Prehistoric Sites

Dar Soltane

The site is located on the shooting range of el Menzeh, on the Atlantic coast south of Rabat. The stratigraphy of this cave successively revealed the presence of Neolithic, Iberomaurusian and finally Aterian levels. This cave is very famous for having in 1975 yielded human remains, including a partial skull that is associated with the Aterian occupation. These remains are attributed to a Homo sapiens sapiens with some archaic characteristics.

Rouazi Skhirat

This important site is located 30 km south of Rabat. It is a necropolis discovered accidentally in 1980. The rescue excavations undertaken since 1982 in this necropolis have enriched our knowledge about the Moroccan Neolithic. This necropolis has yielded human remains that are associated with an important archaeological assemblage: ceramic vases, ivory cylindrical cups, 2 ivory bracelets …

The cultural attribute of this necropolis is the late Middle Neolithic, dated to around 3800 BC.
Occupied through prehistoric and then classical times, it is with the Almohad (XII century) that the site of Rabat saw the beginning of a continuous and extraordinary historical journey made of cultural influence and activity. Made up in part of a simple Ribat (fortified religious settlement) built to thwart Bourghwata attacks, the site would be built up under Abdemoumen as a Kasbah (fortress) and used as a support base for the camp of warriors en route to the Islamic conquest of Spain. His grandson Ya’coub el Mansour wanted to make Rabat (Ribat al-fath) a capital of his kingdom, and built the foundations of the city. A vaste enclosed area was constructed as well as other monuments, including the famous Hassan Mosque with its unfinished tower. Despite the Marinid attempts to resuscitate the city, which had been in decline since the 14th century, notably by the construction of the royal necropolis on the site of Chella, Rabat continued to decline. It was the massive arrival of Muslim refugees from Spain from 1609 onward that gave a new life to the city.

The newcomers occupied the site of the present-day medina, which they enclosed with what is now called the Andalusian wall, and gave the name of sala, or salé (new). It was at this time that the towns on the two shores of the Bou Regreg, Salé and Rabat, were united in a single Moorish republic and took the fortress of the Oudaya (Kasbah) as capital. This polity embarked on widespread and intense maritime activity based on piracy which disturbed Europe until 1829. In 1912, Rabat would be chosen as the administrative capital of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Ancient and Islamic Sites

Chella (Sala colonia)

was occupied from prehistoric times. Sala was one of the rich and prosperous towns of the province of Mauretania Tingitane. In the Phoenician and Carthaginian periods, the site was probably a maritime stopover between Lixus and Mogador. It was not until the Mauritanian period (2nd-1st centuries BC) that Sala became an important settlement with numerous public and religious monuments. From 40 AD, the city was taken over by the Romans and new buildings were built there (thermal baths, capitol, triumphal arch, forum, basilica…). The city remained under Roman domination until the beginning of the Vth century AD.

The first excavations undertaken on the site (1929-1930) exhumed the nucleus of the monumental center with the three-bay triumphal arch, the forum, the curia and the capitol. The excavations of J. Boube, undertaken in Sala since 1958, have brought to light new monuments including temples, thermal baths, nymphaeum and warehouses, and several necropolis that border the city.

Some fragments of red-red-slipped Phoenician ceramics constitute isolated but reliable indications visits to the site during the Phoenician period. J. Boube also adds, as testimony of a Phoenician presence in the estuary of the Bou Regreg, the finding of earthenware scarabs in the Rabat region.

The town seems to have been frequented in the 4th century, as is indicated by a fragment of a Greek lamp collected from the ground surface in Sala.

Our knowledge of Mauritanian urbanism in the city of Sala remains limited. Under the buildings of the imperial era were uncovered several Mauritanian monuments, including temples, public buildings and shops. Some of them are incorporated into the later buildings, especially under the Roman basilica where two walls of different orientation, compared to the Roman constructions, are clearly visible.

After the annexation of Mauretania in 42 BC, and during the entire first century AD, the urban setting of Sala does not seem to have been much changed, and the architecture of the city owed little to Roman influence. At the end of the first century and at the beginning of the second, a new form of urbanism appeared in Sala, albeit without any radical change in the appearance of the city, involving the construction of several public monuments (temples) and residential neighborhoods in the western part of the monumental center.

During the Roman period, the city of Sala witnessed significant urban development, as evidenced by the layout of the Forum, the Capitol and the Curia, the octagonal nymphaeum, the fountains, the three-bay triumphal arch and the thermal baths. Fortifications for the city were built by the prefect M. Sulpicius Felix around the years 140-144, according to the text of a decree from Sala’s Senate.

At the end of the 13th century, the site was chosen by the Marinid sultans to house a dynastic necropolis. Several richly decorated mausoleums, including that of Sultan Abu Al Hassan, still survive.

The Almohad enclosure: Constructed by Ya’coub el Mansour, it was built over a length of 5263 m to the west and south of the city of Rabat. It is 2.5m wide and 10m high. The wall is fitted with 74 towers and 5 doors (Bab el Alou, Bab el Had, Bab er-Rouah, Gate of the Zaërs.) The Andalusian Wall was built from about 21m south of Babel-Had and ends east of Sidi Makhlouf, extending over a distance of more than 1400 meters. A 110m section has been destroyed, including BabTeben, which is the 3rd gate of the wall with Bab el-Bououiba and BabChella. The Almohad enclosure is flanked by 26 rectangular towers, spaced 35m apart.

Oudaya (Kasbah)

Originally, this was a small fortress erected by the Almoravids in their struggles against the Bouraghouata tribes. However, its story only begins with the Almohads, who built a ribat at themouth of the Bou Regreg, which was called Mehdiya. The site fell into disuse after the Almohades and was only revived with the arrival of the Moriscos of Andalusia. The Kasbah was restored and strengthened. The Alawite dynasty in its turn undertook work on the site between 1757-1789 and between 1790-1792. All this varied history of the site can be traced through the monuments that make up the Kasbah of the Oudaya, such as the Almohad enclosure and its famous monumental gate (Bab-el Kebir), one of the symbols of Almohad architecture; the mosque known as Jamaa El Atiq; the Alawite enclosure and the royal house erected to the west; and the military monument known as borj Sqala.

Mosque of Hassan:

Built by the monarch Yaqoub el Mansour, it was the largest mosque of its time. This ambitious project was interrupted after the death of its sponsor in 1199, and the mosque remained unfinished until being ravaged by the earthquake of 1755. The remains indicate the extent of the original monument which measured 180m long and 140m wide. The quadrangular minaret stands to a height of more than 44m. Its walls are half a meter thick. An internal spiral ramp climbing around six central superposed sections allowed access to the top. Ornamentation in an Andalusian-Magreb style of the XIIth century is carved on the stones covering the four façades of the minaret.