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Kasbah of the Udayas

The Kasbah of the Udayas is a very special site in Morocco, intrinsically related to Rabat’s early story. Also referred as Oudayas Kasbah, it is fortress originally built in the XII century – originally because it was destroyed and rebuilt many times. Along the history, it served as home to Andalusian immigrants, Arab tribes and even Moroccan sultans. It was nominated a World heritage Site by UNESCO and it is a calm place for those looking for a break in the buzzling Rabat. Right by the entrance, visitors will see a beautiful Almohad gateway called Bab Oudaia and decorated with carved arches. Kasbah of the Udayas also is home to Rabat's oldest mosque, known as the Old Mosque (not open to visitors).

History

The story of the Kasbah starts in the 10th century, when Zenata Berbers founded a fortified monastery in the area to defend it against the Barghawata Berbers, in the south – the region was inhabited by many Berbers tribes. Between 1143 and 1145, one of the last Almoravid rulers built a new fortification where is the current Kasbah in an attempt to defeat the Almohads. However, they lost and the new caliph destroyed the ribat built by the Almoravids and built a new Kasbah. To this new citadel he added a mosque and a palace. 

When Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur assumed the command in 1184, he ordered the construction of a new fortified capital where nowadays is Rabat’s old medina and the walls would extend over the old Kasbah. It was also part of this project the construction of a mosque (the Hassan Tower part of it), and enormous gates, now called Bab Udaya or Bab al-Kbir. Unfortunately, after Abu Yusuf Ya'qub's death, the constructions of the mosque and the capital were not completed yet and his successors did not finish it. After some time, Salé, the town across the river, started to develop and to grow in importance and the kasbah was abandoned.

Centuries later, when the Muslim were expelled from Spain in the XVII century by Philip III, around 2000 refugees settled in Salé and occupied the Kasbah, later attraction some more thousands Muslim. There they built their own republic, which served as base for pirates who preyed on merchant ships around Western Europe. A platform overlooking the river and a warehouse were built later – the latest a school nowadays. It was only in 1666 that the republic was put under control of the Alaouite sultan Moulay Rashid, who took over the area.

During that period, the southern part of the Kasbah became under the Alaouite authority, and by the time Sultan Moulay Ismail ruled, he had added a palace and royal pavilion, today a museum. The sultan populated both the kasbah and Rabat by settling the Udaya Arab tribe there, thus ensuring a counterbalancing force against other unruly tribes in the region. It was after the occupation of the Udaya that the current name of the Kasbah surged, Kasbah of the Udayas.

In 2006, Rabat was nominated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Kasbah as well. 

Visiting Kasbah of the Udayas

The main attractions when visiting the Kasbah are: 

The Old Mosque: As we said, it is the oldest mosque within the walls of the Kasbah, dating back to 1150. It is made of stones (exterior) and bricks (interior). It has an interior courtyard surrounded by galleries and a prayer hall. 

Oudayas Museum:

 Once a palace and residence of Sultan Moulay Ismail, it was converted in 1915 as a museum, during the French Protectorate over Morocco. 

The museum displays ethnographic pieces, ceramics, musical instruments, costumes, carpets, and jewellery among others. After restoration in 2006, it became the National Jewellery Museum.

Bab Oudaia: This is the famous and enormous gate of the Kasbah. It is one of the most beautiful gates in Moroccan architecture, built by the Almohads between 1195 and 1199. Highlights to the richly decorated outer and inner façade of geometric forms and inscriptions. The gate has 3 chambers: 2 covered by domes and 1 covered by a barrel vault (this one not open to visitors). 

Andalusian Garden: The beautiful garden was created during the French protectorate in Morocco and was inspired by the Moorish gardens of Andalusia. It is frequented by both locals and tourists looking for resting between walks. 

The Kasbah is open every day from 6 am.