With more than two thousand years of history, the cities of Rabat and Salé combine prestigious pasts with ambitious futures.

The first traces of foreign occupation of the region date back more than 2500 years. At the time, the Phoenicians and their Carthaginian descendants called the Northwest African coast their port of call. They settled on the high grounds above the Bouregreg delta and established trading posts.

Two centuries later, they yielded their lands to the builders of the Roman Empire, who founded “Sala Colonia”. This roman colony, still only partially excavated to this date, spread out from the Chellah to the Atlantic Ocean.

Historical Legacies

The Rise of Salé

In the 1st century A.D., the Berber tribe, Beni Ifren, occupied Sala Colonia, known as the Chellah today.
Ashara, Governor of the Beni Oummia, founded Salé in 1006 on the right shore of the Bouregreg. The new settlers built a palace and a prosperous city thanks to a thriving commerce based on cotton and linen from the rich countryside.

The Europeans and in particular the Genoese mariners, regularly traded furs, wax, honey, linen, cotton and cereal with the local merchants.

In exchange, they brought Italian silk, precious metals, weapons and jewelry… Salé’s reputation quickly grew and from the 11th to the 14th centuries as the Portuguese and the French began regular trade with the region

Bab Mrissa


The arrival of the« Andalous »

Rabat awakens from its slumber in the 17th century with the arrival of the Hornacheros and the “Andalous”, Moslems banished from .

The country is under the reign of the Saadian Sultan Moulay Zidane. He welcomes the refugees and incites them to settle on the left bank of the Bouregreg, in the deserted Kasbah.

The newcomers are wealthy and entrepreneurial: they set about building a new wall, beautiful homes and introduce piracy to the shores of the Bouregreg.

The rivalry between Rabat and Salé, called New Salé and Old Salé is rekindled.

This situation doesn’t stop the pirates, at the height of their power, from establishing their own « Republic of the Two Shores » in 1627.

The interlude only lasts a few years as the next dynasty, the Alaouites, extends its authority over the region in 1666.

The new dynasty gives an important role to the area, undergoing large scale renovation and new constructions.

In 1864, the Sultan built a Royal Place complete with a huge parade ground or méchouar, below the Chellah site. If Rabat has regained some of its splendor, the Kingdom’s capital remains Fez.










« Ribat el Fath » for the conquest of Spain

Commerce did not make the south shores famous.
The origins of the Arabic word « Ribat » (Rabat in French) go back as far as 1146.

The Almohade Sultan Abd el-Moumen chose this site as his base camp for the religious conquest of Spain, not far form the old Chellah, atop cliffs overlooking the left bank of the Bouregreg. The camp, or « ribat », was a camp destined to recruit volunteer soldiers for war. The « Ribat of Salé » camp was fully equipped with a mosque, imperial residence and fully supplied with drinking water.

At the time, this place was called Al-Mahdiyya. But years later, Yacoub el-Mansour, grandson of Abd el-Moumen, finished the development of the city and baptized it « Ribat al Fath », or Victory Camp, in memory of the battle won over Alphonse VIII in Castilla by the Almohade troops in 1195.

The Sultan had visions of grandeur. He wanted Rabat as his capital, on par with Marrakesh and Sevilla and stayed there regularly.

As well as the five kilometer fortified wall that surrounds the city, with its monumental entrance doors, the Sultan ordered the construction of the biggest mosque in the world. Part of its century old praying tower or « minaret» and the foundation columns can still be visited at the « Tour Hassan » site.

Upon Yacoub el-Mansour’s death and the subsequent victory of the Merinides over the Almohades, Ribat lapsed into oblivion.


The Protectorate

Field Marshal Lyautey, Resident General of during the French protectorate period (1912-1956), chose Rabat as the capital city of the Kingdom.

As a result, the south shores of the Bouregreg will be completely transformed. With the help of city planners Léon Henry Prost and Ecochard, Lyautey proceeded to develop the new town, right next to the Médina.

Rabat became the heart of Moroccan administrative life. Lyautey had the Kasbah of the Oudaïas land marked and restored, bringing it back to its original splendor.

During this time, new European districts were developed all around town such as L’Océan and The Orangers as well as in the town center, along the avenue Mohammed V.

In 1956, when independence was regained, King Mohammed V settled in the Royal Palace in Rabat, confirming the town’s rightful place as capital. Ever since, Rabat has extended its borders from its official lines, with new districts being built to house the ever growing population.