Historic sites in Morocco

If you’re looking to explore Historic Sites in Morocco and the surrounding area then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.

There’s a fantastic selection of  Historic Sites in Morocco and you can plan some great things to see on your trips by browsing our selection. Once you’ve explored the  Historic Sites in Morocco you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan out your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook.

Our database of historic sites is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other  Historic Sites in Morocco, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.
 

Morocco: Site Index

Photo by wonker (cc)

Citadel of Ait Ben-Haddou

The Citadel of Ait Ben-Haddou in the southern Moroccan town of Ouarzazate is a stunning example of North African pise clay architecture and dates back a thousand years.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Citadel of Ait Ben-Haddou in the southern Moroccan town of Ouarzazate is a stunning example of North African pise clay architecture and dates back hundreds of years.

Ouarzazate on the southern slopes of the High Atlas is known as ‘Morocco’s Hollywood’ for very good reason. Long before it became a star on the Game of Thrones map, it was used in Gladiator, Jewel of the Nile, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Lawrence of Arabia amongst many, many others!

Aït Ben-Haddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and comprises six kasbahs and almost fifty ksours (individual kasbahs). It was a fortified village with houses – some tiny, some castle-like – community areas and associated buildings, a public square, a mosque, Muslim and Jewish cemeteries and a caravanserai. According to UNESCO ‘it is an extraordinary ensemble of buildings offering a complete panorama of pre-Saharan earthen construction techniques.’

Although most of the buildings and the maze-like streets you see today are from the 17th century, Aït Ben-Haddou was an important trading post that linked ancient Sudan with Marrakech. Amazingly, a few families still live in the village and although conservations efforts are ongoing, a number of the red mud and straw buildings are slowly being reclaimed by the land from whence they came.

In recent times, the site was featured as Yunkai (aka the Yellow City) in Game of Thrones - the centre of slave-trading and one of the three great Ghiscari city-states in the show.

Access to the walled village is free (although some of the kasbahs charge a modest entry fee of ten dirhams – about 75p/$1 – to help with maintenance) and for the most amazing views, try and go at sunrise or sunset. The town of Ouarzazate (pronounced ‘war-za-zat’) is almost permanently full of tourists and location researchers so hotels, restaurants and cafés are plentiful and of a high quality.

Photo by Keirn (cc)

El Badi Palace

El Badi Palace was an opulent sixteenth century palace of the Saadi Dynasty destroyed by Moulay Ismail.

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El Badi Palace was once the magnificent royal palace of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur of the Saadi Dynasty. Having taken twenty five years to build, El Badi Palace was a lavish, grand sixteenth century complex of buildings with over 350 rooms, courtyards, gardens and a large pool.

Yet, today there is no sign of the gold which once adorned the walls of El Badi Palace. Indeed, the whole complex lies in ruins in the centre of Marrakesh, having been utterly destroyed by the sultan Moulay Ismail. Moulay Ismail is infamous for demolishing many of the buildings in Marrakesh to use their materials in his own creations and El Badi palace was probably one of the most prominent examples of this.

Visitors to the remains of El Badi Palace enter through its gatehouse and can view the remnant of much of this site. Some of the highlights include its sunken gardens, its subterranean passages and the Koubba el Khamsiniyya or “main hall”, which has fifty columns.

For an overview of El Badi Palace, go to a nearby terrace to see it from above.

Photo by martijnmunneke (cc)

Essaouira

Game of Thrones viewers will know Essaouira better as Astapor, the southernmost of the three city-states of Slaver’s Bay but this is a true-to-life city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast whose history goes back over 2,500 years.

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The Moroccan city formerly known as Mogador (after the Muslim saint Sidi Mogdoul who was buried there in the Middle Ages) has a rich and vibrant history dating back two and a half millennia. Pronounced 'essa-weera’, the Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira is full of narrow alleys and the pungent smell of spices, thuya wood and sea air tells you that you are in an ancient north African town.

Essaouira, A UNESCO World Heritage Site, was established by Hanno the Navigator, a Carthaginian explorer in the 5th century BC and over the next two thousand years it was a port, a centre of the manufacture of purple dye (which coloured the purple stripe in Imperial Roman Senatorial dress) and a garrison town but the Essaouira you see today is largely thanks to Mohammed III who built the fortifications and walled the beautiful town in.

