The Attractions of Rabat
By Seif Kamel
Rabat, the modern capital of Morocco, is one of the major touristic destinations in the country nowadays. The city offers many monuments, historical sites, and shopping opportunities. Today we will explore more of the touristic attractions of Rabat that is often visited by many travelers spending their Morocco tours.
Rue Souika and the Great Mosque
Rue Souika is the main street going through the Medina and it is the liveliest rout in Rabat. The street is lined with small shops selling shoes, clothes, radios, food, drinks, spices, and maybe everything. It is always crowded all day long
At the intersection with the Rue Bab Chella, stands the great mosque that was built probably during between the 13th and the 16th centuries. The mosque was afterwards restored and renewed many times during the Alaouite ruling period. The mosque is one of the attractions of Rabat with many visitors who spend their holidays in Morocco.
The most remarkable feature in the mosque is its minaret that is 33 meters high and it was completed in 1939. It is made out of blocks of hewn stones, decorated with dressed stones, and has some pierced stones in the shape of intersecting arches.
In front of the mosque, there is the fountain featured with its intersecting arches as well. This fountain was built during the reign of the Marinid King, Abu Fares Abel Aziz in the 14th century.
At the end of the street, there is the mosque of Mawlai Suleiman or the Rue Souika Mosque. It was built in the beginning of the 19th century replacing a more ancient Islamic structure. Many of the Islamic structures in Rabat are usually admired by many travelers who go private tours in Morocco.
Then Andalusian Walls
During the region of the Moriscos, the Moslem refugees coming from Spain, in the 17th century, they found that the city is no properly defended. Therefore, they decided to surround the city with fortified walls. These walls have become a pleasant monument in Rabat and many travelers would like to explore them when they spend a trip in Morocco.
The Andalusian walls, named after its builders, run in a strait line for more than 1400 meters and they are around 5 meters high. It starts by the Sunday Gate in the West to the Borj of Sidi Makhlouf in the East.
Boulevard of Hassan II runs in parallel line with the walls and around 100 meters of the walls were destroyed in order to facilitate the entrance and exist of people in the market.
The walls have a set of towers set in intervals with each measuring around 35 meters and they are topped by passageways to walk. This is protected by a parapet with numerous loopholes.
To the East of the walls, the Moriscos have built the small irregular fort of Sidi Makhlouf. It consists of a platform based on solid foundations and it had a tower close by.
Bab Al Had or the Sunday Gate was once during the 17th century the main entrance into the city. This gate that date back to the Almohad period was built between 1147 and 1248 and it was renewed by Mawlai Suleiman in 1814. The Sunday Gate is the section that is most visited by tourists who travel to Morocco.
The Sunday Gate contains many small chambers that were constructed to enable the soldier to reside near the gates to guard them against any outer attacks.
The Towering Minaret of Hassan
For more than 800 years, the towering minaret of Hassan has stood on the hill overlooking Bou Regreg Valley. It has become one of the landmarks of Rabat and one of the most remarkable monuments in the city that is included almost travel package to Morocco.
This towering minaret was intended for the Hassan Mosque that was started by Sultan Yaqub Al Mansur in 1196. The design of this huge mosque with dimensions that were clearly out of the population at the time, suggest that Al Mansur, the most famous Almohad ruler, was intending to make Rabat the new Imperial capital of the empire.
Almohad rulers were trying to rival the Great Mosque at Cordoba, the former capital of the Islamic empire in the West in the 12th and 13th century. Unfortunately after the death of Al Mansur in 1199, the construction work of the mosque was stopped and the whole project went into despair. The whole mosque was destroyed afterwards in the earthquake of 1755 except for the towering minaret.
The design of the Hassan Mosque indicates that was 139 meters wide and 183 meters long which were bigger than the Great Mosque of Cordoba being 175 meters long and 128 meters wide. Many Morocco tours include a visit to the towering minaret of Hassan in Rabat.
It was the largest Islamic structure in the world, only second in size to the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq. A great courtyard was at the foot of the minaret while the prayer hall was divided into 21 avenues with huge columns that had large stone capitals.
The minaret, the only remaining item in the mosque today, has a square shape which is 16 meters wide and 44 meters high. The original plan of the minaret was actually never completed as it was intended to be more than 80 meters high. The Towering minaret of Hassan has become one the most important highlight of any Morocco travel tour
Each of the four sides of the minaret was decorated with blind lobed arches. At the top of the minaret there is the lozenge shaped blind fretwork that was copied from the mosques of Girlada and Seville in Spain.
From the Hassan towering minaret, Mohamed V, the former King of Morocco, gave his first speech after the independence of Morocco.
Dar Al Makhzen
A large complex that is enclosed in its own great walls, Dar Al Makhzen is hosting now around 2000 inhabitants. It was built on the site of the 18th century royal residence.
The current Palace was completed in 1864 but it was constantly enlarged ever after. The Dar now has the offices of the Moroccan Government, the Supreme Court, the office of the Prime Minster, the ministry of Habous, responsible for religious organizations, and Al Fas Mosque.
Inside the Dar, there is the avenue of the public assembly and the place for major gatherings like the "Bayaa", where the ministers give homage to the king.
Besides these great structures, the complex has a large garden kept and preserved with many trees, flowers, and rare roses.
During the 44 years period of the French protectorate, Marshal Lyautey, with the help of some skilful architect, has built a new town in the empty area enclosed by Almohad walls.
The main avenue is lined with residential buildings constructed in the Hispano Moroccan style. There is also the Bank of Morocco, the Post Office, the Parliament building, and the Railway station.
The town includes an interesting coins museum inside the structure of the Bank of Morocco. Another interesting place to view would be the Cathedral of Saint Pierre that was constructed in the 1930s. Many tourists would like to walk around Ville Nouvelle when they are enjoying their trips in Morocco.
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