One of the four imperial cities of Morocco; national capital since 1912.
Since being named capital by the French in 1912, Rabat (also Ribat al-Fath) has grown in size and prestige as the new administrative, educational, and cultural center of Morocco. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Bou Regreg River, which separates it from its rival sister city to the north, Salé.
Rabat takes its name from a small tenth-century ribat (monastery-citadel) manned by Muslim holy warriors (murabits). The Almohad Sultan Yaʿqub alMansur constructed a city on the site and named it Ribat al-Fath (Monastery of Conquest), in honor of a victory over Spain in 1195. Rabat's historical significance, along with its neighboring rival, Salé, stemmed from commercial trade and piracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Spanish Muslims expelled from Spain in 1610 formed the core of Rabat's population.
At the beginning of the French protectorate in 1912, the French decision to relocate Morocco's capital to Rabat opened it to extensive development outside the original Arab city (madina) to the south and west. French colonial administrator General Louis-Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey, in laying out the plan for Rabat, saw it as an opportunity to design an exemplary modern city. The major national university, Muhammad V, is located in Rabat, as are various national research institutes. Rabat and Salé together form an administrative prefecture that has grown at a rate of more than 5 percent annually since the late 1960s. The population of Rabat-Salé and environs numbers 1,386,000 (1994 figures).
see also lyautey, louis-hubert gonzalve; morocco.
Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Rabat: Urban Apartheid in Morocco. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.
donna lee bowen