A History Lesson on Rabat

HISTORY Rabat is a city with a thousand and one faces. Since the beginning of the century it’s been the capital of the country, although it hasn’t always rapidly developed. Left abandoned, this city bears the marks of a millenium, where Moroccan Muslims and Europeans have succeeded.

For a brief history lesson on Rabat, it’s essential to take a look at how it all started, and the man behind the city, Abd al-Mumin of the Almohad dynasty.

He built a fortress and a mosque, Kasbah des Oudaïas, a name that still sticks today. At the end of the 13th century, his young son Sultan Yacoub El Mansour took over. Construction continued and surrounding walls were built to protect the city from an eventual Spanish encounter.

However, at the time, Fes was the capital of the empire, leaving Rabat to fall to the wayside. For nearly three centuries the city whithered away. Then in 1492, or the Battle of Grenada by the Catholic seigneurs, put an end to the Arab oppression in Andalousie. The Muslim rulers in Spain were looking for refuge and found it here.

Around 1515, according to diplomat Leon l’African, the population in Rabat was only 100 people. A century later, King Phillip III expelled 300,000 Spanish Muslims, Morisco. At at the start of the 17th century, nearly 13 million Moriscos found refuge in Rabat. And so began the city’s expansion.

Over the years, the city prospered until the Treaty of Lalla-Maghnia, which established the borders between Morocco and Algeria, was triggered by French colonization. In 1884, under the direction of Jules Ferry, France took control of several Moroccan cities that submitted to its domination.

In 1912, under the orders of General Lyautey, Rabat was named the capital of the country, though the country was still under French Protectorate. In 1957, one year after independence, during King Mohammed V appointment to the throne, Rabat maintained its status as capital and became the home of the Alaouite dynasty, until his Majesty the King Mohammed VI took power.