Kasbah of the Udayas

The diversity, rich history and cultural heritage of Morocco can be explored through its numerous attractions that allow visitors to travel back in time and visually experience Morocco’s past. One such a site is located on the Bou Regreg River mouth in Rabat, and is known as the Kasbah of the Udayas. The significance of this ancient site was recognized by UNESCO, and it added the Kasbah of the Udayas on the World Heritage Tentative List in the year 2006, under their cultural division.

Ibn Hawqal, a geographer, mentioned the first ribat that was built on this site in CE 977 in his documents. According to his account the structure was able to provide housing for approximately a hundred thousand soldiers. The Almoravids had constructed their own Kasbah in CE 1140, while fighting off the Almohad who had been trying to invade and take over the ruling power from the Almoravids. The Almohads eventually won the battle and began reconstruction and developments on the Kasbah in CE 1150. They not only reconstructed the Kasbah of the Udayas, but added a mosque and a palace, naming the structure in tribute to al Mahdi Ibn Tumart, who was one of their ancestors.

During the reign of the Almohads, they brought about numerous changes to Rabat. But after Yaqub al-Mansur passed away in CE 1199, the Kasbah of the Udayas became deserted and fell into disrepair. It was revived as a place of refuge, and known to be a pirate hideout, after many Moriscos were driven out of Spain, leading them to create their own independent residence in the Kasbah in the 17th century.

Visitors to the Kasbah of the Udayas will still be able to view the lower level that was established by the Alawids and the top level that was added by the Almohads. The wall that protects the Kasbah is an intimidating sight, as it is 2.50 meters in width and stands at a height of between eight to ten meters. Some of the ancient cannons are still present in the esplanade.

Visitors will marvel at the massive gateway to the Kasbah that features two towers and was decorated in great detail. Once through the gateway, visitors will be led to three rooms. One features a dome that rests on pendentives, one has a domed vault and the other has a barrel vault. There are doors here that lead to the fortress, with stairs leading to the terrace. It is home to the oldest mosque in the city and the Museum of Traditional Arts is housed in the pavilion. The Kasbah of the Udayas is most definitely a worthwhile attraction to visit and will not disappoint history or architectural fanatics.