Discover the Ancient Roman Settlement of Sala Colonia
Referred to as Sala by Ptolemy, the renowned Greek-Roman mathematician, astronomer, and geographer who lived in Egypt when it was under Roman rule, Sala Colonia is the remains of an ancient Roman settlement, complete with necropolis, on the outskirts of Rabat in Morocco. It is believed to be the oldest human settlement located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River, with excavations revealing distinctive Roman architectural elements, including a triumphal arch, a public square, and a principle east-west oriented access road referred to as a Decumanus Maximus.
The Romans had two main coastal outposts in ancient Mauretania Tingitana – a Roman province located in northwestern Africa including the northern part of modern-day Morocco – being Sala Colonia (near modern-day Rabat) and Mogador (modern-day Essaouira). One of the two primary roads constructed by the Romans enabled access to the Atlantic via Iulia Constantia Zilil (modern-day Asilah), Lixus (modern-day Larache) and Sala Colonia. A second road stretched south from Sala Colonia to Anfa (modern-day Casablanca). The Romans and ancient Greeks were amongst the first to explore North Africa and it is likely that Roman explorers set off from one of these port settlements of Morocco and discovered the Canary Islands situated off the coast of North Africa.
Sala Colonia was abandoned in 1154 as residents moved to the nearby settlement of Salé on the right bank of the Bou Regreg river. Left to deteriorate, the once vibrant Roman settlement fell into ruins, and was later used as a burial ground by the 12th century Almohad dynasty. Monuments and other structures were built at Sala Colonia by Abu I-Hasan, a sultan of the Merenid Dynasty, in the mid-14th century. These included the main gate, a mosque and a zawiya – an Islamic school or monastery. The necropolis at Sala Colonia includes the tomb of Abu I-Hasan.
The ruins of Sala Colonia have been incorporated into a garden and tourist attraction easily accessible from Rabat. Visitors to this historic site can walk along the ancient Roman-built roadway and view the ruins, knowing that this was once a thriving settlement and an integral part of the history of Morocco.