Layers of history in Chellah
I first visited Chellah when it was the magical setting of the annual festival Jazz au Chellah but I didn’t get to experience the entirety of the majestic gardens until much later when my aunt and uncle visited me in Rabat. Unlike me who explores leisurely, drinking lots of coffee and soaking in the world passing by, they had only a couple of days in Morocco and were on a mission to see it all- in fact they decided to bring me to Chellah as it was one of the few places I had yet to see in Rabat. And oh boy- I left the best until last.
There is literally layers upon layers of history in Chellah. The Phoenicians were the first to settle there high above the Bouregreg river. The Roman’s took control of the settlement and you can still see the ruins of an ancient forum, bathhouse and homes. It was part of the Roman province Mauretania Tingitana which approximately covered most of modern day Morocco but archaeologists aren’t sure exactly what that size of the settlement at this time was.
By the 7th century when the Islamic conquest arrived the Roman settlement was practically abandoned, home to a small population of Christian Berbers. The settlement existed through several Islamic dynasties. The Berber Almohads used it as a royal necropolis. Unfortunately, like the site of Tour Hassan, Chellah was damaged in the huge 1755 Lisbon earthquake but the minaret of the ancient grand-mosque including the intricate tile-work on it is still standing today. It’s home to several stork nests which you’ll see all around Chellah.
What to expect at Chellah:
When you arrive at Chellah you’ll walk through a massive gate where you will see a small ticket office. I don’t understand how its allowed- but tourists here are blatantly charged a completely different price than locals. Tourists are charged 70 dirham (7 euro) which if you’re coming from the US or Western Europe will seem like a really good price for this attraction and is worth paying. I’ve scoured TripAdvisor and this started happening during 2019. It drives me crazy but that’s the way it is at Chellah. Don’t worry though other attractions around Rabat don’t do this.
Chellah was built on a hill and you’ll quickly find this out as you climb your way down to the ancient ruins. The ruins are spectacular- it was my first time seeing ruins like this. You get to walk through some of the old buildings and see ancient Latin engraving at the forum before passing through to the gardens. The beautifully maintained gardens are really a pleasure to walk through and you’ll appreciate the shade from the banana trees after adventuring through the abandoned town in the Moroccan sun.
Chellah is one of the best things to see in Rabat full stop. It is so interesting and you really get to wander through the midst of it truly bringing history to life. I went with my aunt and uncle who said it was their favourite thing in the city. The site is really beautiful and gives you a sense of Morocco’s ancient past. There is so much history at Chellah it is like an archaeological treasure trove.
If you love Chellah you can find some of the artifacts unearthed there at the Museum of History and Civilizations in Rabat ville. (Musée de l’histoire et des civilisations).
To see more picture of my adventures in Chellah and throughout Morocco like The Student Explorer on Facebook.
Until next time!
-The Student Explorer