First Published: 2007-02-08

 
Moroccan capital rebuilds, uncovers past
 

Rabat rebuilds its seafront, uncovers vast treasure trove of relics, watercourse linking twin cities of Rabat, Sale.

 

Middle East Online

By Sammy Ketz - RABAT

Rabat; set for the future with a rich past

Morocco's capital Rabat is rebuilding its seafront and in so doing uncovering a vast treasure trove of relics, artefacts and ruins.

"We have made some fantastic discoveries not only for the history of Rabat but of the kingdom," said archaeologist and historian Mohammed Essemmar.

Essemmar, 43, heads the heritage department of the agency in charge of redeveloping the Bouregreg valley, a watercourse linking the twin cities of Rabat and Sale.

Roman columns and capitals, 12th-century enclosing walls, Islamic ceramics and coins have emerged from the sands.

The prize discovery in the 2,500 square-metre (27,000 square feet) site is the enclosing wall of the Tachfin "ribat,"or military camp, attached to the Oudayas casbah, dating from the 12th century and completed during the brief reign of Almoravid dynasty King Tachfin ben Ali (1143-1145).

The base of the wall was unearthed in late 2006, made up of the "ribat's" two corner towers and a central tower.

"The old texts mention its existence but we did not know here it was, because at the end of fierce battles the founder of the Almohad dynasty Abdelmoumen ben Ali (1130-1163) rased the camp to build the Oudayas casbah," said Essemmar.

"It is great, because outside Marrakesh Almoravid remains are very rare," said Essemmar, who hold degrees from both French and Moroccan universities.

But there have been other pleasant surprises. Archaeologists have uncovered a chamber that must have been used as an armoury and at the end of last year found an arched passage dating from the 17th century and linking the Street of the Consuls, a famous commercial street in the Medina, or old quarter, with the seafront.

The excavations, which have cost 110,000 euros (143,000 dollars) provided by the agency, have disrupted the plans for development work.

"For the first time developers and archaeologists are on the same wavelength: my town-planning and architect colleagues have changed their plans to reconstitute history," said Essemmar.

Work will begin next month to restore to the road the appearance it had at the start of the Alawite dynasty founded by Moulay Cherif (1631-1636), ancestor of the reigning monarch King Mohammed VI.

The plan to redevelop the Bouregreg estuary began in January 2006 and has six phases. It seeks to rehabilitate and transform the two banks into major tourist and urban centres.

Partner investors in the United Arab Emirates have contributed to the 2.75 billion dollar cost of the two first tranches of the work.

In July Essemmar was woken by a pre-dawn phone call from workmen who had found in a creek three large marble Roman columns with their capitals.

"The river has in its belly hundreds of treasures and when we drag it we shall make some terrific discoveries, because with its 2,500 years of history it is a real archaeological museum, " said Essammar.

In any case, said the agency's information officer Omar Benslimane, efficiency has to go hand in hand with heritage.

"It is a building site which we have to complete, but we are certain to come across other ruins: we shall then suspend the work to call up archaeological expertise.

"We shall carry out rescue excavations. If we find that it is something important we shall change our plans. One thing is certain, nothing will be ignored as in the past."

 

US says Assad may be preparing another chemical attack

Over 8,000 migrants rescued in Med in 48 hours

Yemen cholera outbreak shows signs of slowing

Rouhani seizes opportunity to get closer to Qatar

Eid revives Tunisian tradition of pastry making

Hamas says travel documents for sick Gazans being refused

Former Syrian defence minister Mustafa Tlass dies in Paris

Iran says US reinstating travel ban 'regrettable'

GCC construction outlook to improve with oil prices recovery and implementation of reforms

57 dead in US-led strikes on IS Syria prison

Kremlin denounces US ‘threats’ against Assad

Mattis says US wants to steer clear of war in Syria

Mali activists call for referendum to be abandoned

Iraq forces battle deep into devastated Old Mosul

Iraqi forces control two thirds of Mosul Old City

Banned Bahraini newspaper fires staff

New crown prince widely welcomed in Saudi Arabia

Assad leads Eid prayers in Syria’s Hama

Lone-wolf attacks raise concern about new trend in terror

Erdogan slams Saudi demands of Qatar as illegal

Sudan making 'positive' steps on meeting US sanctions terms

Mecca suicide bombing injures six

Gulf crisis heats up as Qatar receives list of demands

Suicide attacks kill at least three people in Mosul

Civilians killed in Iraq suicide bomb attacks

UN warns Yemen cholera outbreak could infect 300,000 by September

Putin launches deep-water phase of TurkStream pipeline

Berlin warns Ankara against meddling in religious affairs

Asian states downplay 'Russia proposal' to send troops to Syria

Iran’s Salehi urges West to save historic nuclear deal

Iran, allies mark Jerusalem Day with rallies

US-led Syria strikes kill 472 civilians in one month

Morocco dismantles 'IS-linked cell plotting tourist attacks'

France sets out tough new anti-terror law

Russia warships, submarine strike IS targets in Syria

Trump-Saudi ties help pave way for new Saudi crown prince

Makeshift clinic saves lives near Syria’s Raqa

Egyptian fuel helps restart Gaza power station

Rights groups say Morocco protest leader 'severely beaten' during arrest

5 killed in Mogadishu car bomb attack

UN experts urge Egypt to halt executions after 'flawed trials'

Qatar emir congratulates newly-appointed Saudi crown prince

Kushner hails 'productive' Palestine-Israel talks

Macron says removing Assad no longer priority in Syria

Turkey sends first aid ship to isolated ally Qatar