I’d looong felt the pull of Morocco; its medina labyrinths, burnt deserts and deliciously fragrant food. Last year, I travelled to the Capital, Rabat, with a friend and it’s honestly one of the most vibrant cities I’ve ever visited; the whole place was alive with colour and tradition. We drank our body weight in mint tea, wandered through the souks watching artisans at work and tucked into some seriously tasty tagines; it really was everything I’d hoped it would be.
The weather in December was a larvly 22 degrees; warm but not too hot that dressing conservatively (it is a Muslim country after all) became uncomfortable. We stayed in the old town of Salé, a city just across the Bou Regreg river from Rabat. It’s less touristy than other areas, which may explain why we received so much interest from the locals. There were moments when the attention became a little overwhelming but on the whole, my experience was wonderful and the people were really welcoming.
Mausoleum of Mohammad V and Hassan Tower
By far the busiest tourist spot in Rabat, the Hassan Tower would have been attached to the second biggest mosque in the world had they actually finished building it. The Mausoleum however, is beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
Price: Free entry
Hours: open daily, except between noon and 2pm
The medina is at the heart of every Moroccan city; a bustling maze of souks selling leather, jewellery and hand crafted gems. Once you’re inside, it’s pretty damn hard to find your way back out but I kinda liked that; delving into the web of alleyways, searching for treasures and being completely immersed in the smell of spices. Obviously, you’ve gotta sift through a lot of tatt to find the treasures but I that’s all part of the fun.
It’s worth mentioning that we had to be mindful of our possessions, everywhere really but in the medina in particular as its srsly busy at times. We also encountered a heck load of people trying to ‘guide’ us to somewhere or take us to a particular shop in attempt to be paid for their service. In these situations its important to stand your ground, say no and keep moving – eventually they give up but it can become slightly tedious and confrontational.
After spending an eternity eyeing up bags in one particular souk, we were invited through to the workshop in the back, where craftsmen were cutting the leather and stitching bags and sandals. This, folks, was without doubt my favourite part of the trip. As someone that’s attempted (and failed) to work with leather maaany times in the past, the experience of seeing artisans working first hand was bladdy marvellous. There’s a real skill in sewing and finishing leather pieces and these guys made it look effortless.
I bought a leather belt that was cut and hole punched to fit, for the equivalent of £12 – mighty bargain, huh?!
Enjoy the coast
Rabat’s coastal location seems to really slow down the pace. The chilled vibe is a complete contrast to the craziness of neighbouring cities Fez and Marrakech.
Okay, this one surprised me too – unlike a traditional graveyard, the cemetery in Salé is radiant. Mile upon mile of colourful graves and headstones, it’s a refreshingly lovely sight.
Around every corner, there’s ANOTHER beautiful doorway to uncover.
Walking into the walled marina felt like we were walking through the South of France. It’s a million miles from the authentic streets of Rabat with it’s plush yachts, futuristic architecture and fancy restaurants.
We took the train to the zoo on our final day and I have to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised. I’d expected to hate every minute, seeing half starved animals but it couldn’t have been further from the truth. The zoo is quite small but all of the animals looked happy and healthy; seeing one of the keepers cuddling the cheetah was just, heart warming.
A few other things to consider:
Be aware of the henna ladies on the streets: some henna can contain dye that can cause rashes and scars.
If you want to stay healthy while you’re awayask shop keepers not to add sugar to your smoothie. There are tons of smoothie sellers and it took us a while to notice that at least TWO LADALS of sugar were added to each!
Running is a huge craze in the Capital but be sure to dress appropriately and only run in public areas.
Not to forget the beautiful sunsets! Which look even more striking against the medieval architecture.