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By Gosuke Kawano
Rabat – While Moroccan cities like Marrakech and Tangier have made their names internationally as hot tourist destinations, the kingdom’s capital Rabat offers many historical, contemporary, and natural sites for visitors to enjoy.
1. Hassan Tower
This mosque, left incomplete due to the death of the Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour, is located right across from Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which holds the grand tombs of past kings of Morocco. The Sultan intended it to be the largest mosque of its time when construction began back in 1195. The project lasted until the death of Mansour in 1199, when the tower finally reached 44m (140 ft). The tower is unique for its use of ramps instead of stairs to allow people to ascend. The minaret’s ramps would allow the muezzin to ride a horse to the top of the tower to issue the call to prayer.
2. Mausoleum of Mohammed V
This mausoleum draws your attention with its marvelous Alaouite Dynasty’s architectural style and also the beautiful tombs for two great kings who led the Kingdom of Morocco. Here, the Moroccans can pay the sincere tribute to those great leaders of royal family and marvel at the unique design of both interior and exterior design of this architecture. This is both a tomb and a mosque, accessible to the public.
3. Kasbah of the Oudayas
Located on the mouth of the Bou Regreg river, the Kasbah of the Oudayas is one of the most unique destinations in Rabat for its historical richness and picturesque architecture and surrounding landscape. Originally built in the 12th century and renovated many times since then, this area has been home to Arab tribes, Andalusian immigrants, and some of Morocco’s most powerful sultans.
Chellah is a walled ruin of a town that was built by the Romans in around 40 AD. Designated as a World Heritage Site in 2012, this site is the most popular tourist spot in Rabat. It is suspected to have previously been occupied by the Phoenicians or Carthaginians as early as the 3rd century BC. The site is filled with Roman marble columns and statues, frequently with Latin inscriptions, and stone water passages which continued to be used for centuries.
5. Andalusian Gardens
These gardens, located in the Oudayas full of fruit trees and bougainvillea were laid out by the French during the colonial period. Strolling through the gardens can provide relief from the hot summer days in Rabat. After walking through the gardens, visitors can round off the day at the cafe next door, which offers one of the best mint teas in the city.
6. Museum Mohamed VI of Modern Art
Conceived by architect Karim Chakor and opened in October 2014, the Museum Mohamed VI of Modern and Contemporary Art is one of the 14 museums of the National Foundation of Museums of Morocco. Located in Rabat, this first dedicated museum to the modern contemporary art provides space and infrastructure for a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, auditorium, art and multimedia libraries, conservation lab, education department, offices, service, storage, and technical areas, as well as a restaurant.
7. Old Medina
The old medina is one of the must-see attractions which can be traced back to even seventh century. After entering through one of the many large gates that surround the medina, visitors can browse through shops selling various traditional items such as leather bags or wallets at a good price, as well as many kinds of cafes. The old medina in Rabat is relatively hassle-free in comparison to the larger medinas of other Moroccan cities, allowing tourists to wander in pleasure and safety.
8. Rabat Zoo
The National Zoological Garden of Rabat is the national zoological park that specializes in Moroccan, Saharan, and African fauna. The unique experience offered in this zoo, its open design allowing for interaction with animals in their natural habitats, immerse visitors in the most unusual aspects of animal life and provide a better understanding of the fauna, flora, and the environment.
9. Dar al-Makhzen
Dar al-Makhzen (The Royal Palace) is the official residence of the King of Morocco, currently Mohammed VI, who has led the country since 1999, and the royal family. This palace was built in 1864 to replace the older palace. The library within the palace has a library that holds the manuscript collection of King Hassan II. Unfortunately, the palace is not open to the public unlike many of its counterparts in Europe.
10. The Beach
Rabat’s Atlantic beach has attracted both avid and new surfers from all over the world. The beach is also a great location for tired tourists to just lay down, chill, and relax. At the same time, if you need a bite, you can stop by one of the many nearby restaurants.