Today I'm sharing the top five sights that I've visited in Rabat, my side trip to the archaeological site of Volubilis, and a view of Moulay Idriss, considered to be the holiest city in Morocco.
- Morocco is a North African country that has a coastline on both the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.
- Morocco's official languages are Arabic and Berber. Berber language became Morocco's official language in 2011. French is widely understood and spoken in Morocco due to its history as a French protectorate (1912-1956).
- The King of Morocco is Mohammed VI.
- The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (MAD).
- The population of Rabat, Morocco's capital, is about 600,000.
- Both Rabat and Volubilis are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
TOP FIVE SIGHTS IN RABAT (Click to enlarge the pictures):
1. The Kasbah of the Udayas (Kasbah means citadel): This picturesque medieval fortress citadel was built in the 12th century during the reign of the Almohad Caliphate. From the Kasbah, we get a commanding ocean views and beautiful Andalusian gardens on its base. As we walked the small alleyways behind the fortified walls, my local guide explained that the walls are painted blue to keep flies away as as flies do not like blue.
|The Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat, Morocco|
|Large doors at the Kasbah of the Udayas|
|Pathway from the Kasbah to the oceanfront|
|Blue-painted alleyway in the Kasbah|
|Iron gates to the gardens|
2. The Mausoleum of Mohammed V: This royal family mausoleum contains the tombs of the Moroccan king Mohammed V and his two sons, late King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The mausoleum is known for its ornate Alaouite architecture and green tiled roof. The members of the Moroccan Royal Guard are on steeds at the gate of the mausoleum and stand on guard at the four entrances. The horses are changed every two hours. The interiors of the mausoleum reminded me of architecture that I've seen in Andalusia, Spain.
|The Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat, Morocco|
|A Royal Guard at the Mausoleum of Mohammed V|
|The ceiling of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V|
|The walls inside the Mausoleum of Mohammed V|
3. Hassan Tower is located on the opposite side of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. The tower, made of red sandstone in the 12th century, is the minaret of an incomplete mosque. It reached 44m (140 ft) about half of its intended 86 m (260 ft) height before its construction stopped. The rest of the mosque was also left incomplete with several walls and 348 columns being constructed. The doors and fountains facing Hassan Tower display beautiful designs.
|Hassan Tower, Rabat, Morocco|
|Doors facing Hassan Tower, Rabat, Morocco|
|Fountains facing Hassan Tower, Rabat, Morocco|
4. The Chellah houses both Roman ruins and a medieval Muslim necropolis. Its history dated back to Phoenician time. Abandoned in 1154 and damaged further by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, it is a fascinating place to wander around. The only remains of once-impressive mosque is the elegant stone-and-tile minaret, now topped with storks' nests, which is considered a sign of good fortune. Can you see a stork flying towards the minaret and a few storks on the minaret in my photo below?
|The Chellah, Rabat, Morocco|
|Exterior walls at the Chellah|
|Interior walls at the Chellah|
5. The Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen) is the primary and official residence of the king of Morocco. The current palace was built in 1864. The large palace complex includes a school for members of the royal family, a mosque, living space for the king and the royal family, accommodation for the Moroccan Royal Guard, and extensive gardens and grounds surrounding the palace.
|The Royal Palace, Rabat, Morocco|
The archaeological site of Volubilis is about 120 km (75 miles) east of Rabat. Morocco has nine World Heritage sites in total, and this is one of them.
Volubilis was founded in 3rd century BC, and was abandoned in 11th century AD. The ruins reflect Phoenician, Carthaginian, Roman, and Idrisids cultures. If you're interested in ancient history, I'd highly recommend a guided tour to explore this large and amazing site.
|Archaeological site of Volubilis, Morocco|
|The Capitoline Temple, Volubilis|
|Mosaic floor design in Volubilis, Morocco|
MOULAY IDRISS CITY:
Upon leaving Volubilis, we passed by Moulay Idriss, considered to be the holiest city in Morocco. The city is named after the Moroccan saint Moulay Idriss, a descendant of Muhammad, who died and was buried in 792 AD in the city that was eventually named after him.
During his life in Morocco, Idriss founded Morocco’s first Arab dynasty as well as the city of Fes and is accredited with converting the majority of Morocco’s population to Islam.
Moulay Idriss itself is situated in a valley with lush green hillsides enclosing the white-washed houses of the city on three sides, making for a beautiful sight.
|View of Moulay Idriss city, Morocco|
I enjoyed exploring the main landmarks in Rabat and the archaeological site of Volubilis very much. Rabat is a laid back and modern capital. Its top five sights are easily accessible in a compact area. Rabat stands in stark contrast to the old cities in the rest of Morocco.
In hindsight, I'm glad that I explored Rabat first. It felt like a gentle introduction to Morocco. My next stop is Fez (or Fes), one of Morocco's imperial cities. If you have limited time and want to experience exotic and mesmerizing Morocco, make sure you go to Fez!
What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.