If you are a history buff, Morocco should be at the top of your travel list. This North African country is a cultural and spiritual center with a rich history that spans centuries.
From the imperial cities to the southern regions, Morocco is home to countless historical sites that reflect the Islamic and European influences that have shaped its past. As you explore the country, you’ll discover a mix of ancient and modern architecture that reflects Morocco’s diverse history.
In the coastal city of Essaouira, for example, you’ll find European military architecture that dates back to the 18th century. In contrast, the modern imperial palaces built in Rabat in the 20th century reflect the country’s more recent history.
And of course, no visit to Morocco would be complete without exploring the imperial cities of Marrakech, Fez, and Meknes, where you’ll find stunning examples of Moroccan architecture that date back to the Roman Empire.
The Nine World Heritage Sites in Morocco
Morocco boasts an impressive nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each selected for their cultural significance. These sites range from ancient Roman ruins to historic cities and fortifications, providing a glimpse into the diverse and rich history of this North African country. The following is a list of the nine UNESCO Sites in Morocco:
- Medina of Fez
- Medina of Marrakech
- Medina of Tetouan
- Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador)
- Historic City of Meknes
- Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou in Southern Morocco
- Archaeological Site of Volubilis
- Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida)
- Rabat, Modern Capital, Historic City and Shared Heritage
The Medina of Fez, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981, is the oldest of the nine sites. It is considered one of the best-preserved examples of an ancient Islamic city, with its winding streets, bustling souks, and stunning architecture.
The Medina of Marrakech, added to the list in 1985, is another impressive example of a historic city, with its vibrant street life, Marrakech souks and iconic landmarks such as the Koutoubia Mosque.
The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, a fortified village located on the edge of the Sahara Desert, is a stunning example of traditional Moroccan architecture. It has been used as a filming location for many Hollywood movies, including “Gladiator” and “Game of Thrones.”
The Archaeological Site of Volubilis is a well-preserved example of a Roman city in North Africa. It was a major center of trade and culture during the Roman Empire and features impressive ruins such as the Arch of Caracalla and the Capitol. This large and prosperous settlement was built over 2000 years ago.
The Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida) is a unique example of European architecture in Morocco. It was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and features impressive fortifications and a well-preserved cistern.
These are just a few examples of the rich cultural heritage that can be found in Morocco’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Whether you are interested in ancient history, Islamic architecture, or European influence, there is something for everyone to discover in these incredible sites.
The Imperial Cities of Morocco
If you’re interested in history and architecture, Morocco’s imperial cities are a must-see. These cities were the capitals of various dynasties throughout Morocco’s history, and they are filled with stunning examples of Islamic architecture and fascinating historical sites. Here are some of the highlights of each of the four imperial cities:
Meknes was the capital of the Alouite dynasty in the 17th century, and it is known for its grand gates, expansive government properties, and beautiful gardens. One of the most impressive sites in Meknes is the Heri es-Souani, an enormous granary and stable complex that was used to store food and supplies for the royal army. Other must-see sites in Meknes include the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, the Bab Mansour gate, and the Dar Jamai Museum.
Fez is one of the oldest and most well-preserved walled cities in the world, and it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city thrived during the medieval period, and it is known for its narrow alleys, bustling markets, and historic buildings. Some of the most notable sites in Fez include the Bou Inania Madrasa, the Al-Attarine Madrasa, and the Dar Batha Museum and of course the world’s oldest university.
Marrakesh was the capital of the Almoravid dynasty in the 11th century, and it is known for its vibrant souks, ancient citadels, and beautiful Islamic structures. One of the most famous sites in Marrakesh is the Koutoubia Mosque, which features a stunning minaret that is visible from almost anywhere in the city. Other must-see sites in Marrakesh include the Bahia Palace, the Saadian Tombs, and the Jardin Majorelle.
