Rabat has all the cosmopolitan chic of Casablanca minus the frantic pace and gritty atmosphere. Well-kept and quite European, the city is elegant, hassle-free and unhurried, making it Morocco’s greatest delight. Most travelers quickly fall in love with the city, and it is easy to see why with its abundance of world-class restaurants, appealing markets, historic sights and old-world charm.
The oldest part of the city is also the most intriguing. There, whitewashed houses line the narrow streets, the cliff-top perch offers powerful views of the sea, and the tranquil and peaceful atmosphere makes it a perfect place for wandering. For the most dramatic introduction to the area, enter through the gate of Bab Oudaia, which has greeted visitors since 1195. The series of elaborately carved arches gives way to the main street, Rue Jamaa. The oldest mosque in Rabat is right down the street, where it has welcomed worshippers since the 12th century.
The most famous landmark in the capital is Le Tour Hassan, an enormous minaret whose ambitious architectural plans were never completed. In the late 12th century, Yacoub al-Mansour, an Almohad sultan, dreamed of building the largest minaret in the Muslim world, but his death four years later thwarted the plan. Instead of reaching heights of over 60 meters, the tower was abandoned at 44 meters, but it still lords over the surrounding area with its intricately carved tower. Today, the minaret remains a symbol of Al-Mansour’s grandiose plans and one of the most beautiful sights in all of Rabat.
The best way to see the city is by foot, and there is no better place to wander than at the flea market along the Rue des Consuls. Upon entering the sprawling market, you will find yourself surrounded with colorful carpets, luxurious leather goods, copper crafts, fine fabrics and more. The maze of vendors ends in an open area that once was the site of slave auctions.
To learn more about the history of Morocco, visit the Archaeology Museum. The collection’s highlight is the Salle des Bronzes, a gallery teeming with statuary, ceramics and artifacts collected from the Roman settlements at Chellah, Volubilis and Lixus. For an even better glimpse into the Roman history of the area, visit the Domus Romana, the excavated remains of a 1st-century BC townhouse. The original peristyle court survives, hugged by a geometric border. Many fragments and artifacts from the Roman period are on display there, including oil lamps, sculptures, pottery fragment and amphorae.
Rabat also has a rich religious heritage, apparent in its high concentration of churches and mosques.The 14th-century Grand Mosquée evokes awe as the Islamic world’s second-largest mosque. Seventy-eight pillars support the perfectly symmetrical Prayer Hall, and rich sculptured woods, intricate stucco designs, decorative arabesques and brilliantly-colored geometrical motives dazzle in nearly every inch of the massive space.
Other interesting sights in the city include the Museum of Science and Nature, the eerie St. Paul’s Catacombs, the marble Mausoleum of Mohammed V, the National Jewelry Museum, the wonderfully shady and lush Andalusian Gardens, the quirky St. Agatha’s Crypt and Catacombs and the Wignacourt Museum, which houses a diverse collection of Christian artifacts.
As the diplomatic heart of Morocco, nightlife in Rabat tends to focus more on cultural offerings than clubs or bars. Once the sun sets, head to the Théâtre Mohammed V to catch a Moroccan comedy or European ballet performance, take in an Arabic film at one of the many art-house cinemas or enjoy a free show at one of the cultural centers sponsored by many of the foreign embassies.
Rabat Geographical Location
Rabat is located on the northwest shore of Morocco facing the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Bou Regreg to the north.
Rabat is the third largest city of Morocco with a population nearing 2,000,000.
Arabic is the official language of Morocco while French is commonly used to conduct business. Closer to the border between Morocco and Spain Spanish is very common and there are several Berber dialects throughout the country.
Rabat Predominant Religion
- 99% Muslim
- 1% Christian
Although the majority of the population is Muslim, there is a very small percentage that is Jewish, less than 0.5%.
The Dirham is the official currency of Morocco.
Rabat is typically warm in the summer and cool in the winter with precipitation occurring mainly in the winter months. Rabat is classified as a Mediterranean climate.
Rabat Main Attractions
- Mausoleum of Mohammad V
- Medina of Rabat
Other Attraction in Rabat
- Hassan Tower
- Kasbah des Oudaias
- Beaches of Essaouira
- Royal Palace of Rabat