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Rabat: The Capital of Morocco That was Home to Many Empires

Abhijit Naik Jul 14, 2019
A pirate's den at one point of time, Rabat, the capital of Morocco, has come a long way since then. Today, it boasts of a rich cultural heritage, which shouldn't really come as a surprise, considering that the city has served as the capital for various empires in the past.
Rabat is the capital city of the African nation, Morocco. It is located at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg, on the Atlantic coast. The city, spread over an area of 142.778 sq mi, has a population of 580,000 (2014). The density of population is 13,781.3 individuals per sq mi.
It is the second most important city in Morocco, economically as well as in terms of area, after Casablanca. While Casablanca is located at a distance of 57 miles, Tangier is located at a distance of 174 miles from Rabat.

History of Rabat

The rich history of Rabat starts from the 3rd century BC, when it was known as Chellah. In 40 AD, Romans took over and started the Roman settlement of Sala Colonia.
The Romans abandoned the colony in 250 AD, following which the Almohad rulers turned the city into a full-fledged fortress to launch an attack on Spain. Due to its military significance, the city was named Ribatu l-Fath, meaning "stronghold of victory", from which the city derived its current name.
Almohad ruler, Yaqub al-Mansur shifted the capital of his kingdom to Rabat. After his death, Rabat saw a period of decline. In 1627, the barbarian pirates united the cities of Rabat and Sale to form the Republic of Bou Regreg, and started using it as a base port.
All the attempts made by the European authorities to curb the pirates met with failure. In 1829, an Austrian ship was attacked by pirates, following which the Austrian authorities launched an offensive and destroyed Rabat.
The French invaded Rabat in 1912. The French administrator, General Hubert Lyautey decided to relocate the capital of the country from Fez back to Rabat. Meanwhile, the United States Air Force established an airbase at the former French airbase in the city.
When Morocco attained freedom from foreign rule in 1956, King Mohammed V, the then king of Morocco, decided to continue with Rabat as the capital. The United States Air Force vacated the airbase in early 1960s to make way for the Royal Moroccan Air Force base.


Morocco follows a constitutional monarchy form of government. King Mohammed VI is the ruler or the 'Kingdom of Morocco', while the Prime Minister is Abbas El Fassi. The mayor of Rabat is Omar El Bahraoui.
Being the capital city, Rabat is an important administrative center and has various administrative offices as well as the embassies of different countries located here. It is also the home to the administrative offices of many international organizations.


Rabat has lost its significance of being a port city because of the excessive siltation at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg, which makes it difficult for ships to enter the port.
Today, it has become an important center for textile and food processing industries. It is famous for items such as carpets, handicrafts, etc.


★ The Kasbah of the Udayas and the Al-Mahdiyya mosque, which was built during the reign of the Almohads.

★ The ancient burial place called Chellah or Sala Colonia located on the outskirts of Rabat.
★ A minaret of an incomplete mosque, known as the Hassan Tower, built during the regime of Yacoub al-Mansour. The work of the mosque was stopped after the sultan's death.
★ The Mausoleum containing the tombs of King Mohammed V and his sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah.
Morocco is a country with diverse art, architecture, and culture, which is attributed to the fact that various empires ruled this region, and Rabat is just a reflection of this beautiful, diverse country.