Rabat is the modern capital of Morocco, but it has a rich history that dates back to the 7th century. The city is known for its grand boulevards, modern imperial palaces, and historic landmarks. One of the most interesting sites in Rabat is the Chellah, an ancient Roman ruin that was later used as an underground prison. Other must-see sites in Rabat include the Hassan Tower, the Kasbah of the Udayas, and the Mohammed V Mausoleum.
The Coastal City of Essaouira
If you are looking for a charming city with a unique blend of history, culture, and stunning coastal views, Essaouira on the west coast is the place to be. This fortified town, formerly known as Mogador, is nestled on the Atlantic coast of Morocco and is a must-visit destination for any history buff or beach lover.
Founded in the late 18th century, Essaouira was built according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture in a North African context. The city served as a major international trading seaport, linking Morocco and its Saharan hinterland with Europe and the rest of the world. Today, the city still retains much of its original charm and character, attracting visitors from all over the world.
One of the most prominent landmarks in Essaouira is the city’s high walls and corner towers. These walls were built to protect the port from invaders and are a testament to the city’s rich history. As you explore the city, you will also come across the Lonely Prominent Tower, which is a popular spot for tourists to take photos and enjoy the stunning views of the city.
Essaouira is also known for its weekly market, which is held every Sunday. The market is a bustling hub of activity, with vendors selling everything from fresh produce and spices to handmade crafts and souvenirs. The market is a great place to immerse yourself in the local culture and pick up some unique souvenirs to take home with you.
Despite its rich history and status as a spiritual center, Essaouira has a much more relaxed atmosphere than other Moroccan cities like Marrakech. The city’s dusty plain and red city walls give it a unique character that is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.
So if you are looking for a city with a rich history, stunning coastal views, and a laid-back vibe, Essaouira is the perfect destination for you.
The Ancient Roman Ruins of Volubilis
If you’re a history buff, then visiting the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis is a must-do when you’re in Morocco. Located in a fertile agricultural area, this archaeological site is a testament to the Mauritanian capital’s importance as an outpost of the Roman Empire.
As you walk through the ruins, you’ll see many fine buildings that have withstood the test of time. From the remains of the Capitol Building to the House of Orpheus, the architecture is impressive and gives you an idea of what life was like during the Roman era.
Volubilis was founded in the 3rd century B.C. and was occupied for a long period of time, from prehistoric times all the way till the Islamic period. It was strategically located on a trading route that connected it to other important cities in the region, such as Fez and Meknes.
One of the most interesting things about Volubilis is that it was abandoned by the Romans in 285. The reason for this was that it was considered too hard (and not important enough) to defend from local tribes. As a result, the city was left to the elements and eventually fell into ruin.
Today, the ruins of Volubilis are one of Morocco’s most important archaeological sites, with a large number of well-preserved features. If you’re interested in history, architecture, or just want to learn more about this fascinating period of Morocco’s past, then a visit to Volubilis is a must-do.
The Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou
If you are interested in historical sites, you should definitely visit the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou. This fortress was built centuries ago and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located in the Province of Ouarzazate, Morocco, and is a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture. The ksar is a mainly collective grouping of dwellings.
The Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou is a beautiful example of Moroccan architecture. The structures of Ait Benhaddou and of other kasbahs and ksour throughout this region of Morocco typically employed a mixture of earth and straw. This was relatively permeable and easily eroded by rain over time. As a result, villages of this type can begin to crumble only a few decades after being abandoned.
The Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou is also notable for its Andalusian influence. This can be seen in the design of the buildings, which feature intricate geometric patterns and other decorative elements. In addition, the kasbah has a Portuguese cistern, which is a testament to the area’s rich history and its interactions with other cultures.
While in the 1940s, more than 90 families were living in the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, today only five families are still living inside the fortress. Despite this, the kasbah remains a popular tourist attraction and has been featured in many films and television shows, such as Game of Thrones.
If you are interested in history and architecture, the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou is definitely worth a visit. You will be amazed by the beauty and intricacy of the buildings and will gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Morocco.
