Rabat is the capital of Morocco and the second-largest city in the country, after Casablanca. It is located on the Atlantic Ocean on the south side of The Bou Regreg river. On the opposite north bank of the river lies the city of Salé (Sala). Rabat is one of the fourth imperial cities of Morocco and many parts of the city are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In the current location of the Kasbah of the Oudayas, the Almoravids had created a fort to fight against the Berghouata tribes. This fort was replaced in 1150 by a Ribat (fortress) under the reign of the Almohad dynasty and became the gathering point for fighters going to Andalusia.
The caliph of Morocco, Yaqub al-Mansur, moved the capital of his empire to Rabat and started the construction of the Hassan tower which was supposed to be the biggest mosque in the world. He also transformed the Phoenician site of Chellah into a necropolis.
The city acquired the title, ‘Ribat al Fath’ (The Fortress of victory), to commemorate the Almohad victories.
At the end of the Almohad Dynasty and especially after Yaqub al-Mansur’s death (1199), the city began to decline, the Hassan tower construction work was stopped and the power shifted to Fez.
In 1609 the city experienced significant growth when 13000 Moriscos settled in the city after being expelled from Spain.
The first inhabitants were from the city of Hornachos in western Spain and settled in the Kasbah. One year later in 1610, 10000 Andalusians settled in the low city and built a new enclosure, known as the Andalusian Wall.
The republic of Salé also known as ‘The republic of the Pirates of The Bouregreg’ became a city-state from 1627 to 1668. The new inhabitants wanted revenge for their expulsion from Spain and piracy became the main source of income for the city. The pirates made long-distance raids as far away as Cornwall in the UK, Baltimore in Ireland, and even Iceland.
The first governor of the city was Ibrahim Vargas. In 1624 Jan Janszoon, a Dutch origin who converted to Islam became President and Grand Admiral of the Republic.
In the medina, you can still find a street ‘Rue des Consuls’ which is where Western embassies used to be.
The republic became weak after many bloody clashes between the inhabitants of the Kasbah from the town of Hornachos, the Andalusian inhabitants of the lower town, and the inhabitants of Salé.
In 1668, the Republic became under the control of the Alaouite dynasty.
In 1912, France established a protectorate in Morocco and Rabat became the capital of the country.