Explore the Wonders of Morocco's UNESCO World Heritage Sites
World Heritage Sites are sites in certain countries that have been deemed by UNESCO to be of outstanding cultural or natural importance. This value is universal and so preserving such sites is seen as being beneficial to the entire world’s population. Most of the cultural heritage sites are historical in nature and provide evidence of the way early cultures lived their day-to-day lives. These sites provide a wealth of information and form part of a world of history that would remain dead and buried were it not for the discovery and study of such amazing archaeological ruins. There are as many as eight designated World Heritage Sites in Morocco.
Archaeological Site of Volubilis:
These ancient Roman ruins were originally part of the Mauritanian capital that was established in the area in 3 BC. In its prime Volubilis was graced with many stunning buildings and although today all that remains are some ruins, the remaining structures and intricate mosaics have been preserved as a reminder of a city that once thrived.
Historic City of Meknes:
Founded in the 11th century as a military settlement, this great city developed into a place of great beauty, filled with superb examples of Spanish-Moorish styled architecture, much of which is still present today. Parts of the city, such as the enormous doors of the city, were constructed from materials looted from Volubilis.
Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou:
Lying along the ancient caravan route between the Sahara Desert and the city of Marrakech, this amazing group of earthen buildings is a striking example of the ancient and practical architecture used in the southern parts of Morocco. Situated in the Quarzazate province, the buildings are surrounded by high, defensive walls which are reinforced by corner towers. This uniquely beautiful site has been used in a number of movies, including The Jewel of the Nile, The Living Daylights, Gladiator and Alexander.
One of the country’s more recent inscriptions is that of the Portuguese City of Mazagan. According to sources at UNESCO, this ancient city was built as a fortified colony during the 16th century. It served as a Portuguese port on the Atlantic coast and is an excellent example of how European and Moroccan cultures were often combined during town planning. Today Mazagan is a part of El Jadida, which is not too far from Casablanca.
The Medina of Essaouira:
This once humble fishing village developed into a strategically significant seaport which was used by pirates in the 1500s. Within the city’s fortified walls, the Medina of Essaouira has been preserved and many buildings remain much the same as when they were constructed back in the 18th century.
Medina of Fez:
With a history that goes right back to the 9th century, the Medina of Fez is considered to be Morocco’s cultural and spiritual centre. The Medina consists of numerous beautifully preserved historical buildings, including mosques, palaces, residential home and squares with fountains, all set in a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways which are fascinating to explore.
Medina of Marrakech:
The Medina of Marrakech was established in the 11th century with successive occupants leaving their mark on the fascinating architecture of the city. The Almoravids built some of the most impressive structures in the Medina, including the Kasbah, a number of magnificent mosques and an open-air theatre which still stands today. The tombs of several prominent figures are located in the Medina of Marrakech and attract visitors from all over the world.
Medina of Tetouan:
The Medina of Tetouan is considered to be one of the finest examples of historical towns dating back to the 8th century, when it began to play an important role in the Islamic community. Tetouan was at one time occupied by Andalusian culture and their influence can be seen throughout the Medina. Visitors walking through the streets of the medina will come across locals engaging in various crafts such as leatherwork, weaving and making jewelry.
So make sure you see as many of these great World Heritage Sites as you can the next time you visit Morocco.