Imperial Cities of Morocco – The Utlimate Guide
Imperial Cities of Morocco – The Utlimate Guide
Morocco is a mountainous country in western North Africa that lies directly across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. The traditional domain of indigenous peoples, now collectively known as Berbers (self-name Imazighen; singular, Amazigh), Morocco has been subject to extensive migration and has long been the location of urban communities that were originally settled by peoples from outside the region. Controlled by Carthage from an early date, the region was later the westernmost province of the Roman Empire. Following the Arab conquest of the late 7th century CE, the broader area of North Africa came to be known as the Maghrib (Arabic: “the West”), and the majority of its people accepted Islam.
The culture of the nation is a fusion of Arab, Berber, and African influences. There are three main ethnic groups in Morocco: Arabs, Berbers, and Africans. As a result, Morocco is strongly influenced by Arabic culture. The Berber presence in the nation is crucial. The country has a strong African impact. A constitutional monarchy serves as the foundation for the Moroccan government.
The current king is Mohammed VI. The royal family is of the Al ALAOUIs line and has ruled Morocco since the 13th century.
Imperial Cities of Morocco
Visitors might enjoy getting lost in the maze-like Medinas of Rabat, Marrakech, Fes, and Meknes—four of Morocco’s imperial cities—which have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Around every corner, the allure of Arabic culture with its palaces, madrasas, and mosques awaits. These cities are also a buyer’s paradise, and you may easily give in to temptation in their bustling souks.
These four exotic cities are bursting with life and here visitors can experience endless sensations: colors, scents, tastes, sounds, and textures that make each one special and give it its own particular character. Morocco’s imperial cities are ancient religious, cultural, and political centers and are compulsory stops on a visit to the country
1 – The Fes Medina
One of the most exciting places in Morocco is the Fes Medina, which comprises hundreds of streets and alleyways, and is home to an estimated 2 million people. However, The Fes Medina is one of the oldest cities in the world and has continuously been inhabited since the 7th century and has been the capital city of Morocco a number of times since its founding.
The city divides into two distinct parts: the older Medina (city) and the newer part. (Fes el Jedid) dating back to the late 13th century. Here you will find the old Jewish quarter or Mellah. The modern part of the city was built by the French during the time Morocco was a protectorate, and, while being interesting enough, does not hold the allure of the historic Medinas.
The city has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa. It is also considered the spiritual and cultural capital of Morocco.
Moroccan architecture is unique and diverse, with influences from North Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Europe. In addition, The most common building materials used in the city of Fes are mud brick, marble, stone, wood, and tile.
Many of Morocco’s most well-known tourist destinations, including the Jewish Quarter, the Royal Palace, and the Kairaouine Mosque, are located in the city of Fes.
2 – The Marrakech Medina
Marrakech city considers as one of the four imperial cities after Fes and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded in 1070–72 by the Almoravids, For a very long time, Marrakech was a major political, economic, and cultural hub. From North Africa to Andalusia, the western Muslim world was affected by it. The Koutoubiya Mosque, the Kasbah, the battlements, the colossal doors, the gardens, etc. are only a few of the striking historical structures that can be found there. The Bandiâ Palace, the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the Saadian Tombs, various magnificent homes, and Place Jamaâ El Fna, a genuine open-air theater, are examples of later architectural gems.
With so many French celebrities owning property there, Marrakesh is especially well-liked by them. The largest souk (traditional market) in Morocco is in Marrakesh, which contains about 18 souks selling everything from contemporary consumer electronics to traditional Berber carpets. A sizeable portion of the community works in crafts and sells their goods mostly to visitors.
The city’s historical richness is evident in the palaces, mansions, and other opulent homes. The El Badi Palace, the Bahia Palace, and the main Royal Palace, which is still in use as one of the King of Morocco’s official residences, are the palaces that are the most well-known today. Marrakech is home to many Riads, or Moroccan homes, which originally referred to a particular kind of garden. They have high walls surrounding an open central garden courtyard that is modeled after the layout of a Roman villa.
The Marrakech Medina, also known as the “City of Mosques,” is a Muslim area and is home to many mosques. Likewise, the most famous mosque in the area is the Koutoubia Mosque.
Not only that, but Marrakech is home to a number of gardens, both historical and modern. The largest and oldest gardens in the city are the Menara Gardens to the west and the Agdal Gardens to the south. The “Majorelle Garden” is also very famous there and worth a visit.
3 – The Meknes
Meknes is one of Morocco’s four imperial cities, the sixth most populous city in the country, and is situated in northern central Morocco. Meknes was a military outpost established by the Almoravids in the 11th century, and during Sultan Moulay Isma’l’s rule, it was the capital of Morocco (1672–1727).