The influences of Portuguese, French, Berber, Dutch, Jewish and Muslim cultures are evident as you make your way around the town and at one stage the population was evenly split 50/50 between Jews and Muslims. Because of the ‘vents alizés’ – the trade winds that sweep inland off the Atlantic, it’s known as the ‘Wind City of Africa’ and is a favourite spot for hardcore windsurfers.

Around the harbour, the fishermen and artisan woodworkers are doing the same as their predecessors and the art scene is as vibrant as it has always been but if you’re a GoT devotee, Essaouira is and will always be Astapor, home of the Unsullied and the southernmost of the three city-states of Slaver’s Bay.

Photo by jadis1958 (cc)

Hassan Tower

The Hassan Tower in Rabat is a twelfth century minaret of an incomplete grand mosque.

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The Hassan Tower, also known as “Tour Hassan” in Rabat, Morocco, is a grand reminder of a mosque that was never completed. The Hassan Tower is actually 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.

Construction of the Hassan Tower began in approximately 1195 AD and was intended to result in the largest mosque on earth. However, only four years of construction had elapsed when the sultan died and, with him, the project. Today several columns surround the Hassan Tower, showing the intended layout of the mosque. Indeed, even the Hassan Tower was not completed. In fact, it was supposed to double in size.

Inside the Hassan Tower are six levels, each with a solitary room connected by ramps.

Photo by jakuza (cc)

Mausoleum of Mohammed V

The Mausoleum of Mohammed V is the final resting place of Morocco’s former sultan and his two sons.

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The Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat is the grand tomb of one of Morocco’s kings and his two sons. Mohammed V was the sultan of Morocco for two periods - 1927 to 1953 and 1957 to 1961. In between these times he was exiled (1953-55), although he is now remembered for his contribution to the attainment of Morocco’s independence.

Commissioned by King Hassan II in 1962 and completed in 1971, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V is a white building crowned with green tiles. Inside, the mausoleum is lavishly decorated and adorned with a wealth of traditional artwork.

Together with its namesake, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V is also the final resting place of King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah, his two sons.

Photo by David Ooms (cc)

Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail

The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is the elaborate tomb of an infamous sultan of Morocco.

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The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail in Meknes is the final resting place of one of Morocco’s most notorious sultans. Moulay Ismail was a member of the Alaouite Dynasty and the ruler of the country from 1672 to 1727.

In his time as sultan, Moulay Ismail gained a reputation for ruthlessness, earned due to his purges of anybody unwilling to support him and for megalomania, particularly when it came to creating monuments and palaces at the expense of destroying those built by others.

One famous casualty of Moulay Ismail is the El Badi Palace in Marrakesh, demolished for its materials. Nevertheless, Moulay Ismail was also known as a very effective leader, and his accomplishments included taking areas such as Tangiers and al-Mamurah from the British and the Spanish respectively.

Created by masses of slaves and criminal prisoners, the sultan oversaw the initial construction of his tomb. The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is a good example of the opulence of the sultan’s building style. Built around grand courtyards and fountains are rooms with intricate tiling and stucco walls adorned with fine objects such as clocks gifted to the sultan by his friend, the French king, Louis XIV.

Moulay Ismail was laid to rest in the mausoleum together with one of his (five hundred) wives and two of his (eight hundred) children. Ever since it was restored and reopened by the sultan Mohammed V, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail has been open to non-Muslims, although non-Muslims cannot approach the actual tomb.

Photo by 84554176@N00 (cc)

Ouarzazate

Known as the 'door to the desert', Ouarzazate is a small town in the High Atlas mountains of south-central Morocco and was used as the port of Pentos, one of the Free Cities in Game of Thrones.

DID YOU KNOW?

Ouarzazate (pronounced ‘war-za-zat’) is a Berber phrase meaning ‘without noise’ or ‘without confusion’ and it’s most famous for the location of the Kasbah-town of Aït Ben-Haddou, one of the world’s finest examples of North African pisé clay architecture dating back a thousand years.

Linking ancient Sudan with Marrakech, the town was a strategically important crossing point for traders from all over Africa looking to expand their markets into northern Africa and Europe. Ouarzazate is one of the most perfectly preserved examples of the Morocco we have all seen in a thousand movies and to the south sits the fearsome 9.4million square km Sahara desert and many excursions into the sand start from Ouarzazate.

