The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Rabat, Modern Capital & Historic City: A Shared Heritage (Morocco)

Map showing the location of Rabat UNESCO world heritage site, Morocco

Website Category: Fortified Cities of the Maghreb  

Area: approx 3.5 km2

Inscribed: 2012

Criteria:(ii) interchange of values over time   (iv) significant stages in human history

Location and Values:  Rabat, the modern capital of Morocco, lies on the Atlantic coastline at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River on the north-western shores of the African continent.  It is a remarkable city which has successfully incorporated two thousand years of architectural heritage into a modern, vibrant capital city. 

The world heritage site is in three parts, the main component covering an area of about 3.5 km2 between the ruins of a walled Roman/Arab city (the Chellah) and a medieval citadel (the Oudaia Kasbah) that stands on a promontory overlooking the estuary.  This area includes the Ville Nouvelle (New Town) developed under French Protectorate government in the early 20th century and the old Arabo-Muslim medina with its souks (markets), hammams (bath houses), fondouks (inns), mosques, whitewashed walls and shaded alleys.  The Medina is enclosed behind great fortifications, the walls and gates built at different times in the Almohad (12th century) and Andalusian (17th to 18th century) periods of influence.

The second element of the world heritage site is the complex that encompasses the Hassan Mosque and Mohammed V Mausoleum.  The Hassan Mosque would have been the second largest mosque in the Islamic world, but construction was abandoned on the death of the great Almohad leader, Yacoub el Mansour in 1199.  Today its vast minaret dominates the city skyline, and the bases of the marble columns that supported the cedar roof of the great hall (brought down in a major earthquake in 1755) are still in place.  The Mosque and Mausoleum of Mohammed V was begun on the king’s death in 1961 and the ornate chamber is lined with marble and incorporates the finest Moroccan architectural and decorative traditions.  Outside it is protected by elaborately costumed royal horsemen. 

The third element of the world heritage site is the Habous de Diour Jamaa quarter which was designed by French architects and built from 1917-30 in neo-Moorish style.  It is based on the urban model of the traditional medina with entrance gateways, alleyways, covered passages and houses arranged around a central courtyard.

Slideshow of Rabat:   The slideshow begins at the imposing gates of the Chellah, and explores the ruins within the ancient fortified town (which has remained uninhabited since 1154), showing the Islamic ruins of The Sanctuary (with a stork’s next perched on the tiled minaret!), and some ruins of the earlier Roman period.  The ‘virtual tour’ then covers the Hassan Mosque and the Mohammed V Mausoleum, before continuing into the Ville Nouvelle, showing the Parliament building and main avenues.  It passes the great Almohad fortifications and city gates through the Medina and on to the Kasbah (with its impressive Oudaia Gate) finishing with views of the estuary, and the extensive cemetery.  Various photographers contributed material for this slideshow through, each photo being individually attributed by way of a watermark.  Thanks to Al Greening, Alf Gilman, Andre Bouterse, Axel Drainville, C.Hugues, Dannebrog, Jaafar Mestari and Pietro Izzo for their contributions.

Google Earth View:  To view satellite imagery of Rabat on Google Earth, click here.  This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.  The window opens onto a superb image of the Chellah – the ruins of a walled city that marks the most southerly component of the contemporary urban ensemble.   By panning to the north, the Hassan Mosque and Mohammed V Mausoleum come into view, and following the banks of the Bou Regreg river to the northwest the tightly packed houses of the fortified Kasbah can be located at the mouth of the estuary.

Links to other places featuring fortified cities of the Maghreb:  Beni Hammad | AlgiersFez | Marrakesh | Meknes | Sousse | Tetouan | Tunis | Kerkuane | Kairouan

Other LinksOfficial UNESCO Site Details

The Mohammed V Mausoleum is an important monument in the Rabat UNESCO world heritage site (Morocco), which encompasses the modern capital and historic city The imposing minaret and bases of the prayer hall columns in the unfinished Almohad-era Hassan Mosque, one of the prominent monuments in the Rabat UNESCO world heritage site (Morocco) typical alleyway in the Medina of the Rabat UNESCO world heritage site (Morocco), which encompasses the modern capital and historic city The Islamic Ruins of The Sanctuary lie within the fortified Chellah in the Rabat UNESCO world heritage site (Morocco), which encompasses the modern capital and historic city



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