The Chellah Necropolis - Rabat, Morocco

coldsteem
John @coldsteemMay 2018 · 4 min read

The Chellah Necropolis is a medieval necropolis located near the heart of Rabat, Morocco. Surprisingly, the ancient ruins rank as the second best place to visit in Rabat on TripAdvisor. So what ranks in first place? I had to know, since this was an awesome place to visit. Number One? The Tramway. I rode the Tram, so maybe I need to write about it. But no way I would rank the Tram above Chellah as the best thing to do in Rabat. Chellah clearly should hold the distinction of number one. This site has been listed on the list of World Heritage Sites since 2012.

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We were greeted at the entrance to Chella Necropolis by a musician jamming out on his drum. His combination of dance and percussion was worthy of the tips it was meant to illicit. There were a couple of groups of school children of varying age visiting while we were there. They seemed to be particularly engaged in the performance. As we were leaving, I looked back and saw a group of kids dancing with the drummer. It was a fun interaction to witness, adding a carnival air to an otherwise somber place. After all, Chellah is a necropolis.

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Chellah has been abandoned for centuries. Time and weather have taken a toll on the ancient ruins. It is a quiet ruins providing high vantage points near the Bouregreg River. A perfect place for storks to nest. And there were plenty of them. I am fairly certain the stork population has also taken a toll on the place. Visiting ancient ruins has always fascinated me. In the United States, we don't have a whole lot that dates back more than half a millennia. Chellah dates back more than two millennia, tracing roots back to the Carthaginians and Phoenicians. The area was inhabited by Christians around the second century. Romans were present during this period until around the fifth century. The area came under the control of Arab Muslims in the seventh century. The remains of a madrasah and mosque can be seen, with an ornate minaret withstanding centuries of disrepair. The site has been mostly abandoned since the thirteenth century, suffering further damage from an earthquake in the eighteenth century. The walls of several structures as well as tombs and small mausoleums are dotted throughout the ruins.

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The primary inhabitants are the storks, along with quite a few cats, which are ubiquitous in Morocco. It reminded me of a film called Keti that documents the large cat population in Turkey. The cats don't necessarily have a traditional "home" but are looked after by committee. People leave food and water out and the cats come and go as they please. I will probably do a post at some point of the many cats I photographed on this trip. In the photo above, you can see a cat photo bombing my picture. Below are more photographs to give you some appreciation of the historic ruins.

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A little bit of information about the photos below. These photos depict a small pool that used to be a ritual bath. It is currently called Le Bassin Aux Anguilles, or the basin of the eels. The pool of water extends into the shadowy recesses of the far wall, where the eels congregate. An elderly lady sitting next to the pool allows visitors to feed the eels, for a small donation. She also has some small items for sale. The area is also heavily populated with cats. One legend associated with this pool is that girls seeking a husband will find luck by tossing coins into this pool. The pool did have coins gleaming at the bottom of the pool.

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Admission to the Chellah Necropolis is 30 dirhams, which roughly translates as three dollars US. The location is open all week from 8:30 AM until 6:30 PM. The price is very inexpensive for a historically rich ruins that has a combination of interesting structures and lush gardens. There is an overlook area where students were drawing pictures and learning about the site. The overlook offered a nice, panoramic view looking out toward the river in the distance. If you are in Rabat and can only visit one place, this is it (unless you are looking for shopping, in which case I would select the Medina).

These photos are my own. They may be reproduced with prior permission.


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