Morocco Tour Guide: Rabat and Salé (the imperial cities)

Morocco Tour Guide: Rabat and Salé (the imperial cities) Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

Set more or less in the middle of Morocco's Atlantic coastline on the left bank of the mouth of I River, Rabat is Morocco's political and administrative capital and the official residence of the King. All ministries and embassies are located in Rabat.

Apart from its governmental activities, Rabat is one of the country's main industrial centres where, among other things, textiles, processed food, and building materials are manufactured.

The city contains several of Morocco's major educational institutions, including Mohammed V University, the National Conservatory of Music, Dance, and Dramatic Arts and institutes of agricultural, public administration and applied economics studies.

Rabat is also one of Morocco's many outstanding tourist attractions.

Facing Rabat, directly across the ::I River on its left bank, lies the town of Salé. Rabat and Salé are sister cities spanned by a bridge across the river which was constructed in 1957. Their combined population of around 2 million (1,761,391 as of 1982) makes Rabat/Salé the second-largest urban centre in Morocco after Casablanca.

Salé is an important port with numerous industries including fish canning, cork processing, ceramics, flour milling and carpet weaving.

Rabat was founded as an Arab army outpost in the 12th century and given the generic name for military encampment, Ribat, which is still in use today.

The origins of Salé are less clear. According to some traditions, Salé was founded by Moulay Idris I at the end of the 8th century. Other traditions have it that the settlement was started by Moulay Idris II at the beginning of the 9th century. However, most historians believe that Salé was most likely first established as a tiny short-lived principality of the Berber ::I tribe led by Amir Abou Al Kemal Temin which, within a few years was overrun and destroyed by the Almoravids.

For centuries Rabat and Salé were rival principalities but eventually Rabat began to dominate the area and Salé's power was ultimately eclipsed altogether by its larger neighbour.

Rabat became one of Morocco's four Imperial Cities. In the 12th century the great Almohad conqueror Yacoub Al Mansour made Rabat the symbol of his supremacy.

The city was developed in the 13th century by the Merinids who made it the site of the Chellah necropolis which was built upon the remains of the ancient Roman town of Sala. In the early 17th century it became a centre of anti-European piracy centred at the stronghold of the Kasbah des Oudaias.

Rabat was first made a modern capital in 1912 by Morocco's French overlords and remained the nation's capital after independence in 1956 and the residence of the royal family.

General information

Tourist Board
22, avenue d'Alger
Tel: 73 06 45 / 73 05 68

Tourist Information Office
rue Patrice Lumumba
Tel: 72 32 72

Main festivals and cultural activities
Handicraft Fair
Wax Festival
Hassan II Golf Trophy

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