Rabat is the lesser known, but in some ways more refined, younger sister of Casablanca. The capital of Morocco since 1912, it has been compared to Paris, the capital of France. A number of ex-patriots and foreigners call Rabat home, and the influence of their cultures is evident throughout the town. Make no mistake, however; Rabat is wholly Moroccan.
Rabat began its proud history during the Roman era, but truly began to take shape during the Almohad dynasty, when a permanent camp was established that grew into a small but permanent settlement. This was mainly due to Caliph Yacoub el-Mansour, who built and fortified the infrastructure of the town, which was to be a standing testament to his victory over Spanish kings at the Battle
The capital of Morocco since 1912, it has been compared to Paris.of Alarcos in 1195. Only four years later, however, the Caliph died, and although much work on his beloved city ceased, many of the structures erected during his time still stand.
If the walls lining the shores of Rabat and its sister city Salé could talk, they would most certainly speak of the droves of pirates that made their way through the area throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. During this time, the region where Rabat stood was nearly autonomous, and its economy depended on these ‘privateers.’ Even after the ‘Republic of Bou Regreg,’ named after the river that today separates the cities of Rabat and Salé, was added to the kingdom in the mid 17th-century, piracy was so vital to the region that it wasn’t fully gone until the mid-1800‘s.
Overlooking the Bou Regreg where these pirates once congregated is the Kasbah of the Oudayas. Once the site of a great fortress built by Yacoub el-Mansour, the kasbah now houses an
There is a different sensibility to this city than any other in the country.Andalusian garden, private residences, a mosque, Rabat’s Museum of Moroccan Arts, a café, and numerous other monuments and places of interest.
Adjoining the Kasbah to the south is the medina, known especially for its carpets. They are auctioned off at a square in the Rue de Consuls, a street where every consul and ambassador to Morocco was once required to live. Also vying for attention are cloth merchants and tailors, many of whom learned their trade from their parents, who in turn learned it from theirs. One can grab a bit to eat in the Marché Central, a covered food market.
Rabat’s rich artistic history dates back to the Inquisition, where Muslims and Jews alike settled after fleeing from Spain, bringing their artistry of embroidery, woodworking, and other talents with them. The city’s 18th-century medina is noted for its carpets; so much so, in fact, that carpets having a formal and/or urban design are said to be ‘Rabat carpets.’ It is a testimony of Rabat’s cross-culturalism that many of its famous carpets reflect Oriental themes and composition.
Today, Rabat is the financial and political capital of Morocco. Walking through the streets of Rabat, there is a different sensibility to this city than any other in the country. Perhaps it is on its best behavior for the royal family. Perhaps it wishes to respect the final resting places of Mohammed V and Hassan II, its former kings. For a nation so steeped in seemingly contradictory values and customs, however, Rabat is undoubtedly the capital of the cross-culturalization that is the signature trait of Morocco. Its independent spirit dates back to a time when it was an autonomous region, and its beauty to the confluence of artisans and craftsmen that have sought refuge in the city.
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