Morocco

Meknes

Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco, located in northern central Morocco and the sixth largest city by population in the kingdom. Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes became capital of Morocco under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl (1672–1727), son of the founder of the Alaouite dynasty. Moulay Ismaïl turned Meknes into an impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great doors, where the harmonious blending of the Islamic and European styles of the 17th century Maghreb are still evident today.

(Pictures taken in 1992)

Bab al-Mansour gate, named after the architect, El-Mansour. It was completed 5 years after Moulay Ismail’s death, in 1732. The design of the gate plays with Almohad patterns. It has zellij mosaics of excellent quality. The marble columns were taken from the Roman ruins of Volubilis. When the structure was completed, Moulay Ismail inspected the gate, asking El-Mansur if he could do better. El-Mansur felt compelled to answer yes, making the sultan so furious he had him executed. Still, according to historical records, the gate was finished after Moulay Ismail’s death. The gate itself is now used as an arts and crafts gallery; entry is by a side gate. This is the main gate between the Medina and Imperial City of Meknes. It is designed with Almohad patterns and some of Volubilis’s columns were taken apart to build the wall.

Bab Mansour Gate

FEZ

Fes el Bali is the oldest walled part of Fez, Morocco. Fes el Bali was founded as the capital of the Idrisid dynasty between 789 and 808 AD. Besides being famous for having the oldest university in the world, the University of Al-Karaouine, Fes el Bali, with a total population of 156,000, is also believed to be the biggest car-free urban area in the world.

UNESCO listed Fes el Bali as a World Heritage Site in 1981 under the name Medina of Fez. The World Heritage Site includes Fes el Bali’s urban fabric and walls as well as a buffer zone outside of the walls that is intended to preserve the visual integrity of the location.

Fes el Bali is,along with Fes Jdid and the French-created Ville Nouvelle or “NewTown”, one of the three main districts in Fez.

MARRAKESH

Marrakesh is a major city of the Kingdom of Morocco. It is the fourth largest city in the country, after Casablanca, Fez and Tangier. It is the capital city of the mid-southwestern region of Marrakesh-Safi.

Marrakesh is possibly the most important of Morocco’s four former imperial cities. The region has been inhabited by Berber farmers since Neolithic times, but the actual city was founded in 1062, by Abu Bakr ibn Umar, chieftain and cousin of Almoravid king Yusuf ibn Tashfin. In the 12th century, the Almoravids built many madrasas (Koranic schools) and mosques in Marrakesh that bear Andalusian influences. The red walls of the city, built by Ali ibn Yusuf in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in red sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Red City” or “Ochre City”. Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading centre for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa; Jemaa el-Fnaa is the busiest square in Africa.

After a period of decline, the city was surpassed by Fez, but in the early 16th century, Marrakesh again became the capital of the kingdom. The city regained its preeminence under wealthy Saadian sultans Abu Abdallah al-Qaim and Ahmad al-Mansur, who embellished the city with sumptuous palaces such as the El Badi Palace (1578) and restored many ruined monuments. Beginning in the 17th century, the city became popular among Sufi pilgrims for Morocco’s seven patron saints, who are entombed here. In 1912 the French Protectorate in Morocco was established and T’hami El Glaoui became Pasha of Marrakesh and held this position nearly throughout the duration of the protectorate until the role was dissolved upon independence of Morocco and the reestablishment of the monarchy in 1956. In 2009, Marrakesh mayor Fatima Zahra Mansouri became the second woman to be elected mayor in Morocco.

Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises an old fortified city packed with vendors and their stalls (the medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), bordered by modern neighbourhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz. Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major economic centre and tourist destination. Marrakesh has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco.

(Pictures taken in 2004)

Aït Benhaddou

Aït Benhaddou is an ighrem (fortified village in English) (ksar in Arabic), along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. Most citizens attracted by the tourist trade live in more modern dwellings in a village on the other side of the river, although there are four families still living in the ancient village. Inside the walls of the ksar are half a dozen (Kasbahs) or merchants houses and other individual dwellings, and is a great example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture.

Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

(Pictures taken in 2004)

Essaouira

Essaouira, formerly known as Mogador, is a city in the westernMoroccan economic region of Marrakesh-Safi, on the Atlantic coast.The modern name means “the little rampart”, a reference tothe fortress walls that still enclose part of the city.

(Pictures taken in 2005)

El Jadida

El Jadida is a port city on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. From the sea, El Jadida’s old city has a very “un-Moorish” appearance; it has massive Portuguese walls of hewn stone.

The Portuguese Fortified City of Mazagan was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, on the basis of its status as an “outstanding example of the interchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures” and as an “early example of the realisation of the Renaissance ideals integrated with Portuguese construction technology”. According to UNESCO, the most important buildings from the Portuguese period are the cistern, and the Manueline Church of the Assumption.

Rabat

Rabat is the capital city of Morocco and the country’s seventh largest city.

Once a reputed corsair haven, Rabat served as one of the many ports in North Africa for the Barbary pirates, who were particularly active from the 16th through the 18th centuries. The city is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. It is one of four Imperial cities of Morocco, and the medina of Rabat is listed as a World Heritage Site.

Mausoleum of Mohammed V

The Mausoleum of Mohammed V is a mausoleum located on the opposite side of the Hassan Tower, on the Yacoub al-Mansour esplanade in Rabat, Morocco. It contains the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons, late King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The building is considered a masterpiece of modern Alaouite dynasty architecture, with its white silhouette, topped by a typical green tiled roof, green being the colour of Islam. A reader of the Koran is often present, having his assigned seat. Its construction was completed in 1971. Hassan II was buried there following his death in 1999.

Guard at the mausoleum of Mohammed V

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