In the 1190s El Mansour decided to rebuild Rabat with a great new mosque as it's centrepiece. If it had been completed it would have been the second largest in the muslim world after Smarra in Iraq. The project was abandoned at his death and the earthquake of 1745 brought down the roof so that it is now a ruin. However the uncompleted tower is important as one of the few surviving example of Almohad achitecture and is contemporaneous with the Koutoubia in Marrakesh and the Giralda in Seville.
The site however has an emotional significance for moroccans and was hence chosen as the site for the mausoleum of Mohammed V who, of course, was the restored monarch after the protectorate and therefore symbolic of the independent nation. subsequently his sons Hassan II and Moulay Abdellah were also buried there.
The mosque in his memory is closed but the mausoleum is open to the public of whatever faith. It is , in my view, an extremely successful example of modern prestige moroccan architecture, although, strangely, designed by a vietnamese architect.
The entrance to the site is guarded by resplendently uniformed horseguards.
We decided they were not quite as awe-inspiring as those at Horseguards in London as the horses were more fidgety, but when we got in found that this was really a cultural difference as the sentries at each door actively moved to smile and assist in the taking of pictures with the visitors, unlike in London where the challenge is to feign complete indifference and maintain a non-smiling forward blank demeanour.
There are further infantrymen inside at the four corners of the building and an iman reciting the Q'ran continuously.