The history of Morocco, starting from 788 AD, could be summed up as “a number of dynasties, each lasting just over a century” until the current Alaouite dynasty started its rule in 1638. Morocco of today, however, became independent in 1956 after having been a protectorate of France and Spain since 1912. The king, Mohammed V, had been deported to Madagascar for refusing to sign the decrees set by the French and Spanish occupying forces. Upon returning in 1955, he managed to negotiate freedom for his country and is much revered to this day. His elder son, king Hassan II, proved to be a heavy-handed ruler who opposed modernization and human rights, so it was a relief when young son Mohammed VI took over the throne in 1999. He has proven to be much more benevolent and his portrait is displayed in establishments all over the country.
There is a total of four imperial cities, so called because each has been the capital at one point in history: Meknes, Fez, Marrakech and the current capital, Rabat. The king’s official residence in Rabat can only be viewed from the outside but is imposing enough, guarded by military from four different branches.
Mounted sentries guard the entrance to the mausoleum containing the remains of Mohammed V, as well as those of his two sons. It is heavily decorated and teems with visitors. Next to the mausoleum are the ruins of an unfinished mosque and its minaret, the Hassan Tower. It was commissioned by caliph Yaqub el-Mansour in 1195 with the aim of becoming the largest mosque in the world. When the caliph died only four years later, construction stopped halfway, the remains further damaged by the earthquake that flattened Lisbon in 1755.