Visit Morocco: The Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat

The Mausoleum of Mohammed V
The Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Built in 1972, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V is one of the most important shrines in Morocco. The complex houses the remains of Mohammed V and his sons, Hassan II and Prince Abdallah.

I made a trip to visit Morocco in November 2016 as the guest of the hosted by the Moroccan National Tourist Office. The Mausoleum of Mohammed V was one of our first stops after arriving in Rabat. If you take a golf vacation to Morocco, be sure to take the time to visit the cultural sites.

Tomb below the ground levelThe Mausoleum of Mohammed V is square, with guards at each of the four entrances. The roof is tiled green, which is a symbolic color of Islam. Inside, the actual tombs are below the ground-level balcony, and capped by a soaring, gilded dome. The interior is white marble and granite, and decorated in zellij, enameled tilework set in plaster. Spectacularly ornate carvings adorn the entire building.

On the lower level, a reader sits, reciting verses of the Koran. The tombs are made of white onyx.

Mohammed V is a significant figure in Moroccan history. He served as Sultan from 1927 to 1953, when he was exiled by the occupying French. Mohammed V returned from exile in 1955, and began negotiations with France for Morocco’s independence. He then served as king from 1957 until his death in 1961.

Mohammed V is also notable for his resistance to anti-Jewish policies that the pro-Nazi government of Vichy France tried to impose in Morocco. From the United Nations Holocaust Outreach Program:

… the Sultan refused to apply Vichy laws in Morocco, as the Sultan claimed that he did not have Jews or Muslims as subjects but only Moroccan subjects. The telegram said: “Credible sources informed us that the relations between the Sultan of Morocco and the French authorities became much tenser the day the Residence put into application the decree of measures against the Jews despite the strict opposition of the Sultan. The Sultan refused to differentiate amongst his loyal people and he was offended to see that his authority was overtaken by the French authorities.”

The Sultan waited for the anniversary of his coronation to publicly announce that he forbade these measures against the Jews. On this occasion, the Sultan generally offered a banquet attended by the French representatives and eminent Moroccan personalities. For the first time, the Sultan invited to the banquet representatives of the Jewish community who were seated next to the French officials. He declared to the French officials, who were surprised by the presence of Jews at this meeting, “I absolutely do not agree with the new anti-Semitic laws and I refuse to associate myself with a measure I disagree with; I reiterate as I did in the past that the Jews are under my protection and I reject any distinction that should be made amongst my people”.

Mohammed V’s relatively enlightened rule likely is one reason that Morocco today defies the news stereotypes of a majority Muslim country. On my visit there, Morocco left me with the lasting impression of a comparatively peaceful and understanding culture. Our guide in Rabat was quick to point out the relative proximity of Mosques, Synagogues and Christian churches and the lack of conflict between these as proof that Morocco is “a modern nation” — a phrase I heard repeatedly.

Our guide called the structure “The Taj Mahal of Morocco.” I have not been to see the Taj, but the fact that it also is an elaborate tomb may bear some comparison.

A view of the unfinished Hassan Tower on the Yacoub al-Mansour esplanade from the steps of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
A view of the unfinished Hassan Tower on the Yacoub al-Mansour esplanade from the steps of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.

Also on the grounds of the Mausoleum — and predating it by many centuries — are the Hassan Tower and the remains of what was intended to be the world’s largest Mosque. Construction on the tower began in 1195 and stopped in 1199 upon the death of Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour. The unfinished Hassan Tower stands 140 feet tall, which is about half the intended height. The columns on the esplanade are the remains of the mosque, which also was never completed.

The site was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2012.

The article: Visit Morocco: The Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat was first published on December 2, 2016

More photos of the Mausoleum of Hassan V and the grounds follow:

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