Young woman explores archaeological site with ancient archways, huge stone building blocks, and other impressive ruins

Morocco’s UNESCO Sites

From ancient mosques and basilicas to triumphal arches and well preserved mosaics, Morocco is home to a wealth of archaeological sites. It was influenced by Mediterranean, Moorish, Punic, Roman, sub-Saharan, Arab-Islamic, Jewish, and Christian cultures, so there’s lots of history and variety to uncover. On Morocco: Camels to Casbahs we visit six UNESCO World Heritage Sites—designated to protect areas of outstanding cultural importance—for a glimpse into early inhabitants’ day-to-day lives.

Ait Ben Haddou

This clay-brick hillside citadel dates from the 17th century, and is a striking example of a ksar—a group of dwellings inside defensive walls. Community areas include a mosque, a public square, grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a fortification and a loft at the top of the village, a caravansary, and Muslim and Jewish cemeteries.

Medina of Essaouira

A small, charming city on the Atlantic Coast, Essaouira has been occupied since prehistoric times and was frequented by pirates in the 1500s. Much of the city we see today was laid out in the mid-1700s by a French architect according to principles of European military architecture; the old fort, with its ancient ramparts, cannons, and battlements, is still impressive.

Medina of Fes

The 12th century medina in Fes is one of the most extensive and best conserved medieval cities in the world. Fes reached its height in the 13th and 14th centuries when it replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom, and its most important monuments—fondouks, palaces, and mosques—date from that period. Morocco’s political capital moved to Rabat in 1912, but Fes has retained its status as the country’s cultural and spiritual center.

Medina of Marrakesh

Founded in 1070, Marrakesh remained a political, economic and cultural center for centuries. It still contains an impressive number of architectural masterpieces: magnificent mosques, monumental gates, the Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace, and Djemaa el Fna, a veritable open-air theatre replete with snake charmers, fire-eaters, and fortune-tellers.

Rabat

Rabat has preserved many historic monuments and traditional housing, creating a distinctive synthesis of its Arab-Muslim past and Western modernism. The Oudaya Kasbah, a 12th century fortress partly enclosed in ramparts, gives way to the Ville Nouvelle, or new town, built under the French Protectorate early in the 20th century and one of Africa’s most ambitious modern urban projects.

Volubilis

Morocco’s best preserved archaeological site, this massive and magnificent ruin includes colonnades, public squares, a temple, a palace, an aristocratic quarter, pools, and intricate mosaic pavements. The city—once Rome’s provincial capital in Morocco—was founded in the 3nd century BCE and occupied until the 12th century.

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