What to do in Rabat
It has always been my dream to travel to Morocco one day, but the closest I have ever been to it before was probably Ibiza or the Canary Islands. Over the last years, however, I have been to Rabat three times, usually for a couple of days for work. I was glad to finally got a chance to be exposed to the beautiful colors, patterns, and architecture of Moroccan culture and to taste a vast variety of Tajines, feast on Couscous aux sept legumes on Fridays, got my breaks sweetened with tea and pastries and even taste some Moroccan beer.
Rabat is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, 1.5 hours drive North of Casablanca. From Amman it between 10 and 12- hour-long travel with a stopover in Cairo. It is the capital of Morocco while being the 4th largest city in the country and presents itself in a mix of a traditional and a modern city.
What to do and see in Rabat
1. Kasbah of the Udayas
The Kasbah is a Must-see in Rabat. It is a citadel built by the Udayas in the 12th century and is a UNESCO world heritage. It is right at the sea as well as close to the old medina, see below. It features a small city within a city as well as some impressive gates, a mosque, a museum, and the Andalusian garden. Take some time to stroll around, go all the way up to look over the water, explore the gardens, and drink a Moroccan tea accompanied by some typical sweets at Cafe Maure.
Hint: Be aware that you might be approached by people to show you around, which of course they do expect a gracious tip in return for.
2. Visit the Souq and Medina
The Souq (market) in the streets of the Medina (old city center), is a must-see as well. In Rabat, it seems pretty clearly separated from stuff made in China, and the local crafts and souvenirs. The Medina itself is a semi-closed space with no cars and narrow alleys. While you mostly will see the Souq, also many people live here, work here and sell local street food. As my stomach is a bit sensitive and I had already some difficulties in Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria, as well as in Morocco, I did not try it to be honest. What you will find as well in the medina are some Riads, the typical traditional old houses with a courtyard and fountain inside that in many cases have been turned into hotels, holiday apartments, or restaurants, see below. You can easily go through the Medina to the Kasbah if you like.
Hint: If you do want to pay with cash, make sure to withdraw money before, as you won’t find an ATM in the Medina.
3. Tour Hassan
Hassan Tower is a nice place to take pictures. It is an unfinished minaret, also from the 12th century. It is located in North East of the Hassan quarter right next to the Hassan II Bridge. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to take a picture.
4. Islamic Cemetery
The cemetery in Rabat spans over a huge area, right next to the ocean. It seems like the perfect place to rest. And while I don’t think a cemetery is necessarily a tourist attraction, you might respectfully look at the place or take a few paths and gaze at the artful graves and enjoy the view over the ocean from there.
5. The Ocean
Rabat is located right at the Atlantic Ocean and you can feel the sea breeze easily. There are also some restaurants such as Le Dhow at the shore and even some surf clubs. There are two beaches close to the Kasbah, Plage de Rabat and Plage de Salé Ville, and also a small lookout. You can actually drive or walk quite some time along the ocean road.
If you would rather explore the city with a local guide, check out Get Your Guide and see what tours they offer in Rabat.
Where and what to Eat in Rabat
If you check Tripadvisor, you will probably find all of the below among the top 10 restaurants in Rabat. I have been to most of the restaurants during my visits and will share with you my top 6, what I ate, and what I can suggest to you.
1. Dar Zaki – Medina
This is simply my number one on this list. The restaurant is just an awesome, cozy, tasty restaurant, where the owner takes care of himself and treats you like a king. It is hidden in the Medina in some small alley, but you can figure it out with google maps. It is a very small Riad with lovely decoration and serves excellent food. Of course, Tajine is the main dish here. I went three times and I tried the lamb Tajine with eggplant and also the one with merguez sausages and white beans and I think the one with prunes. It was all yummy and just perfect. Opening hours are limited and they are not open every day, so better to check before.
2. Dar Rabatia – Medina
This is without argument the most stunning place. But hey, it is yummy, too. It is situated in the Medina as well, in a huge Riad. We went with a large group and there were other people, too. We had Chicken tajine with Lemon and Olives and it was so juicy and well-spiced, perfect. The atmosphere and interior won’t give you rest. your eyes will gaze around the building looking at stunning patterns, furniture, architecture, lanterns, and tiles while you are feasting. the highlight, however, was the dessert, which name I don’t know, and even after some research, I haven’t found it. It is a very thin sweet cookie-like dough, with sugar, nuts, and cream. Also, I should not forget that there was an oud player that actually plaid some nice tunes and it wasn’t annoying at all.
3. Bistro du Pietri – City
Pretty much my favorite spot when going out in Rabat. It is a bar and restaurant, serves international food, alcohol, and most importantly hosts some great events regularly. From literature cafe to music and also smoke-free days. The food was awesome as well and the wine… Don’t let me get started. Try it out!
This was, without doubt, the fanciest place I have been to in Rabat and it had some amazing interior, great staff, and a Trio playing Moroccan traditional music. The menu offered a huge selection of appetizers and then we had lamb tajine with prunes and dried apricots. If you are not on a budget, make sure to check out La Tour Hassan Palace.
5. Tajine w Tanjia – city
This small lovely restaurant might not be located in the most attractive location, but it is not less yummy and also cozy and serves alcohol while you can indulge in several different local dishes. We had some kofta and other dishes and tried Casablanca beer here for the first time. As we stayed at the Majiliss Hotel closeby it was a very good choice for us.
6. Dar Naji – near Medina
Dar Naji seems to be the most frequented restaurant by tourists. It has a nice atmosphere to it and you can sit with a large group at a big table and share some local dishes. However, I didn’t like how they pushed their selection onto us and brought mainly chicken tajine and mountains of cold appetizers, so it would have been better to let us choose ourselves. Also, it was a bit cramped. However, the food was alright and it has a nice touch to it.
And if that is all not enough, just go explore and try Moroccan cuisine, and don’t forget to drink Moroccan tea, which is green tea, usually with lots of sugar. And it probably you will be served some delicious sweets as well.
What to buy in Rabat
Of course, you have to head over to the Medina, the old city of Rabat that presents itself as a never-ending Souq, where you can discover jewelry crafted from silver, leather jackets or bags, decorated dishware, lanterns, and of course rugs and carpets. I am personally a carpet lover, so already on my first visit, I had to take some souvenirs as I did not know if I will come back and when.
Leather is not really my thing but I also got some iron lanterns and some ceramics. There are brass and iron lanterns, although nowadays there is plenty of stuff made in China, from what I noticed. The ceramics are most likely from Fes. As you might assume, you can negotiate everything, and shops will also most likely accept credit cards. Here are some pictures, of the items you can find. My favorite shop for ceramics was Bazar Lmoukh.
Amazing Islamic, Moroccan patterns
I just love looking at all the doors, shops, buildings, and patterns in Morocco. There are so many things to discover in every corner and these small mosaics and Islamic patterns are really interesting.
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