With the advent of Islam, many dynasties succeeded one another. In 808 AD the Idrissids were the founders of the first Muslim state and Fez became their capital. In 1070 the Almoravids dynasty took over, and they founded Marrakesh; in 1147 they were followed by the Almohads, who kept Marrakesh as capital and started construction of the Koutoubia Mosque with the magnificent minaret still extant today. In 1269 the Merinid dynasty moved the capital back to Fez. Then there were the Cherifians and the Saadians in the 15th century that revived Marrakesh building the El-Badi Palace, and the Alaouites from 1666 to 1912.
European powers showed their interest in Morocco repeatedly in the centuries. The Portuguese established trading posts along the Atlantic coast but did not invade the hinterland. As the control of the Turkish Empire on the many Islamic nations of the Mediterranean lost strength during the 19th century, European influence started to gain force. In 1912 Morocco became a protectorate of France while Spain obtained protecting power over the northern and southern Saharan areas. After the Second World War a strong movement for independence obliged France finally to renounce its protectorate, and Morocco became officially independent from both France and Spain in 1956.
Cities and places of interest
How to arrive
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Volubilis, the capital of Mauritania founded in the 3rd century BC, an important Roman outpost and later the capital of Idris I, the founder of the Idrisid dynasty. The archaeological site is located in a fertile agricultural area and has well preserved ruins of the late Roman Empire period.
- The Historic City of Meknes, originally a military settlement established in the 11th century by the Almoravids, became in the late 17th century the capital of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl, who embellished in the Spanish-Moorish style, a beautiful fusion of the Islamic and European heritages typical of the Maghreb area.
- The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou in the Ouarzazate province of southern Morocco, a typical pre-Saharan settlement made of earthen houses surrounded by high defensive walls, reinforced with corner towers.
- The Medina of Essaouira a late 18th-century fortified town and an important seaport linking Morocco with Europe and the rest of the world, which was planned by a French architect of the school of Vauban at Saint-Malo, a remarkable example of a European-style town in a North African context.
- The Medina of Fez, founded in the 9th century AD, became the capital of the kingdom in the 13th century under the Marinid dynasty, and lost its political status only in 1912 when Rabat became the capital. The medina is an outstanding example of Arab town with madrasas, fondouks, palaces, mosques and fountains.
- The Medina of Marrakesh, founded in the late 11th century by the Almoravid dynasty, Marrakesh was for centuries a political, economic and cultural centre of the Muslim world of of North Africa, and still today preserves remarkable monuments of the Middle Ages period as the Koutoubiya Mosque, the Kasbah, the battlements, as well as more recent, refined buildings as the Bandiâ Palace, the Saadian Tombs, the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the open--air theatre called Place Jamaâ El Fna, and many impressive residences.
- The Medina of Tétouan founded in the 8th century AD and for centuries a privileged contact point between Africa and Spain. After an early Islamic period, the town became the home of Andalusian refugees who rebuilt it in the typical Andalusian style. Tétouan is the most complete and almost original of the Moroccan medinas.
- The Portuguese city of Mazagan , today included in the city of El Jadida, 90-km south-west of Casablanca, was built in the early 16th century in the Renaissance military style as a fortified colony on the Atlantic coast, then conquered by the Moroccans in 1769. This was one of the earliest settlements of the Portuguese explorers on their way to India, and still shows examples of the Manueline style in the cistern and the Church of the Assumption.