Rabat OverviewWhile not high on the tourist destination list, Rabat is a quiet gem of a city with stunning colonial architecture and palm-lined streets. This political capital is a laid-back, pleasant alternative to the more cosmopolitan Casablanca.
Located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg, Rabat plus the city of Temera are home to a combined metropolitan population of 2.6 million.
SightsLike many cities in Morocco, Rabat is home to some spectacular ancient architecture. The Kasbah of the Oudaias, for example, is the stunning medieval Almohadan citadel that gives visitors breathtaking ocean views from the acropolis. When you're done, have a stroll through the calming Andalusian gardens at the base of the Kasbah.
For a day of charming sightseeing, visit old medina and its various street markets. The side streets leading to Kasbah are full of history and traditional shops full of unique Moroccan gifts.
The abandoned and overgrown old Merenid necropolis of Chellah is one of Rabat's most interesting attractions. First settled by Phoenicians, the town grew into the city of Sala Colonia under Roman control in 40 AD. The city was then abandoned in 1154, but in the 14th century the Merenid Sultan Abou al-Hassan Ali built a necropolis on top of the Roman city. Today, the city is overgrown by fruit trees and wild flowers. It is a beautiful place to wander and relax. From the moment you enter the main gate, a path leads you through fig, olive and orange trees to a platform overlooking the ruins of the Roman city. You won't be disappointed by an afternoon at the Chellah.
ActivitiesShopping is one activity many tourists can't get enough of. While the markets in Rabat aren't as impressive as the ones in Fez or Marrakesh, there are still plenty of good deals to find. Shop the medina for the normal array of babouche shoes, baggy pants, ornate jewelry and more.
For the bold, adventurous traveler, head to the Oudayes Surf Club to try our some surfing on the beach. The Oudayes beach by the Kasbah is home to a continuous set of small waves perfect for beginner surfers and children.
If you happen to plan your visit for the month of May, check out the listings for the Mawazine festival of world music. Featuring Arab, African and other international music icons, the festival is a bit controversial with some of the country's Muslim politicians for "encouraging immoral behavior." Previous performers include Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, Elton John and B.B. King,
Food and DiningRabat has along tradition of French and Spanish culture. In the medina area, there are often inexpensive food stalls serving fish and salad sandwiches. Particularly found around the Marche Centrale, the stalls also serve fresh salads, hot bowls of lubia (beans) or lentils, fresh rotisserie chicken and home-made tagines. If you're looking to quench that sweet tooth, some of these stalls also sell pancakes or pain au chocolat.
TransportationGetting around Rabat couldn't be easier, with several options for transportation. The tram, for example, is cheap and one runs every ten minutes every twenty minutes on Sundays. There are two lines between Rabat and Sale. Maps are available in every station.
Another option is to hail one of the small blue cars that make up the petit taxi system. This option is also fairly inexpensive, but be sure you check that the meter is running to avoid being overcharged. This isn't as big a problem in Rabat as it is in other cities. If you see the white Mercedes Grand Taxis, avoid them. They tend to be more expensive and less safe than the petit taxis.
There are also official bus routes around Rabat. The buses vary in their quality, but provide a very cost-effective way to get around time. The lines have many stops that may interest a tourist, but if the bus is crowded watch out for pickpockets.
Walking around central Rabat is pretty easy, if you're not in a hurry to get anywhere. Driving yourself, however, is not recommended. Drivers will avoid you given the high insurance rates, but Morocco still has the second highest rate of car accidents in the world. Drivers generally don't abide by the laws so it might be best to walk or have someone else drive you.