A tour to the Imperial cities: Marrakech, Fez, Meknes and Rabat
The best way to get to know Morocco is to visit the four Imperial Cities: Marrakech, Fez, Rabat and Meknes. They have been the capital of the country at some point in its history and each has its own personality and appeal.
Your trip will start in Rabat, capital of Morocco since 1921 when Marshal Lyautey chose it as the seat of the administrative government of the French protectorate. Some of the reasons were its more or less central location within the country and, above all, the mild temperatures tempered by the Atlantic.
In the oldest part of the city you will find the Kasbah of the Udayas an impenetrable fortress with thick and photogenic walls. Inside, you will find a parallel universe of blue and white streets within the capital. The bicolor is broken randomly with ornamented house portals that add a yellowish ochre touch. Its resemblance to the noble doors of Spanish houses is explained because this neighborhood was built by Muslims who had fled the peninsula after the conquer of the Al-Andalus kingdom.
Another landmark in the city is the Mausoleum of Mohamed V and Tower of Hassan. The imposing Hassan Tower and the forest of thick columns are the remains of what was meant to be one of the biggest mosques on the planet. The building commissioned by the Almohad Sultan Yaqub al-Mansur in the 12th century was left incomplete after his death.
From the Hassan Tower Mohamed V announced the independence of Morocco in 1955. The symbolic value of the site triggered the construction of his mausoleum and the following Alaouite dynasty monarchs. In 2012 Rabat achieved the coveted label of ‘World Heritage Site’ thanks to its reinvention as a modern city but respectful of the past.
Your trip will continue to Meknes. The origins of Meknes date back to the 8th century, when a kasbah was built on the site. A Berber tribe known as Meknasa settled in that area in the 10th century and a village grew around the fortress.
It was the capital of the country from 1672 to 1727 under the rule of Sultan Mulay Ismail, however after his death the capital was moved to Fez.
The great work left by the Sultan was Bab Mansour the gateway to the city of Meknes, the largest in Morocco and North Africa. It is about 16 meters high and has a pointed horseshoe arch with mosaic decoration on its upper part. A great example of Moroccan architecture!
Photo: Chris Martin. Adapted under license (CC BY-SA 2.0)