Various civilizations and dynasties, from the Phoenicians to the Merinids, made this place at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river their home.
The complex heritage lies at your feet at Chellah, the ruins of the Roman city and the Almohad necropolis.
The Citadel of Udayas is a castle built on a river, with streets and a peaceful Andalusian-style garden.
Rabat is the main residence of King Mohammed VI and the burial place of his grandfather Mohammed V (1909-1961), who negotiated Morocco’s independence, and its splendid mausoleum is open to all.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Rabat:
1. Castle of the Udayas
Watching the mouth of the Bou Regreg River from the cliff top on the left bank is a 12th-century castle rebuilt by the Almohads from 1146 as a base for the attack on Iberia.
Kasbah in Udayas is a tight maze of narrow alleys with whitewashed houses decorated in blue.
The walls offer stunning views of Rabat Beach, the Atlantic Ocean, the Bou Regreg estuary and the Salé on the right bank.
Before the kasbah is a 10th century mosque rebuilt by the 18th century British traitor Ahmed El Inglizi.
At the mighty gate, Bab Oudaïa, examine the extensive moldings along the arches and frieze.
Housed in a 17th-century palace in Kasbah, the Oudaias Craft Museum displays pottery, Korans, musical instruments, jewellery, traditional Moroccan clothing, jewellery and spectacular Berber carpets.
Fun to explore, this walled garden on the left bank of the Bou Regreg estuary has many layers of history dating back to the Phoenicians who established a trading post here some 2,500 years ago.
This developed into the Roman city of Sara Colonia, which had a Roman military unit until the 5th century, long after Rome had withdrawn from the rest of the region.
Muslim Arabs took over in the 7th century, and under the Marinids in the 13th century, the former city was turned into a royal cemetery.
Among the ancient fruit trees are Roman relics such as triumphal arches, steles, walls and fountains.
The Muslim Quarter is the mausoleum of the Marinid ruler Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Othman (1297-1351), known as the Black Sultan, who ruled the entire Maghreb area.
This is at the foot of the minaret of an almost intact mosque still partially decorated with zellige tiles and covered with stork nests.
3. Hassan Tower
The magnificent historic complex featuring the Mausoleum of Mohammed V is in the shadow of an incomplete 44-meter red sandstone minaret.
It was built in the late 12th century for a huge mosque that could accommodate 20,000 worshippers.
Hassan Tower was built by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur (1160-1199), the third caliph of the Amuhad caliph, and is 60 meters high and is One of the tallest towers in the world.
After the death of al-Mansur, the building was abandoned and the remainder of the mosque was further damaged in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which can be seen in the 348 columns in front.
The Hassan Tower has discreet leafy trellis on its upper floors and, like La Giralda in Seville, has ramps instead of stairs, allowing muezzins to ride to the top.
4. Mausoleum of Muhammad V
Opposite the Hassan Tower is one of Morocco’s most revered shrines, the mausoleum of the ruler who guided the country toward independence.
Unusually, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which is open to non-Muslims, was built in the 1960s and designed by Vietnamese architect Éric Vo Toan.
Besides Muhammad V (the grandfather of Muhammad VI), the mausoleum is also the resting place of his two sons, King Hassan (1929-1999) and Prince Abdullah (1935-1983). The mausoleum is imposing, restrained and restrained on the outside, beloved by horseshoe arches and jagged melons, but inside is a refined Moroccan decoration.
There are marble floors, vibrant zellige walls and an incredibly finely carved cedar ceiling painted with golf leaves, topped by a dome with stained glass windows.
You can view the Mausoleum of Mohammed V from the gallery above.
Accessed via Rue Souika, Rabat’s old town was what the city was all about until the beginning of the 20th century with the emergence of Centre Ville and Ville Nouvelle.
Rabat’s medina may come as a relief to the hawkers and touts who bravely persevere in Marrakech and Fes.
Although picturesque for its white houses with blue trim, this neighborhood is mostly residential.
Most of the action takes place in the cafes and small shops along Suika Street, and the partly covered Consul Street, with stalls for leather goods, embroidered fabrics, stencil lights, babuch slippers and Berber rugs, all the way to Ukraine. Dayak castle.
Related Tours: Rabat: Walking Food Tour
6. Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI)
Morocco’s first independent museum of modern and contemporary art, MMVI opened in 2014 after a decade.
This sophisticated building, designed by Karim Chakor, draws on Rabat’s Andalusian heritage with its horseshoe arches and latticework.
The permanent collection includes more than 200 Moroccan artists in an eclectic mix of fields from Impressionism to Postmodernism.
Tangier’s Paul Bowles contemporary of Ahmed Yacoubi (1928-1985) and Hassan Ha, known as the Andy Warhol of Marrakech Hassan Hajjaj has works.
After a few hours of perusing the well-curated gallery, you can call in the cafe and gift shop on the ground floor.
7. National Zoo
Rabat’s National Zoo is home to more than 150 species, and what makes this zoo even better is that it was originally built for the lions that live in the Royal Palace.
Fascinatingly, these animals are descended from the wild Barbary lion, now extinct in the wild, captured by the royal family in the Atlas Mountains.
The National Zoo has more than 1,500 animals, ranging from hippos to African elephants, mofroles, Nile crocodiles, hyenas, addaxes and African wild dogs, living in healthy enclosures that mimic the animals’ natural environment.
As you’ll find in the museum, this isn’t just a place to gaze at captive animals, it’s about Morocco’s changing fauna since the end of the Tertiary period, some 2.6 million years ago.
