Chicago - The story of Kenitra is the story of a tree and a castle, a river and a lake, a port and a golden shore.
Chicago – The story of Kenitra is the story of a tree and a castle, a river and a lake, a port and a golden shore.
A story of a plant and a bird… This city chooses to honor and triumph its own throne in the hearts and the minds of its people and keep them wonderfully lost in its seductive world of warmth and beauty. Kenitra!
The history of Kenitra in its deepest details reaches beyond the first French colonial settlements in Morocco in the early 20th century into the ancient Carthaginian colony of Thymieterium and a Phoenician trading-post known historically as Thamusida. Some historical sites along Sebou River can still tell its visitors of the magic, wonder and value this land once offered to its people. Cemeteries, temples, and beauty salons were built as monument to a legacy of a land of seduction and a land of wealth and fertility. Time passed on and the story began to reach new maneuvers from the age of discoveries to the Imperialist era.
Culturally and historically, the city connects itself more significantly to a castle we refer to as ‘Kasbah de Mahdia’ or ‘Qsar Moulay Ismail’. This unique historical treasure was built by the Alaouite King Moulay Ismaïl Ibn Sharif in late 17th century after a historical victory over Spanish forces in the old town of Mahdia. However, both the city itself and the castle were actually built on the remains of a city that dates back to a pre-Islamic period. It is an era whose mysteries are, unfortunately, still hidden in a vast and a generous plain.
In mid 600 BC, Carthaginian King Hannon left his Mediterranean strongholds and travelled far west with his army to pass the ancient Greek pillars of Heracles and sailed beyond what is Tangiers of today. He narratively landed his troops on a vast plain wherein he chose to found a city he called Thymieterium, from wherein he proceeded his journey to explore the coast of Africa and where archeological expeditions have been revealing so much of a buried treasure.
A few kilometers north of Kenitra, the old cities of Banassa and Thamusida offer their visitors a Roman-Greek piece of art and introduce them to an architectural landmark with a Mauritanian Tingitana’s touch. From temples with Roman decor, courthouses, cemeteries and highly-sophisticated gardens to household utensils, vases, vessels and farming tools, these historical sites propose to us two modern cities that were once well-populated and strongly-fortified. They simply take us into a world where we can clearly see and feel a magical spirit of history.
Be it Maamouraa in the 12th century’s descriptions of the great Muslim geographer and cartographer Abu Abd Allah Muhammad Al-Idrisi Al-Qurtubi. Be it the lovely offshore town of San Miguel De Ultramar in the eyes of its 17th century Spanish rulers or Port Lyautey in the imaginary of its French conquerors in the 20th century, Kenitra hold its own attributes and qualities in the hearts and the minds of its loyal people who have chosen to honor its plant and call themselves proudly ‘Wlad Helala’.
Be it a hypothesis, an assumption or a historical fact. Be it the city Carthaginian kings once glorified and built a temple of theirs. Be it a French backyard for the general to enjoy his evening cup of coffee or an American strategic pick, the city still open its arms to its people and hold them together in a haven of love.
Kenitra; transliterated: Q’nitra, was named a little bridge. This name is more impressive in its Arabic reference. The modern city as we know it today was built by Marshal Hubert Lyautey, France’s first Resident-General in post-Treaty of Fez’ Morocco to serve as a major trading and transporting post for French merchandise. The port on Sebou River and its old-fashioned cranes still capture attention and continue to inspire and conquer our imaginary.
General Lyautey was extremely interested in building different harbors along a large inhabitable and promising Atlantic coast. Relevantly, the locale of Kenitra was a strategic choice. The city was built to serve as a military fort. Few months later, a town popped into the surface. By 1933, the city officially held its French name Port Lyautey.
History gives us a chance to reflect on our past and see beyond the limitations of time and space. It also provides us brighter ideas of the future and its expectations. Morocco is a beautiful land. There is always a place that inspires and stimulates love and belonging. Fez, Marrakech, Rabat, Casablanca, Tangiers celebrate and enjoy both the value and significance of their history and so do other cities. Of course, Kenitra is not an exception. This coastal city has developed its own style and passed on its own legacy in the eyes of its residents. Its balconies, wooden windows, and courtyards mark a magnificent presence of French architecture and give the city a chance to expose its self as a city of style. A style that makes of Kenitra a valuable work of art and a beautiful home.
In the time of French protectorate, the city grew rapidly to become a major shipping center for fruit, vegetables, fish, timber and metals and larger industrial zones began to emerge upstream its river. A decade after Operation Torch of 1942, Craw Field; known also as Kenitra Air Base, became home for a U.S. Naval Air Station. A military station where more than 10.000 Americans had a great opportunity to explore that locale and integrate some of their American culture into its unique Moroccan-French blend.
To be continued…
From: Kenitra. A city to Love and Remember, a series of articles on Kenitra, Morocco. Photos by Moroccan Photographer Mouloud Zoubir for Morocco World News
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