I may not have been born in Rabat but I can proudly claim to be a real Rabati (except maybe the pretentious side that sticks to the skin of many inhabitants even when they are not part of the Moroccan Royalties or bourgeoisie!)
I spent my childhood and youth in this imperial city, capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. Even though I left my homeland in 2007 for South of France, this city represents for me a true source of inspiration and a place where everything becomes possible.
Like the majority of the natives of a city, we do not have the same passion or the same fresh look that travelers from Europe or America do have. In fact, tourists have got the merit of visiting all the must-see places and there are many reasons for this. First of all, the constraint of time with the amount of holidays that is unfortunately not unlimited (if you are on vacation 12 months out of 12, you are my hero!), But especially the curiosity that animates them to the discovery of new authentic landscapes, new atypical cultures and enriching new languages.
I go back to Rabat to visit my family once or twice a year, often for a long weekend. I rarely have time to do the “tourist”, not that the envy I miss … The only pretext that I found to do it is to come with my French husband, and it always works out!
Here’s the ultimate top five destinations recommended by a Moroccan native and approved by my beloved husband!
Kasbah of the Oudayas
Rabat continues to reinvent itself and radiate as the Moroccan and African capital of culture. It is full of historical monuments known and recognized in the world. Among the most visited sites is the Kasbah of the Oudayas. With its narrow streets, miniature dwellings and breathtaking views, the site is a must-see if you are passing through the capital.
The Arab-Andalusian influence is felt from the main door called “Al Bab El Kbir”, or the Great Door. Everything reminds me of Andalusia especially the walls covered with lime, the blue color of the walls and the cobbled alleys. A real getaway for history lovers. If you’re planning to visit Rabat with your soulmate, you should absolutely visit the “Café des Maures”, the perfect love-spot for couples. Get ready to be conquered by the view over the Bouregreg valley!
Photos: Flickr/mustapha ennaimi
Challah is a Merinide (on of the Moroccan dynasties) necropolis dating from the 13th century and located in the south along the Bouregreg valley. Built on the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Sala Colonia, this city was for a long time left to the abandonment until the Moroccan authorities become aware of its value on the historical, architectural and spiritual level. You can also find in Chellah the tombs of former Merinid kings as well as Rabati notables. Its Zaouia and Medersa (religious institutions) have hosted students and pilgrims traveling from far away. Legend has it that the prophet Mohamad himself prayed in his oratory!
Photos: Flickr/orge Láscar, xiquinhosilva
Hassan Tower & Mohamad V Mausoleum
Initiated by Yacoub El Mansour in 1196, the Hassan Tower is the unfinished Minaret of what was to be the largest Mosque and the largest religious edifice in the world! Several hypotheses have been put forward the construction and the origin of the project: its architect, Guever de Sevilla died around 1197, would have identically conceived the Giralda, the Koutoubia and the minaret of the Hassan Mosque.
Today, the Hassan Tower and its Mausoleum are among the most visited sites of the capital and one of the greatest sources of national pride!
Photo: Flickr/Jorge Láscar
Jardins d’Essais Botaniques
The recently restored 16 hectare space is an Andalusi inspired garden conceived at the beginning of the 20th century by Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, a famous French landscape architect. Before they restored it in 2013, I used to visit this experimental garden with my grandfather who loved photographing nature.
Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI)
Established in the center of Rabat since October 2014 and initiated by His Majesty Mohammed VI, the MMVI is the first large-scale museum built in Morocco since the independence and dedicated to modern and contemporary art. This cultural institution is part of a vast project to develop cultural infrastructure in the country and meets international museum standards. The richness of the exhibits guarantees an incomparable artistic journey and shows the importance of the project “Rabat, city of lights”.
Have you ever been to Rabat? Share with us in the comments.