Meknes is located in the Middle Atlas Mountains and has a very sunny climate. Meknes has a lot of places of interest. You can visit the old medina, the new medina, the museum, the mosque, and the castle. The old medina is fascinating. In addition, the narrow streets and houses are built in the style of the Middle Ages. The houses are made out of mud bricks and have little windows.
Like the other imperial cities, Meknes is made up of the Medina (the old portion) and the Ville Nouvelle (the new part), two unique areas that are less than three miles apart but have quite different vibes. The city’s ancient landmarks and desired romantic flavor are located In the medina, whereas large homes, contemporary vehicles, and branded takeaways are found in the new city,
The Place el-Hedim is where most visitors start their exploration of the medina; picture a scaled-down version of Marrakesh’s Jemaa el Fna, and you’ll get the idea. Take a mint tea while competing merchants play loud Moroccan folklore music, and then enter the medina through the entrance next to the “Dar Jamai” Museum.
Also, see Bab el-Mansour. One of the most incredible gates in North Africa, and possibly the entire world, is the most well-preserved historical structure in Meknes. It currently serves as the entrance to a gallery with art exhibits. Place El-Hedime and its large market are crowded in the evening with shoppers, acrobats, and fire eaters (overlooking the huge square, El Hedime). In 1732, five years after Moulay Ismail’s passing, it was finished.
4 – The Rabat
The current capital of Morocco, Rabat, is situated at the confluence of the rivers Bou Regreg and Atlantic. After the French invaded and annexed Morocco in 1912, the city was designated as the country’s administrative center. Along with Fes, Marrakesh, and Meknes, Rabat is one of Morocco’s four imperial cities. With a population of two million, Rabat is the second-largest city in the country.
The city’s history dates back to the Phoenician expansion, which took place roughly 3,000 years ago in what are now Lebanon and Syria. Near the ruins of a former Roman city near Salé, Rabat was established in the eleventh century. A sultan of the Almohad tribe built a rabat, or fortification for his army close to Salé around the middle of the eleventh century.
The city of Rabat has a rich cultural heritage. Its squares and streets are adorned with several masterpieces. Visit the magnificent and majestic Kasbah des Oudayas, which is adorned by the surrounding gardens. The Chellah, a necropolis from the Merinid era, is next to the fortifications with its towering walls. Walking inside the walls is like entering a different universe as you pass through storks, gardens, and historical ruins.
Thanks to its green spaces, Rabat is a modern, eco-friendly capital as well. You may find lovely parks nearby the city, such as the Exotic Gardens of Bouknadel or the Botanical Test Garden. The Atlantic Ocean coastline of Rabat has miles of well-equipped beaches that connect to the neighboring city of Casablanca. Rabat also has an exceptional shoreline.
Do I need a guide?
The medinas are tumultuous and sometimes crowded. The booth owners will surely employ forceful sales techniques to get you to buy from them because they have the best, cheapest, and most unusual things to offer. All of this may be avoided by hiring a guide, who will also make sure you see the best parts of the medina.
Is it safe to visit the Imperial Cities of Morocco?
Almost all Moroccan cities are secure, especially these four major ones, which are known for their warm and inviting residents who always say hello to newcomers and welcome them. Additionally, they want to make sure that guests are enjoying their time and their tour of the city. Take your time touring and taking in the historic walls and winding streets; as long as the local guide is with you, there is nothing to worry about.
Famous Moroccan dishes in the imperial cities:
Morocco’s cuisine is diverse. In the old medinas, you can find ladies selling homemade bread; impromptu cafés that open up every evening, such as Marrakesh’s Jemaa el-Fnaa square, and palatial restaurants set up in some of the old Riads. The food is quite traditional and can be found throughout the old medinas.
You can easily try the following dishes in every part of the old medinas :
The term “tagine” refers to both the cooking vessel—a flat pan with a conical-shaped lid—and its ingredients. These might include chicken or lamb that has been prepared with veggies, dried fruit, or lemons. It is a famous Moroccan meal that every visitor should eat at least once a lifetime
A meat, vegetable, and nut-filled pie for the main course that is formed of layers of filo dough and is both sweet and savory. Including cinnamon and icing sugar dusted on it
A hearty meat-based soup prepared with chickpeas and coriander. Although it is readily accessible and a very popular soup in Morocco, it is typically eaten during Ramadan to symbolize the breaking of the fast
A part of lamb, or a whole lamb if it is prepared for a large gathering, has been roasted in a traditional oven and is served on a dish with bread.