The Dakhla National Park
If you are a nature lover, the Dakhla National Park is a must-visit destination on your trip to Morocco. Located in the southern part of the country, the park is spread over an area of 14,160 km2 and is known for its traditional pre-Saharan habitat, rich flora, and fauna.
The park is home to some of the most important wintering grounds for birds, especially for waders. It is also known for its population of endangered monk seals. The coast of the park, particularly the peninsula of Cap Blanc-Aguerguer, is famous for its stunning views and unique ecosystem.
The Dakhla National Park is a paradise for birdwatchers. The park boasts over 360 species of birds, including flamingos, ospreys, and peregrine falcons. The park also has a botanical garden that is home to a variety of plant species, including the rare and endangered Argania Spinosa, commonly known as the argan tree.
The traditional pre-Saharan habitat of the park is a unique feature that sets it apart from other national parks in Morocco. The park is home to a variety of animals, including gazelles, desert foxes, and sand cats. The park also has a visitor center that provides information about the park’s history, ecosystem, and wildlife.
Overall, the Dakhla National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and anyone looking to experience the beauty and diversity of Morocco’s natural wonders and maybe even to go hiking.
The City of El Jadida
If you’re interested in exploring Morocco’s rich history, you won’t want to miss the city of El Jadida. Located on the Atlantic coast, this city has a fascinating mix of European and Moroccan cultures that have been shaped by centuries of trade and colonization.
El Jadida has a long and storied history. It was originally settled by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and many of the city’s most impressive buildings and fortifications date back to this time. In fact, the Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its outstanding architecture, technology, and town planning.
Today, you can still see many examples of European military architecture throughout El Jadida. The city’s expansive government properties, including the impressive Portuguese Cistern, are a testament to the wealth and power of the colonial powers that once controlled this region.
Despite its rich history, El Jadida is also a modern city with all the amenities you’d expect from a twentieth-century urban center. You’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes to explore, as well as a thriving arts and culture scene.
Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply soaking up the atmosphere of a vibrant coastal city, El Jadida is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Morocco.
Other Walled Cities in Morocco
If you’ve already visited some of Morocco’s famous walled cities like Marrakech and Fez, you might want to check out some of the other walled cities that are lesser-known but still worth a visit. These cities showcase the early Renaissance military design that was popular in North Africa during the 16th century.
One such city is Taroudant, located in the Souss Valley. The city is surrounded by a wall that was built in the 16th century and has nine gates. The walls are made of rammed earth and are reinforced with towers at intervals. Taroudant is often called the “Grandmother of Marrakech” due to its similarities to the larger city.
Another walled city worth visiting is Essaouira, located on the coast of Morocco. The walls of Essaouira were designed by European military architects in the 18th century and are made of stone. The city has a unique charm due to its mix of European and Moroccan influences.
Finally, the city of Tetouan is another walled city that is often overlooked by tourists. The city was founded in the 14th century and has a well-preserved medina that is surrounded by walls. The walls were built in the 15th century and are reinforced with towers and gates. Tetouan is known for its Andalusian architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Overall, Morocco has many walled cities that showcase different styles of military design and architecture. Whether you’re interested in early Renaissance military design or European military architecture, there is a walled city in Morocco that will pique your interest.
FAQS on Historic Sites in Morocco
Are there any World Heritage Sites in Morocco?
Yes, there are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Morocco. Some of these include:
- Medina of Marrakech
- Medina of Fes
- Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador)
- Historic City of Meknes
- Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou
- Archaeological Site of Volubilis
- Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage
What are three famous landmarks in Morocco?
Three famous landmarks in Morocco are:
- Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
- Bahia Palace in Marrakech
- Royal Palace of Fes
What are the famous monuments in Morocco?
Famous monuments in Morocco include:
- Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
- Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech
- Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat
What 3 countries have the most World Heritage Sites?
The three countries with the most World Heritage Sites are:
Is Marrakech a World Heritage Site?
Yes, the Medina of Marrakech is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognised for its cultural significance and historical importance.