At the ruins of the magnificent fortress of Chellah, located in the metropolitan area of Rabat, the Capital of the Kingdom of Morocco, migratory birds, especially storks, guard their royal nests after completing a journey of about 3,900km from Poland.
The ritual observed by these birds sums up the historic and natural scenery of Rabat, a city known for its rich culture heritage characterised by a bountiful blend of ancient architecture, royalty, and ancestral endowment.
With my brief stay in Rabat, I would describe the city as “a historic city with a touch of modernity”.
Fortress of Chellah
The fortress of Chellah, one of Rabat’s iconic tourist attractions, serves as a royal burial ground by Almoravids dynasty and later by the Berber Almohads, who overthrown Almoravids in the 12th century.
In the 13th Century, the Marinids, the next Moroccan dynasty, made it holy and built a religious complex that includes a mosque, minaret, and royal tombs.
Sultan Abu al-Hassan (1331-1351) later built its thick defence walls and gate to surround the complex, adding to its magnificent architecture.
Today, the fortress, which was granted World Heritage Status in 2012, is home to hundreds of migrating birds who fly thousands of miles to build nests in the complex.
Rabat is home to many of Morroco’s prominent ancient buildings dating back hundreds of years, some of which have been preserved or modernised which provides evidential accounts of Morocco’s historical records, power, and resilience.
The Hassan Tower
Another iconic historic site in Rabat is the Hassan Tower, which is located in the Quartier Hassan, behind the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V.
The photogenic pillar stumps, which make up the complex remains of what was intended to be the biggest mosque on earth at the time, speaks volumes about the city’s engineering prowess in the 11th century.
The Tower encompasses a 140-foot red stone minaret built during the reign of Yacoub El Mansour, a sultan of the Almohad Dynasty, who ruled from 1184 AD.
The construction of the tower, which was influenced by a variety of Muslin and Moorish styles, commenced in around 1195 AD and was intended to become the largest mosque on earth.
The Project was, however, halted in four years into the construction following the demise of the sultan.
Rabat is also making history with its modern architecture and it is heavily investing in architectural and decorative elements while preserving historic monuments and traditional housing.
A typical example is the construction of the Mohammed VI Tower, credited as the tallest tower in Africa.
Covering an area of 102,800 m², the magnificent building can be seen from a distance of 50 kilometres all around. The 55 storey consists of a luxury hotel, offices, high-end apartments and a viewing terrace at the top.
Few meters away from the tower sits the newly completed multifunctional cultural venue Grand Theatre of Rabat. The Theatre has a capacity of 1,821 seat hall – the largest in the Arab world and in Africa.
The Cultural City of Rabat has also developed modern transport infrastructure, which makes it easy for motorists to manoeuvre through the city without facing traffic congestion.
I admired how the City had developed its tram and light rail transit system in addition to public bus and high-speed underground rail network to offer commuters a variety of options to prevent congestion, reduce travel time and cost and enhance productivity.
Sense of pride and nationalism
I observed that almost every building in Rabat had the Flag of Morocco (and sometimes more two flags) boldly featured on them. This, for me, showed how much the people loved and appreciated their country.
Throughout my stay in the City, I didn’t see any person littering the environment.
Every part of the city that has not been paved has been beautified with grass and lawns and gardeners are seen working on the lawns day and night.
No one is allowed to walk, stand, or sit on the lawns. In the middle of the greenery exists playground and workout stations designed for recreational purposes.
Police officers are seen at all road intersections and streets across the city to enforce law and order.
Lessons for Ghana
Just as Morocco, Ghana is a beautiful country with lovely people and rich cultural heritage. From my experience in Morocco, I believe the country can do more to preserve, modernise, and commercialise its cultural sites.
Investment in the country’s tourism sector must be intentional and strategic to attract tourists across the globe and create sustainable jobs for the people.
Unmet expectations has dwindled the genuine passion and love many people have for the country.
Nonetheless, in spite of the challenges, we must be proud of our country and demonstrate it in our everyday activities.
Loving our country means eschewing corruption, respecting authorities and obeying law and order, protecting our water bodies and natural ecosystem, taking responsibility for our actions, and participating in national activities among others.
Morocco, which had its independence in 1956, a year before Ghana, is doing something great and I believe Ghana can take some useful notes from their development model.