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History of Morocco

Berber Dynasties

During the 11th century, an independent kingdom of Morocco within its 20th century frontiers was formed. The unification of the country was the work of Berbers from south of the Tlas, nomads from the country now known as Mauritania. The Berbers were reforming Muslims; their first great leader, Yusuf ibn Tashfin, was an austere Muslim, living on camel flesh and milk and wearing only woollen garments. His followers were known as Almoravids, from the Arabic al-murabit, meaning “hermits.” Yusuf ibn Tashfin extended his rule over all North Africa as far as Algiers (in what is now Algeria), and also into Muslim Spain. The Almoravids ruled from 1062 to 1147.

In the 12th century, after a civil war lasting more than 20 years, the Almoravids were succeeded by another great Berber dynasty, the Almohads. Their name comes from the Arabic al-muwahhid, meaning “those who proclaim the unity of God,” and they ruled from 1147 to 1258. They also extended Moroccan rule and came to control not only Muslim Spain but all North Africa, including Tunisia, from which they expelled the Normans. In 1195 they won a great victory over the Christians in Spain at Alarcos. This was a great age for Moroccan architecture. The Almohads are responsible for some of the finest mosques, minarets and gateways in the Atlas regions, at Marrakech and in Rabat.

The Almohad Empire began to disintegrate after the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, in which the Spanish defeated the Moroccans and by mid-century its power was gone. A third Berber dynasty, the Merinids, followed, but it failed to keep a foothold in Spain or to maintain Moroccan rule in North Africa beyond the frontiers of Morocco. A period of disorder and almost incessant civil war followed the collapse of the Merinids in 1358. Rulers of various dynasties reigned briefly and ineffectually over parts of the country. During this time the Portuguese and Spanish captured a number of Moroccan ports.

   
Tower of the Hassan Mosque in Rabat built in 1195             Garden of the 12th Century Oudayas Kasbah      

 

History: Arab Invasion   History: Arab Sharifian Dynasties

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