Two kings and a prince were laid to rest in the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, and although Rabat, Morocco’s capitol city, has so much to offer, this remains one of my favorite places to visit. Just knowing what this dynasty means to Morocco creates a unique atmosphere; you can feel the presence of royalty and historical significance when you step inside.
It took nine years and over 400 men to complete this extravagant monument in honor of one of Morocco’s most important leaders. Every inch of the structure, from the perimeter gate to the brass installations, is carved with intricate precision. It is a true testament to Morocco’s distinguished style.
On either side of the entry are signature Moroccan fountains. Vibrantly colored mosaics behind porcelain pools of water display the attention to detail that Moroccan architecture does so well.
When King Hassan II commissioned the mausoleum’s construction for his father, Mohammed V, in 1962, he positioned it inside Yacoub Al Mansour Square, where Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur’s unfinished mosque and minaret (later named Hassan Tower) sat, incomplete, for nearly 800 years.
hassan Tower and the unfinished masjid
Construction on Hassan Tower began in 1191 and halted abruptly in 1199 when al-Mansur died. At only 144 feet, the tower never reached al-Mansur’s goal, but it remains an important monument in Moroccan history.
Minaret’s serve a purpose. They are connected to mosques and used for the adhan (call for prayer). Like the tower, the mosque was never completed. Today, 348 columns still stand where the mosque would have been, directly across from the mausoleum.
If you are familiar with the minaret of Kaoutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh (photos here in Visit Morocco: Marrakesh), you’ll recognize the design of Hassan Tower. Although, it never came to fruition, it would have been significantly taller and wider than the minaret of Kaoutoubia.
The tomb of kings
Sultan Mohammed V was king of Morocco from 1927 to 1953 and again from 1957 to 1961. He played a vital role in gaining Morocco’s independence in 1956, removing them from French colonial rule.
The French appointed Mohammed in 1927, assuming he would be a compliant puppet leader. He proved to be difficult when he actively pushed Moroccan nationalist sentiments and policy during his leadership; they exiled him in 1953. He returned in 1957 to rule over a free, autonomous Morocco.
When Mohammed’s son, Hassan II, began construction on his father’s mausoleum, he wanted to create an elaborate space that allowed for Moroccan’s to visit his tomb; it was always meant to be more than a grave.
The tomb itself is square. Beautiful Moroccan doors and arches allow entrance from every side, and young men dressed in uniforms reminicient of The Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace stand alert at every entrance.
You enter onto a 360° balcony overlooking the tombs of Mohammed V, his son King Hassan II, and Prince Abdullah, Hassan’s son. Mohammed is placed in the middle, directly under the stunning, domed ceiling. Their coffins are surprisingly understated.
A masjid for kings
Beside the King’s final resting place is a mosque. Just days before our visit, we saw news footage of the current king praying inside with his court. Rabat is the home of kings, and Morocco’s current king proudly displays a chart tracing his lineage from the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), Islam’s beloved prophet, in the square.
I never stepped foot inside the mosque. I watched as tourists and Moroccans alike lined up to take photos in front of the giant brass doors with traditional arches and carvings to match the mausoleums. If there is one thing I learned for sure, it’s that Moroccans know how to lay the dead to rest in style.