Suitcase and World: Dynasty. سلالة حاكمة

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dynasty. سلالة حاكمة

Coat of Arms of the Alaouite Dynasty
It goes without saying that the cultural heritage of a place is rooted in its past so for me, it's important to understand a bit of the history of the country that I'm visiting.  I don't think that you need to have an encyclopedic knowledge but at least some understanding so you can better appreciate even the snippets of culture that you experience when visiting a country.

Morocco has quite a history - shaped by a succession of Arab and Berber dynasties.

"In the very, very beginning "
From what is known, the Phoenicians were the first to establish trading posts in Morocco around 1100 BC. By 200 BC, the Phoenician empire slowly ended. Around 0 BC, a Berber kingdom was established in the northwestern part of Morocco. Half a century later, the Roman empire imposed direct rule over the region which was then called Mauretania Tingitana. After two centuries of hard resistance from local rulers, the Romans were forced to withdraw. By 429 AD, Mauretania Tingitana was occupied by the Germanic tribe of Vandals, and by 533 AD, Byzantine rule was established in the coastal north and northwest. In 681 AD, Islam was first introduced with the arrival of Ugba Ibn Nafi with a 5000km trek around the country. He was defeated two years later by a chieftain, and his Muslim forces were forced to leave the country.

"The Idrisid Dynasty "(788 AD - 921 AD)  
The Moorish Warrior by William Merritt Chase (1878)
The first independent dynasty in Morocco was founded by Moulay Idriss I in 788.  Moulay is a term roughly equivalent to "Prince" or "Lord".
Moulay Idriss I was one of the descendants of Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad.  Idriss I only ruled for three years but his last contributions are the city that bears his name as well as the city of Fes which he found in 789 AD.  His son Idrissi II (791AD - 828AD) extended dynastic control to the northern mountains and the oasis to the south of the Atlas Mountains.  He also expanded Fes and it his capital..
The Idrisid Dynasty gradually started to collapse because the third sultan, Muhammad ibn Idris (828 AD - 836 AD), shared rule of the kingdom with his brothers which led to a dispute over power which eventually led to their demise.
"The Almoravid Dynasty "(1055 to 1147)
After the Idrisid Dynasty fell apart in the 10th century, Morocco was divided into smaller kingdoms.  A Berber tribe from the Sahara Desert, the Almoravids, united Morocco, extended the territory; from the deep Sahara up to Moorish Iberia, and all the way to Libya on the east.
The dynasty was founded by Abdallah ibn Yasin (1040–1059).  Under Yusuf ibn Tashfin's rule (1061–1106), the Almoravids made Marrakech the center of their empire.

However, the rule of the dynasty was relatively short-lived and the Almoravids fell, at the height of their power, when they failed to quell a rebellion initiated by the Almohads who replaced them as the ruling dynasty.

"The Almohad Dynasty "(1130 to 1269)
The Almohad Dynasty was also a Berber-Muslim dynasty.

After defeating the Almoravids, the Almohads took Marrakesh in 1147 and extended their power over all of Morocco and Moorish Iberia (modern Portugal and southern Spain).  In 1170, the Almohads transferred their capital to Seville.

Over time, their rule reached from Tunisia in the east to the Senegal River in the South and Andalusia in the North.

Yaqub al-Mansur, the 3rd ruler of the Almohad Dynasty, moved the capital of his empire to Rabat. He built Rabat's city walls, the Kasbah of the Udayas and began construction on what would have been the world's largest mosque. However, Yaqub died and construction stopped. The ruins of the unfinished mosque, along with the Hassan Tower, still stand today. 

Yaqub al-Mansur's death initiated a period of decline. The Almohad empire lost control of its possessions in Spain in 1212, when Muhammad an-Nasir (1199–1214) was defeated at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa by an alliance of the Christian princes of Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and Portugal.

The Almohads continued to rule in Africa until the piecemeal loss of territory through the revolt of tribes and districts enabled the rise of their most effective enemies, the Merenids in 1215.  With the collapse of the Almohad dynasty came the decline of Rabat. In 1250, the Merenids abandoned Rabat and anointed Fes as the new capital. 

"The Merenid Dynasty "(1156 to 1465)
The Merenids originally came from Tunisia. As early as 1145, the Merenids engaged in several battles with the Almohads, who regularly defeated them until 1169. In that year, the Merenids began a dedicated pursuit to take Morocco from the Almohads. Following their expulsion from the south, the Merenids moved northwards under the command of Abu Yahya ibn Abd al-Haqq and took Fes in 1244, making it their capital and marking the beginning of the Merenid Dynasty.

