The Wattasid Dynasty of Morocco

In its long and often tumultuous history, the Kingdom of Morocco was dominated by a succession of dynasties, one of these being the Wattasid Dynasty, established in 1472 and ending in 1554. The Wattasid Dynasty succeeded the Marinid Dynasty, both of which were of Zenata Berber descent, adhering to the tenets of Sunni Islam. These two related dynasties had dealings with one another in the years preceding the Wattasid Dynasty taking power. It is said that the Marinids had recruited many of their viziers from among the ranks of the Wattasids, which may very well have been their own undoing.

As high-ranking political authorities within the Marinid Dynasty, these Wattasid viziers assumed the role of Sultans. It was from these positions of power that the Wattasids ousted the Marinids, with the last Marinid ruler, Abu Muhammad Abd al-Haqq losing his life during a revolt by the people in the city of Fez in 1465. Prior to his death, this last Marinid ruler had been responsible for the massacre of many Wattasids in 1459. The first Wattasid Sultan was Abu Abd Allah al-Sheikh Muhammad ibn Yahya, who ruled from 1472 to 1504, with the last being Abu al-Hasan Abu Hasun Ali ibn Muhammad in 1554.

The Wattasid Dynasty only ever ruled over the northern part of Morocco, referred to as the Kingdom of Fez or the Wattasid Sultanate, with the city of Fez as its capital. At this time the Saadi Dynasty dominated the southern region, and following the historic Battle of Tadla in 1554, the Wattasids were supplanted by the Saadis, who took control of both the north and south of Morocco under the leadership of Mohammed ash-Sheikh.

Notable events relating to the Wattasid Dynasty include an agreement with Spain in 1485 whereby the Wattasid sultanate agreed not to assist the Kingdom of Granada, in return for commitment by Spain not to capture Moroccan ships sailing the Alboran Sea – the portion of the Mediterranean with Spain on the north, Morocco and Algeria on the south, and the Strait of Gibraltar to the west. Between 1488 and 1506, the Portuguese captured Safi, Mazagan, Agadir and Mogador, with Spain capturing Melilla in 1497. Between 1511 and 1541 the Saadians captured Rabat, Marrakesh, Agadir and Safi, and conquering Fez in 1550. After putting up some resistance with the aid of the Ottomans in neighboring Algeria, the last Wattasid Sultan was defeated in 1554 putting an end to the Wattasid Dynasty and establishing the Saadian Dynasty as the undisputed rulers of Morocco at that time.