The Northern Atlantic Coast Sights

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Chellah Review

Chellah was an independent city before Rabat ever existed. It dates from the 7th or 8th century BC, when it was probably Phoenician. You'll see the remains of the subsequent Roman city, Sala Colonia, on your left as you walk down the path. Though these remnants are limited to broken stone foundations and column bases, descriptive markers point to the likely location of the forum, baths, and market. Sultan Abu Saïd and his son Abu al Hassan, of the Merenid dynasty, were responsible for the ramparts, the entrance gate, and the majestic portals. The Merenids used Chellah as a spiritual retreat, and at quiet times the baraka (blessing) of the place is still tangible.

The entrance to the Merenid sanctuary is at the bottom of the path, just past some tombs. To the right is a pool with eels in it, which is said to produce miracles—women are known to toss eggs to the eels for fertility. The ruins of the mosque are just inside the sanctuary: beautiful arches and the mihrab (prayer niche). Storks nest on the impressive minaret. On the far side of the mosque is a beautiful wall decorated with Kufi script, a type of Arabic calligraphy characterized by right angles. To the left of the mosque is the zaouia (sanctuary), where you can see the ruins of individual cells surrounding a basin and some ancient mosaic work. Beyond the mosque and zaouia are some beautiful, well-maintained walled gardens. Spring water runs through the gardens at one point, and they give the Chellah a serenity that's quite extraordinary considering that it's less than a mile from the center of a nation's capital. There is no place comparable in Morocco. From the walled gardens you can look out over the River Bou Regreg: you'll see cultivated fields below, and cliffs across the river. On the right is a hill with a small white koubba. Tour groups are elsewhere at lunchtime, so try to come then to experience the Chellah at its most serene.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Chellah, Rabat
  • Cost: 10 DH
  • Hours: Daily 8:30–5:30 (or until sunset if earlier)
  • Location: Rabat
Updated: 05-12-2011

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