If one wants to escape the bustle and crowds in Marrakech or Fez, Rabat is the perfect place and has no shortage of attractions worth visiting. Its location also makes it a perfect stop for a night between Casablanca and Fez.
Rabat – Although Rabat is the political and administrative hub of Morocco, it is often overlooked by tourists and forgotten from itineraries. However, if one wants to escape the bustle and crowds in Marrakech or Fez, Rabat is the perfect place and has no shortage of attractions worth visiting. Its location also makes it a perfect stop for a night between Casablanca and Fez.
- Hassan Tower
Hassan Tower (Tour de Hassan) is one of the oldest historical monuments Rabat has to offer. Construction of the mosque began in 1195, after being commissioned by Yaqub al-Mansur, the third caliph of the Almohad Caliphate. He dreamed of the mosque being the largest in the world with the tallest minaret. However, when al-Mansur died 4 years later in 1199, his dream died with him and construction came to a halt.
Although the tower only reached half of its intended height at 40 meters, it is incredibly well preserved and is still a beautiful sight to see 820 years later. The 200 unfinished columns are also striking.
2. Mohammed V Mausoleum
Directly next to Hassan Tower, this mausoleum contains the tombs of King Mohammed V and his sons King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The mausoleum took approximately 400 men and almost a decade to build before it was finished in 1971. Its white floors and walls are made from granite and marble, and the roof is tiled in a distinctive green, the color of Islam. The tombs themselves are carved from white onyx.
The sheer craftsmanship and historical significance make this site a must-see.
- Kasbah of the Oudaias
This kasbah dates back to the Almohad Dynasty in the 12th century and is still well preserved. The ancient kasbah gets its name from an Arab tribe, the Oudayas, hired by Sultan Yaqub al-Mansur to defend its wall and build more fortifications.
Having been home to many groups of peoples who all left their mark on the suburb, the history of this neighborhood is deep and fascinating. For example, the winding steps from the kasbah down to the shore were added in the 17th century by Muslims fleeing Catholic Spain, who also gave the nearby Andalusian garden its name.
The winding blue and white streets of this neighborhood leading to ocean views make it a beautiful place to spend the day meandering. Inside the kasbah, one can find Rabat’s oldest mosque, built in the 10th century and restored by an English pirate in the 18th, although it is not open to non-Muslim tourists.
The lush Andalusian garden is filled with well-fed cats and a Moorish cafe overlooking the Bouregreg river that serves traditional Moroccan cakes and mint tea.
- The Chellah
These walled ruins on a site originally settled by the Phoenicians and then controlled by the Romans beginning in A.D. 40, are Rabat’s oldest site. Beautiful enscripted marble pillars and the remains of the Roman forum can still be seen today.
The city became a hub for Christianity in the 2nd century, and although the Romans withdrew in the 5th century it remained a city of Christian Imazighen (Berbers) until they surrendered to Arab Muslims in the 7th century. In 1174, the Almohad Caliphate began turning the site into a necropolis to bury their royals. A minaret was built in 1284 and still stands today, along with much of the necropolis.
In the green gardens behind the ancient tombs, you will see the charming site of a woman surrounded by the dozen of cats she cares for. There is also an eel pond filled with coins at the bottom, where women traditionally go to wish for fertility.