Capital only since 1913, Rabat has a long history. Behind its work-a-day façade, Morocco's second city and the country's political nerve centre bears traces of numerous civilizations. It had Roman beginnings, as Colonia Sala Junonia, a prosperous settlement. Sala gave way to Berber Chellah, and then came the Almohads, who made Rabat el Fath, the Fortress of Victory, an imperial capital. (The unfinished Tour Hassan minaret dates from this time.) In the 17th century, Rabat was rebuilt by Andalucían refugees, for a short and vivid period becoming capital of a pirate republic. Under the first Alaouite ruler, Moulay Rachid, Rabat returned to central authority. The city's ville nouvelle dates from the early 20th century, the land between the sultan's palace and the médina being developed as a pleasant plan of wide avenues and gardens.

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