It is located in a building that strikes with its architecture and interior decoration. Complementing the majesty of the structure is a beautiful garden, surrounding the fortress from all sides.
The museum acquaints visitors with the culture and customs of the peoples of Morocco. There are exhibits of artisans’ products, rare carpets, rich decorations, musical instruments, clothes, as well as ancient Arabic letters. Having become acquainted with all the collections, you can recreate the full picture of the past, which is quite interesting and fascinating.
The archaeological museum, opened in the first half of the last century, will let its visitor dwell in the city’s historical past. The collection contains valuable discovered artifacts, obtained during excavations of the surroundings of Rabat and other nearby territories. The most ancient, date back to the Neolithic period. Particular attention worthy of exhibits of Roman antiquity where different marble products, ceramic dishes and bronze objects of household utensils can be found,
Walking along the banks of the river Bou-regreg, you can see the Andalusian gardens, which were created in the 19th century, but perfectly preserved to the present day. Inside the garden there is a special atmosphere of tranquility and majestic beauty. Lemon trees, cypress and jasmine form a magnificent landscape that does not leave any visitor indifferent.
Modern and Contemporary Art Museum of Mohammed VI. This is a huge modern three-story museum, where exhibitions of contemporary art are constantly held. the exposition of which is entirely devoted to the contemporary fine arts of Morocco, covering the period of its development from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.
A specially constructed building for the museum is an urban architectural landmark – the building is made in the Arab-Moorish style, traditional motifs are closely intertwined with modern architectural tendencies, which allowed the building of the museum to blend harmoniously with the historical appearance of Rabat.
Every year in May, in Rabat Mawazine begins. All African rhythms flock to the festival scenes and spread across the city. The event is overseen by the King himself and tens of thousands of Moroccans take part in the movement since part of the festival program is free. Music pours out beyond the allocated sites. At any time of the day and in any streets you stumble upon improvised rhythm-performances.
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