Sightings

Chellah, Home of the Storks

These ruins, which combine a Roman city called Sala Colonia with Chellah, a Merenid encampment are fascinating and peaceful. Just up the banks of the river, as it snakes inland, further from the ocean than the medina or the new city, the area had several groups of inhabitants over the years, as is the case with much of Rabat. It was first settled by the Phoenicians, and then expanded by the Romans in AD 40. They built a temple, a forum, a bath, a water distribution center, including the Pool of the Nymph, the overgrown and crumbling foundations of which can be seen. The Romans abandoned the city in 1154, but in the 14th century a Merenid sultan began building on top of the existing Roman site. Still discernible are the minaret tower, school building, tombs and gardens. In one far corner lies a pool built for washing before prayers. At one point the pool began being fed by underground springs from the river and eels were discovered in it. Lore says that women who feed hard boiled eggs to the eels will receive good fertility and easy childbirth. We visited Chellah on a cloudy day, which made it a bit cooler than the previous days 90 degree heat. Now, Chellah is abandoned by all but visitors and the hundreds of storks that winter in nests built in every tree and on every high tower. The clacking of the bills makes a unique, if loud, soundtrack to a visit.

 

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