Africa Travel News

Newly minted UNESCO site Rabat should be a staple of every Morocco tour

Thanks to its place in pop culture, Casablanca is often regarded as a must see attraction on a Morocco tour, but the country's capital of Rabat has plenty to offer as well. Recently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rabat is among the most modern cities in Africa, yet still retains much of its historical significance.

Rabat has played an important role in north Africa since the 1100s, a fact that is especially evident at the Hassan Tower, which is among the most recognizable structures in the country. The tower, which stands about 140 feet tall, was intended to be the minaret of an enormous mosque when construction began in 1195. Construction of the mosque stopped several years later and today it stands as a relic of the city's storied past.

While the Hassan Tower is certainly easy to identify, it is not the only historic landmark that has become a popular tourist destination. Chellah, an ancient Roman burial ground, is also well worth a visit during a tour of Morocco. Located on the outskirts of the city, Chellah exudes a certain calmness that seems to fit with the ruins' location along a wooded hillside.

The history of Chellah is especially interesting. Though it was founded by the Romans, it was eventually overtaken by Arab rule, so there is an unusual confluence of the two cultures present around the ruins. However, it was eventually abandoned and has largely been taken over by the environment. It is especially appealing during the spring when it becomes populated with a wide variety birds.

Chellah also comes to life in June for a completely different reason - jazz. The historical ruins have hosted an annual jazz festival since 2005, and there is likely no other venue quite like it.

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