While Rabat, Morocco’s political and administrative capital since independence in 1956, has not established itself as a tourist destination, visitors who do go find a gem of a city. The colonial architecture is stunning, the palm-lined boulevards are well kept and relatively free of traffic, and the atmosphere is as cosmopolitan as its economic big brother down the coast. All in all, life here is pleasant and civilised. Casablancais say that, with all the bureaucrats, Rabat is dull, and they have a point. Yet the city is more laid-back, pleasant and more provincial than Casablanca, and far less grimy and frantic.
The quiet medina has an authentic feel to it, some good shops and fascinating architecture. You’ll be blissfully ignored on the streets and souqs, so it’s easy to discover the city’s monuments and hidden corners at your own pace. The picturesque kasbah, with its narrow alleys, art galleries and magnificent ocean views, is also worth exploring.
Rabat has a long and rich history, and plenty of monuments to show for it from the Phoenician, Roman, Almohad and Merenid times. The power shifted at times between Rabat and Salé, the whitewashed town across the Bou Regreg river, where time appears to have stood still.
Rabat is also a good place to eat; there are plenty of wonderful restaurants around town. The nightlife is not what it is in Casablanca, but an early afternoon stroll along the main avenues of the happening suburb of Agdal, where local hipsters flaunt their skinny jeans, is entertaining enough. And if city life gets you down, you can escape to the beaches further north.
The mega project to link the cities of Rabat and Salé by developing the waterfront on both sides of the river and building a tramway between them was about to open at the time of research.