Internal power struggles among the Merenids led to the empire fracturing into multiple small kingdoms and city states, such as the Kingdom of Fes, which was partitioned from the Merenid dynasty in 1374.

"The Wattasid Dynasty "(1471 to 1554)
Another Berber dynasty, the Wattasids were related to the Merenids. In fact, the Merenids recruited many Wattasids to act as viziers or regional rulers.

The Wattasid's siezed power when the last remaining Marinid was murdered in Fes.

Morocco was in decline when the Wattasid dynasty assumed power.

During their reign, the Wattasids failed to regain what the Merenids had lost in Andalusia during the Spanish movement of Reconquista. The Wattasids found it difficult to achieve the unity they needed to preserve their empire.

Barely a century after they ascended to power, the Wattasids were supplanted by the Saadians.

"The end of Berber reign "Morocco reached its height under the four Berber dynasties, Almoravid, Almohad, Merenid and Wattasid, which gave the Berber people some measure of collective identity and political unity under a native regime for the first time in their history, and they created the idea of an "imperial Maghrib" under Berber aegis that survived in some form from dynasty to dynasty. But ultimately each of the Berber dynasties proved to be a political failure because none managed to create an integrated society out of a social landscape dominated by tribes that prized their autonomy and individual identity.

In 1559, the region fell to successive Arab tribes claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad: first the Saadian Dynasty who ruled from 1554 to 1659 and then the Alaouites, who founded a dynasty that has remained in power since the 17th century.

"The Saadian Dynasty "(1554 to 1659)
The Saadian Dynasty rose to prominence when Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh vanquished the Wattasids in battle.

Originally from the south, from a small village called Tidzi in the Draa River Valley, the Saadians derived their legitimacy from the claim that they were direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

In the early 15th century, the rising maritime powers of southern Europe started to take an interest in North Africa igniting a struggle for control between the Arabs and Europeans.  The struggle came to a climax at the battle of Ksar Kbir in 1578, at which the Portuguese led by King Sebastian were defeated by the forces of Sultan Abdul Malik, then head of the Saadian dynasty. This victory heralded an illustrious period of Moroccan history under the Saadian dynasty, during which the country became a major center of artistic and scientific endeavour as well as enjoying considerable economic prosperity.

The most famous Saadian sultan was Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603), famed builder of the El Badi Palace, and the most notable of the Saadian dynasty interred at the Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh.  It was he who declared Marrakesh to be the capital of the Moorish Empire.

After a century of grandeur, the Saadian dynasty started to decline due to internal battles between the princes of the same family.

 "The Alaouite Dynasty "(1668 to present day)
The Alaouite Dynasty is the name of the current Moroccan Royal family. The name Alaouite comes from its founder, Moulay Ali Cherif, who became Sultan of Tafilait in 1631. According to legend, the Alaouites entered Morocco at the end of the 13th century when Al Hasan Addakhil, who lived in the town of Yanbu in the Arabian Peninsula, was brought to Morocco by the inhabitants of Tafilalet to be their imam. They were hoping that, as he was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammed, his presence would help to improve their date palm crops thanks to his barakah or blessing.

The descendants His descendants began to increase their power in southern Morocco after the death of Ahmad al-Mansur.

In 1659 the last Saadian Sultan was overthrown in the conquest of Marrakesh by Moulay Rachid (1664-1672) who was able to unite and pacify the country. The organization of the Kingdom developed under Ismail Ben Sharif (1672-1727), who against the opposition of local tribes began to create a unified state.
 Because the Alaouites, in contrast to previous dynasties, did not have the support of a single Berber or Bedouin tribe, Ismail controlled Morocco through an army of African slaves. With these soldiers, he drove the English from Tangiers ( 1684) and the Spanish from Larache (1689).  They used Fes, Meknes, Marrakesh and Rabat as their capitals throughout their reign which is considered as the longest and the most stable in the history of Morocco.

The current monarch is King Mohammed VI, also known simply as M6, ascended to throne in 1999 upon the death of his father.  M6 was born in 1963 which makes him just a couple years shy of 50 years old.  Good health willing, he will rule the country for many years to come after which time his son will assume power.