Kasbah Les Oudaias

Fortress in Rabat

Image by Guido Dingemans, De Eindredactie Getty Images

Rabat's historic citadel occupies the site of the original ribat (fortress-monastery) that gave the city its name. Predominately residential, its narrow streets are lined with whitewashed houses – most of which were built by Muslim refugees from Spain. There are scenic views over the river and ocean from the Plateforme du Sémaphore at its highest point, and the attractive Andalusian Gardens at its southern edge are a popular relaxation and meeting point for locals.

The most dramatic entry to the kasbah is through the enormous Almohad gate of Bab Oudaia, built in 1195. Its location, facing the heart of the city and just outside the original palace, made it more ceremonial than defensive and the gateway is elaborately decorated with a series of carved arches. These days, it is only occasionally open so most visitors enter through a much smaller nearby gateway. Inside, the main street, Rue Jamaa, runs straight through the kasbah to the Plateforme du Sémaphore. About 200m ahead on the left is the oldest mosque in Rabat, built in the 10th century and restored in the 18th with funds donated by an English pirate known as Ahmed El Inlisi, one of the feared Sallee Rovers.