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Morocco Archaeology

The Buildings of Islam

The Islamic faith has tremendously dictated the direction of Moroccan architecture, shaped by the requirements of prayer and the Muslim urban lifestyle. The key building of Islam is of course the mosque, which evolved considerably from its humble beginnings as a sort of low platform from which the call to prayer could be made, becoming an elaborate tower designed to demonstrate the power and piety of ruling dynasties.


Non-muslim visitors cannot generally visit mosques in Morocco but there are some notable exceptions, including the Grande Mosquee Hassan II in Casablanca and the ruined mosque of the Chellah necropolis in Rabat. They can, however, get a very good idea of Muslim sacred architecture by visiting one of the medersas - the colleges that were an essential part of the Moroccan Muslim education system. The most spectacular of these colleges is perhaps the Medersa Ben Youssef in Marrakesh, a 14th century foundation.

Historic Medinas

Buildings generally surround mosques and medersas. The visitor to Morocco quickly has to learn to navigate through the narrow streets of the medinas or old towns to reach the monument or museum to be visited. The Muslim family's courtyard exemplifies gender separation in the public domain. The courtyard house provides a high level of family privacy. In densely built up cities the roof terraces also provided a place for women to perform household tasks-and to share news and gossip.

Musee Marocain

Also known as the museum of Moroccan Art, it is an interesting instrument showcasing jewellery, carpets, arms and household implements. Look out for the Jewish wedding robes beautifully embroidered with gold thread and the very elaborate iron doorknockers and keyhole covers. Captions are in French and Arabic. Ask the guardian if you can get onto the terrace where there are good views of the Rift Mountains.

Archaeology Museum

Situated almost close to the Hotel Chellah at 23 Rue al-Brihi, off Ave Moulay Hassan in Rabat, the Archaeology Museum is perhaps the best museum in Morocco. The ground floor is given to displays of implements and other finds from the oldest known civilisations in Morocco. Some of the material dates back 350,000 years to the Pebble Culture period. In a separate building is the highlight of the collection, the Salle des Bronzes. Most of the ceramics, statuary and implements in bronze and other metals date from the period of Roman occupation.

Musee Nationale des PPT

There is a small and much-ignored postal museum on Ave Mohammed, which has a collection of stamps and first-day covers going back to pre-protectorate days. Entry is free, and the museum is open during office hours.

Dar Jamal Museum

On the far north side of Palace el-Hedim is the Dar Jamal, a palace built in 1882 by the powerful Jamal family. As is often the case in Morocco, the museum building is as interesting as the exhibits. The exhibits consist of a good collection of traditional ceramics, jewellery, rugs, textiles, embroidery and woodwork. Keep an eye out for the silver sebsi for smoking kif and the beautiful 17th century cedar minibar (pulpit).

Old American Legation Museum

An intriguing relic of the international zone is the former US legation, now a museum funded by America. Sultan Moulay Suleyman donated the three-storey building to the USA in 1820. The Americans had sent a representative late in the previous century, as Morocco was the first nation to recognise the new country. The museum houses archives and interesting material on the history of Tangier, and it was here that American and British agents did much of the local planning for the 1942 allied landings in North Africa.
The easiest way to find the museum is to turn into Rue du Portugal from Rue Salab ed-Din el-Ayoubi and enter the medina at the first gate on your left. The museum is a little way down the lane, after the dogleg turn. Entrance is free.

Musee d'Art Contemporain

Housed in the former British Consulate on Rue d'Angleterre, this art gallery is devoted to modern Moroccan art. It is the first of its kind in the country and includes work by contemporary Moroccan painters Abdallab Hariri, Farid Belkahia and Moulay Abmed Drissi.

Tangier and the northwest

Musee Marocain
Also known as the museum of Moroccan Art, it is an interesting instrument showcasing jewellery, carpets, arms and household implements. Look out for the Jewish wedding robes beautifully embroidered with gold thread and the very elaborate iron doorknockers and keyhole covers. Captions are in French and Arabic. Ask the guardian if you can get onto the terrace where there are good views of the Rift Mountains.

Old American Legation Museum
An intriguing relic of the international zone is the former US legation, now a museum funded by America. Sultan Moulay Suleyman donated the three-storey building to the USA in 1820. The Americans had sent a representative late in the previous century, as Morocco was the first nation to recognise the new country. The museum houses archives and interesting material on the history of Tangier, and it was here that American and British agents did much of the local planning for the 1942 allied landings in North Africa.
The easiest way to find the museum is to turn into Rue du Portugal from Rue Salab ed-Din el-Ayoubi and enter the medina at the first gate on your left. The museum is a little way down the lane, after the dogleg turn. Entrance is free.

Forbes Museum
A half-hour walk from the Grand Socco heading north-west from town along the coast, is the villa owned by the family of the American tycoon Malcolm Forbes (of Forbes magazine), who died in 1990. The villa is still occasionally used by the Forbes family and houses what is claimed to be the largest collection of toy soldiers in the world. The collection is consists of 120,000 miniatures and dioramas depicting all sorts of unrelated conflicts, from the Battle of the Three Kings (1578) to the Green March (1975), with ss in the Sudan, various WWI battlefields and several sea engagements. The scenes depicted are surprisingly engaging and dramatic, with panicking horsewomen rushing for buckets of water, cavalry charging and lots of limbless, headless corpses.

Musee d'Art Contemporain
Housed in the former British Consulate on Rue d'Angleterre, this art gallery is devoted to modern Moroccan art. It is the first of its kind in the country and includes work by contemporary Moroccan painters Abdallab Hariri, Farid Belkahia and Moulay Abmed Drissi.

Rabat and environs

Archaeology Museum
Situated almost close to the Hotel Chellah at 23 Rue al-Brihi, off Ave Moulay Hassan in Rabat, the Archaeology Museum is perhaps the best museum in Morocco. The ground floor is given to displays of implements and other finds from the oldest known civilisations in Morocco. Some of the material dates back 350,000 years to the Pebble Culture period. In a separate building is the highlight of the collection, the Salle des Bronzes. Most of the ceramics, statuary and implements in bronze and other metals date from the period of Roman occupation.

Musee Nationale des PPT
There is a small and much-ignored postal museum on Ave Mohammed, which has a collection of stamps and first-day covers going back to pre-protectorate days. Entry is free, and the museum is open during office hours.

Imperial cities and the middle Atlas

Dar Jamal Museum
On the far north side of Palace el-Hedim is the Dar Jamal, a palace built in 1882 by the powerful Jamal family. As is often the case in Morocco, the museum building is as interesting as the exhibits. The exhibits consist of a good collection of traditional ceramics, jewellery, rugs, textiles, embroidery and woodwork. Keep an eye out for the silver sebsi for smoking kif and the beautiful 17th century cedar minibar (pulpit).

Last Updated on Sunday 22nd November 2009

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