The Kingdom of Morocco
Morocco, fondly called the cold country with a hot sun is officially referred to as the Kingdom of Morocco. A country located in North Africa with a population of nearly 34 million occupying an area of 710,850 km2. Morocco has a coast on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco has international borders with Algeria to the east, Spain to the north (a water border through the Strait and land borders with two small Spanish autonomous cities, Ceuta and Meillia) and Mauritania to the south. Its capital is Rabat whilst the largest city is Casablanca. Other cities includes Marrakesh, Tangier, Salé, Fes, and Meknes.
Morocco has a history that dates back to 788BC when the country was rules by a series of independent dynasties up until 1912 when the country when it was divided into French and Spanish protectorates with an international zone in Tangier. It’s a multicultural society with a blend of Berber, Arab, West African and European cultures. Morocco gained independence in 1956.
Morocco operates a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. Whilst the executive powers are exercised by the government, the legislative powers are exercised by both the government and the two chambers of parliament – the Assembly of Representatives and the Assembly of Councillors.
Morocco is predominantly Islam with Arabic and Berber as official languages. The country is a member of the Arab League, the Union for the Mediterranean and the African Union with fifth largest economy in Africa.
Rabat – Morocco’s Capital City
Rabat, Morocco’s capital, rests along the shores of the Bouregreg River and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s known for landmarks that speak to its Islamic and French-colonial heritage, including the Kasbah of the Udayas. This Berber-era royal fort is surrounded by formal French-designed gardens and overlooks the ocean. The city’s iconic Hassan Tower, a 12th-century minaret, soars above the ruins of a mosque.
A medieval fortified city buried in the heart of Rabat, Chellah stands as the remains of a pre-Islamic city which was abandoned in 1154 and then built upon by a Merenid Sultan. It is an atmospheric place, full of history and charm. Abandoned buildings and overgrown plants are intertwined with colorful, immaculately maintained flowers and fauna as well as public pathways. This allows visitors to explore the Roman and Islamic ruins, from a bathing pool to a madrasa.
Hassan Tower and Tomb
At first sight, it appears as though this tower fell and split in half. However it was never actually completed. Started by the Almohads, Hassan Tower was intended to be the minaret for what the ruler, Yacoub al-Mansour, intended to be a majestic mosque. The beautiful and intricate designs on the tower, as well as the open and intriguing surroundings make it a a must-see. Just opposite lies a beautiful tomb of King Mohammad V and his two sons. The tomb is open to even non-Muslims. Visitors will be entranced by the gold-leaf ceiling and captivating carvings that lie inside the plain white building.
Kasbah des Oudaias
Occupying the oldest part of Rabat, Kasbah des Oudaias lies as the original site of the city, complete with stunning river and ocean views. Now a predominantly residential area, it is a peaceful and beautiful place to wander around the narrow, white-washed streets, some painted a refreshing blue. Enter through the original grand door of the city and explore the dainty and characterful streets to get an insight into historical life in Rabat.
The Andalusian gardens, also home to the Palace Museum which showcases fascinating exhibits demonstrating Moroccan art and culture, are a must-visit in Rabat. The beautiful gardens were built by the French in the 20th century, and have traditional Andalusian flowers and shrubs, complete with orange, lemon and banana trees. A refreshing and relaxing retreat away from the crowds, this tranquil oasis allows visitors to wander and admire the nature.
A relatively new zoo, opened in 2012, Rabat Zoo invites visitors to explore all the continents of the world in simulated mountain, desert, savannah and rainforest habitats. Visitors can admire more than 130 species of animals. There is everything from giraffes to reptiles in this spacious zoo with a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. It’s an impressive find in the middle of a capital city and an activity which is sure to fill up at least half a day.
Natural Science Museum
A fantastic family venue, the Natural Science Museum of Rabat is full of impressive displays of dinosaurs and chronicles of the origins of the earth. Perfect for archaeology lovers and curious minds, the Natural Science Museum has a lot to offer. Its main attraction is a full-size replica of a real Sauropod dinosaur discovered in the high Atlas mountains in 1979.
Almost every big city in Morocco has a palace ready for the arrival of the King as a guest. However, the Palace in Rabat is King Hassan II’s official residence, and was built upon the ruins of an 18th-century palace. Home to many government offices, as well as quarters for the Royal Family, it is an important city building. While visitors cannot enter the main grounds, admiring the palace from the central pathway is still special.