Top places to visit in Rabat, the capital of Morocco
August 15, 2019
by Adam Nyang
Rabat was the first city I lived in when I arrived in Morocco to pursue my studies. It was during the winter. It wasn’t an ideal time for me to be adventurous given the fact that the weather I encountered in Rabat was considerably colder than what I was used to. By June, however, I was done with my language studies and my summer holiday had started. Most importantly, the weather provided my friends and me the opportunity to explore the city. Unlike Fes and Marrakech, Rabat is a city with relatively moderate temperature so even during the summer, the heat isn’t so bad. It is also the capital city of Morocco and for this reason, it is filled with somber-looking government buildings, research centers and universities which does give the city a formal vibe. But that is not all Rabat has to offer. It is also a multi-faceted city that has a lot of fascinating places that visitors could explore.
Starting with the Rabat Zoo
The zoo is located in Hay Riad. It is a massive place divided into sections based on the different species of animals it houses. It was a special visit for me since it was the first time I saw most of the animals there. They’ve got a variety of birds. They have cheetahs, snakes (way too many snakes as far as I’m concerned), and the most graceful of scimitar oryx. Also called the Sahara oryx, this antelope is a species of oryx that has gone extinct in the wilds of North Africa where it used to be popular. I found the lions magnificent even though their intimidating roar had me backing up a step or two. The giraffes simply took my breath away and I was filled with such childish wonder as I stood there and watched them walk around their enclosure. Even though the sun was scorching, I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the zoo. If you want more information about the zoo, head over to their official website and get all the information you need to prepare for your visit.
Exploring the Mohamed VI Museum of Contemporary Arts
As an avid lover of art, I never miss a chance to visit a museum. If you are anything like me, the Muhammad VI Museum is a must-visit for you when you are in the capital. Visiting the museum felt like I had stepped into art heaven. Their paintings date back to the early 20th century. As you move from section to section, you will observe the evolution of Moroccan contemporary art through the difference in subject matter and the materials the artists made use of. Traditional wedding ceremonies, agricultural activities, and mundane daily life are just a few of the themes depicted through these paintings. The museum usually hosts exhibitions of paintings from partner museums and various artists. They currently have an exhibition of impressionist paintings from the Museum of Orsay, France. This is the link to their website where you can get all the details for planning your visit.
Shopping in the Medina
Located in the heart of the city, the medina is a tall wall of dusky brown color that surrounds what used to be known as the old city. Medina means city in Arabic by the way. In the olden days, people resided within its walls for security reasons. The modern parts of the city used to be nothing but uninhabited bush and cultivated fields. The medina isn’t usually overcrowded so it could be explored at a leisurely pace. And it’s a great place for shopping. There are a variety of shops that sell leather wallets, bags and shoes.
There are shops that sell fabrics, Berber rugs, and jewelry. You have to be careful of your belongings though, as there are a few pickpockets in the area. And you should definitely buy the grilled meat and chicken sandwiches sold in stands around the medina. They are usually peppered with exotic spices and this gives them a uniquely delicious flavor. Or better yet, drop into one of the local restaurants and get a taste of the incomparable Moroccan tagine. I promise you won’t regret it. There are lots of affordable hotels around the medina that one could stay in. This would really afford you the chance to be able to explore Sale.
Boat riding in Sale
Where the medina ends, that’s where the sister town of Rabat, Sale, begins. It’s an urban town that is widely populated. Most of its residents study and work in Rabat and they use the tram to commute every day. Beneath the bridge that separates Rabat and Sale flows the Bou Regreg River. Whether you are standing on top of the bridge or by the riverside, the view of the pristine blue waters is a sight to behold. There is an amusement park nearby and rows of boats at the river’s edge that takes visitors down the river for a short trip for a small amount of money.
Strolling around the Hassan Tour
Commissioned by the rule Yacoub Al-Mansour, the Hassan Tour was built by the Almohads. His intention was for the tour to become the minaret of a mosque he planned to build on this site. Unfortunately, the tour was left unfinished after Al-Mansour’s death in 1150. The 45-meter high tour is designed with lovely intricate patterns. It’s surrounded by a wide expanse of open space filled with white pillars. After taking a stroll around the Hassan Tour and enjoying the sweeping view of the city it offers from its elevated position, you can go right ahead and visit the Mausoleum of King Mohamed V as it’s just a few meters away.
Dropping by the Mausoleum of King Mohamed V
It was on this very site that King Mohamed V gathered thousands of Moroccans to give praise to God for granting the country their independence. Hence, the place holds a very significant meaning in the political history of the country. The tomb chamber is a stunning depiction of traditional Moroccan design while the tomb itself is made up of opulent marble. Even though non-Muslims cannot enter the connecting Mosque, they can still admire the tomb chamber from above if they are dressed modestly.