Sunday, July 10, 2011

A mix of cultures - Chellah, moseleum, Rabat Casbah

My new hotel has internet, but it is much less reliable.  So, I will do what I can....I am back up with a good internet connection, so check out the pictures!

Morocco has such a rich history, which is reflected in its current culture, language use, and important tourist sites.  Today we visited three such locations:  the Merenid necropolis of Chellah, the Mosoleum of Mohammed V, and the Casbah of Rabat.  All three of these locations show the intersection of at least two different cultures.

Everywhere you turn, you see evidence of multiple cultures, all who inhabited the same land at different points in time.  On our tour of Rabat and the surrounding area, this observation came alive immediately.  The first major site that we visited near Rabat was the archaeological site in Chellah.  The archaeological site at Chellah has remains from the Phoenicians, who were the first inhabitants of the region, the Almohades (12th century), the Romans, and the Myrinites.  The original site was settled by the Phoenicians, and when the Romans conquered northern Morocco they further developed the Chellah site.  Later in the 12th century an Almohed ruler built the fortress.  Between 1300 and 1600 AD, Rabat and Chellah were resettled by the Merinid Dynasty, and around 1350 the Merinids founded a mosque at Chellah.  Today, the site hosts remains from the Roman, medieval, and Merinid styles. 

So, at this archaeological site, you can see plenty of arches and columns reminiscent of the Roman era, and you can also find constructions typical of the Islamic period.  The Myrinite ruins clearly show an Andalousian influence because the Andalousians left Spain and settled on the other side of the Strait of Gibralter.

From the Roman era

From the Merinid Dynasty (Islamic):  Notice that the arches are more than a semi-circle and have a point on top.  This is definitely different from the typical Roman Arch that you can see in the first photo.

The next site we visited is the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which was built on a site that dates back to the twelfth century.  The original site was under construction to be a mosque during the Almohade dynasty in 1196, but it was never finished.  No one knows why it was never finished, but it is suspected that it was because of an earthquake.  Then, under the current dynasty, the Alaouite Dynasty, a Mausoleum was built to house the tombs of Mohammed V (1961), Hassen II (1999) who was the last king and father to the current king, and the brother of Hassen II (1983). 

Inside the Moseleum:

The third location that we visited in Rabat also shows how multiple cultures collide or superimpose themselves on each other.  We visited the casbah in Rabat.  A casbah is a neighborhood or an area of the city that is surrounded by walls.  The Rabat Casbah was beautiful, painted with many hues of blue, also reminiscent of Spain.  However, everywhere you go, you encounter signs of the Arab-Islamic culture in Morocco—mint tea served on terraces, women desiring to paint henna on your hand, mosaics, etc.  We also were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one of the country’s Berber cultures since we stumbled upon a Berber man singing in the streets for money. 

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