In the 1920s, a modern garrison town was established to look after France’s colonial interests in the region and after the French protectorate left in the 1950s, the movie business took over and hasn’t looked back. Notwithstanding the port of Pentos, one of the Free Cities in Game of Thrones, the Atlas Studios in Ouarzazate – the world’s largest film studio complex – has been used to depict places as diverse as ancient Rome, Tibet, Egypt, Somalia and dozens of Middle Eastern locations and is colloquially known as ‘Ouallywood’.

Boiling hot in the summer (36°C - 40°C) but thanks to the icy winds that shank off the High Atlas Mountains, the winters can get down as low as 1°C - 3°C. Since the eyes of the world’s film location scouts are permanently here, the area has developed quickly and now includes hotels, restaurants, shops, apartments and public spaces and with plenty of small businesses offering the hire of cars, motorbikes and even camels, your trip into the heart of the Sahara is well taken care of.

Telouet Kasbah

Telouet Kasbah is a fortress in Morocco and former seat of the powerful El Glaoui family.

DID YOU KNOW?

Telouet Kasbah in Morocco is the former seat of the powerful El Glaoui family, who effectively ruled much of the surrounding area in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The remains of this fortress, which lies on the old caravan route over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh, can still be visited today. Although the complex is beginning to show signs of disrepair there is still much to see and many of the more ornate decorations are still intact to view.

A trip to Telouet Kasbah is not necessarily a journey for the faint-hearted - but in a way the journey is the adventure and, as you drive from Marrakesh and wind through spectacular gorges and mountains, you can’t fail to be inspired.

There are restaurants at the site, many of whom will offer trips to the Kasbah, and two small hotels nearby offer an option for those wishing to stay in the local area.
 

The Saadian Tombs

The Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh house the remains of many members of the Saadi Dynasty.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh are the final resting places of the around sixty of the rulers and members of the Saadi Dynasty including Sultan Ahmed El Mansour (the sixth sultan of the dynasty) and his family.

This dynasty ruled the region from the mid-sixteenth to the late seventeenth century and the tombs date back to this period, the earliest thought to have been established in 1557.

The good state of preservation of the Saadian Tombs may be attributable to the fact that they were sealed off by the sultan Moulay Ismail. At the time, Ismail was destroying architectural gems such as the Badi Palace, but some speculate that, when it came to the Saadian Tombs, his superstition got the better of him and he decided to hide rather than demolish them. They were only discovered in 1917, when they were uncovered by accident.

Visitors to the Saadian Tombs can view the tombs amidst the colourful backdrop of the two mausoleums which house them. One of the most interesting rooms is the beautifully decorated Hall of the Twelve Columns.

A visit to the Saadian Tombs can be quite a clinical experience, but only because the large number of tourists overwhelm this small site and mean that a visit might seem rushed, usually lasting around twenty minutes or so.

Photo by Historvius

Volubilis

Volubilis near Meknes in Morocco was an Ancient Roman city developed in the first century BC.

DID YOU KNOW?

Volubilis in Morocco is a UNESCO-listed ancient Roman site housing extensive ruins dating back to the first century BC.

Already a thriving town, the Romans developed Volubilis from approximately 25 BC, during the reign of Juba II, a Berber prince appointed as the ruler of the region by the Emperor Augustus. Juba II was married to the daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra.

The residents of Volubilis were a diverse people and included Africans, Syrians, Spaniards and Jews, amongst others and would have numbered up to 20,000 at its peak.

Development continued to 40 AD, when Volubilis became a minicipium (a self-governing Roman city) of the Roman African region of Mauretania Tingitana. The fortifications of Volubilis were erected in approximately 168 AD, during the rule of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, known as Caracalla.

Amongst the ruins of Volubilis, visitors can see an array of public buildings, olive mills, houses, temples and defensive walls with many mosaics dotted throughout.

One of the most famous structures at Volubilis is the Triumphal Arch of Caracalla, built for the Roman Emperor upon his death in 217 AD. The Triumphal Arch of Caracalla is very well preserved, and although its top section is now gone, it is still an incredibly impressive structure and a treat for any history enthusiast.