The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes outstanding cultural and natural sites as World Heritage Sites. UNESCO views these sites as significant to the history of all humanity and catalogues and preserves such sites through this designation. There are 911 recognized World Heritage Sites throughout the world and eight of these significant cultural sites can be discovered on one of many tours with Journey Beyond Travel to Morocco throughout the country. Each heritage site is a well-preserved example of the architectural and cultural landscape of a particular stage in Morocco’s history.
The Medina of Fez was the first site in Morocco to receive World Heritage status. Considered to be one of the most well preserved historic towns in the Arab-Muslim world, the Medina of Fez conserves much of its original architecture and urban heritage despite the evolving effects of modern society. Founded in 789 AD, Fez has maintained its medieval charm and character for more than 1,200 years and has influenced the development of architecture and town planning throughout Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa. The ancient city of Fez is also home to the University of Al-Karaouine, the oldest continuously running university in the world.
With plenty of impressive monuments such as the Koutoubiya Mosuqe, Bahia Palace and the Place Djemaa el-Fna, the Medina of Marrakesh also earns a spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Founded in 1072, Marrakesh still remains a cultural and political center today with a vast influence on the western Muslim world. The city of Meknes is also a recognized site with its exceptional design and towering monumental walls and gates surrounding the city.
Just outside of Meknes lies the Roman Ruins of Volubilis. These ruins are the most-well-preserved archeological site in Morocco and contain very well preserved structures and mosaics that tell the stories of this ancient roman town. In 1997, the Ruins of Volubis were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Essaouira is recognized as a well-preserved 18th-century fortified sea town. Since its establishment, Essaouira has been a major trading seaport important in linking Morocco with Europe and the rest of the world. Although Tetouan is one of the smallest of the Moroccan medinas, it has received designation because of its unique Andalusian influences. The town was built by Andalusian refugees and features architecture and fortifications that synthesize both Moroccan and Andalusian cultures.
The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou is a remarkable example of the traditional pre-Saharan villages characteristic of Southern Morocco. This fortified city has many earthly colored buildings huddled together closely within the defensive walls of the village. Ait-Ben-Haddou has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1987, and several films have been shot there including Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy and Gladiator.
The Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida) is the newest addition to Morocco’s World Heritage Sites. Recognized because of its blending influences of the European and Moroccan cultures from the 16th to 18th centuries, El Jadida was one of the first settlements in West Africa by Portuguese explorers. Notable monuments include the Church of the Assumption and the Manueline cistern of the El Jadida fortress.
Written by Amiee Maxwell.
Photo by Rosino.