TAZA was once a place of great importance: the capital of Morocco for periods of the Almohad, Merenid and Alaouite dynasties, and controlling the Taza Gap, the only practicable pass from the east. It forms a wide passage between the Rif and Middle Atlas and was the route to central power taken by Moulay Idriss and the first Moroccan Arabs, as well as the Almohads and Merenids, both of whom successfully invaded Fez from Taza. However, the local Zenatta tribe were always willing to join an attack by outsiders and in the nineteenth century, managed to overrun Taza completely, with centralized control returning only with the French occupation of 1914. Following occupation, Taza was an important centre of the resistance movement; troops fought long and hard in the Rif mountains in skirmishes which occurred sporadically right up to independence.
Modern Taza seems little haunted by this past, its monuments sparse and mostly inaccessible to non-Muslims. The town splits into two parts, the Medina and the French-built Ville Nouvelle, distinct quarters separated by 2km of road. The Ville Nouvelle is of little interest, though it has the usual facilities, but the Medina, with its magnificent hilltop site, is steeped in history and has a quiet charm.
Aside from offering a pleasant day or two exploring the Medina, Taza is also a good base from which to explore the national park of Jebel Tazzeka, a treat for drivers and hikers alike.