A new feedlot opened in 2019 has terrariums for turtles, lizards, amphibians and snakes.
The kids will have a great time feeding the giraffes and riding the Shetland ponies.
8. Art Villa
Set in a stately mansion of lush, serene peace, this art museum is run by the ONA Foundation, a non-profit organization partly dedicated to raising the profile of Moroccan art, located in the two cultural centers of Rabat and Casablanca .
The Art Villa in Rabat has two permanent exhibitions, the self-taught naive artist Radia Bent Lhoucine (1912-1994) and Jilali Gharbaoui (1930-1971), considered Morocco’s first non-figurative painter.
When we wrote this list in October 2019, Rabat’s inaugural art biennale was taking place, featuring works by Katrín Sigurdardóttir (Iceland), Katharina Cibulk (Austria), Amal Kenawy (Egypt) and Majida Khtari (Morocco). work. The center also has a performing arts stage that hosts regular live music, seminars and discussions.
9. Andalusian Gardens
Hidden within the entrance to the Castle of Udayas, the Udayas Craft Museum is an elegant formal garden surrounded by the castle’s embattled walls.
Orange trees, date palms, roses and red hibiscus grow in rectangular beds trimmed with low boxwood hedges.
Take your time to stroll down the alleys, under the pergola tangled in vines, and the yawning cat on the patio wall.
The garden is newer than it looks, beautified by Maurice Trachant de Lunel (1869-1944) under the French protectorate.
Next to the garden is Café Maure, where you can sip mint tea and admire the sparkling view of the Bou Regreg estuary.
The city of Salle was founded in the 11th century on the right bank of the Bou Regreg estuary.
Now it’s a commuter town, and the medina is for local residents rather than tourists, so if you haggle, the prices will be much lower.
The best way to travel is by taking the modern Rabat–Salé tram, which opened in 2011, across the Bou Regreg bridge, the Hassan II bridge, built just for the line.
Saleh has played a key role in Morocco’s modern history, not only as a hotbed of nationalist sentiment, but also as the first place for independence demonstrations against the French.
The Great Mosque of Sarai, the third largest mosque in the country, was built in 1028-29. It is inaccessible to non-Muslims, but its magnificent interior can be felt through the gate.
You can visit the Salé Medersa (Madrasa) next door, which dates back to 1333, and its courtyard features ornate Zelig tiles, stucco moldings and a carved cedar canopy.
If you want to know the residence of King Mohammed VI, you can head to the commune of Touarga, a few kilometers south of the Medina.
Alawite sultans and kings have had a residence in Rabat since the reign of Mohammed ben Abdallah in the 18th century, and the current palace was built in 1864. Since the days of the French protectorate, the complex has become especially important as the principal residence of the king and has seen the birth of Hassan II in 1929 and the wedding of Mohammed VI to Princess Lara Salma in 2002. Unlike most Moroccan royal palaces, you can visit the vast grounds as long as you have your passport with you.
Opening hours are not announced, so you may be denied access.
If this is the case, you can take a photo of the ornate gate and uniformed guards.
12. Mavazin Festival
Held in June, the city-wide festival is the largest in the country, with dozens of artists performing on seven different stages over nine nights.
Running since 2001, the event features national, African, Arab and international artists, presenting 21st century Morocco as an open and tolerant place.
Naturally, conservative voices continued to criticize Malawzin for “encouraging unethical behavior.” Each stage has a different style: Mohammed V Theatre hosts jazz, folk, chorus and classic pop performances, while contemporary stars from the Arab world play Nahda (Elissa, Najwa Karam, Mohammed Assaf, 2019). The main Western stars play at OLM Souissi.
In 2019, David Guetta, Migos and The Black Eyed Peas are all on the list.
Past performers include Bruno Mars, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Lopez, Lauryn Hill, Rod Stewart, Pharrell Williams and Sting.
13. St. Peter’s Basilica
In March 2019, Pope Francis visited the functioning St. Peter’s Basilica, a familiar silhouette in Rabat’s cityscape.
The building is in Art Deco style with Moorish accents, especially in the lattice of its windows, and in 1921, the resident Hubert Liotti presided over the inauguration. The two towers seen from all over Rabat were built in 1931. Inside the whitewashed interior, check out the stations of the cross, the mosaics, and the radiating strips of stained glass throughout.
14. Bouknadel Exotic Garden
On the N1 road from Salé to Kenitra, about a 20-minute drive from Kasbah in Udayas, is one of the most important and attractive gardens in Morocco.
On 4 hectares of land, Jardins Exotiques de Bouknadel was planted in the mid-20th century by the French horticulturalist Marcel François (1900-1999), who purchased the land in 1949. The space has been open to the public since 1961, following a fallow period in the 80s and 90s, restored in the 2000s, and reopened in 2005. The four hectares are packed with a wide variety of species and garden styles.
You can view Japanese, Chinese and Andalusian garden styles, as well as a display of plants from around the world, including the African savannah, the Caribbean, and the Amazon and Congo rainforests.
There is a Moorish-style café at the entrance, and Marcel François’s home houses a museum about the history of the site and its rebirth in the 2000s.
15. Half-Day City Tour
You may be in Rabat for a flight visit, in which case you can take advantage of this tour offered by GetYourGuide.com.
The half-day city tour condenses the sights of a holiday into just four hours, taking you to the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Udayas Fort, Chera, Medina, and more.
All entrance fees are included in the tour price and you will travel in comfort in an air-conditioned vehicle accompanied by a knowledgeable guide from the city.