Ocean, medina, Oudayas Kasbah are the pulse of the Moroccan capital. Majestically beautiful and proud of its heritage, Rabat will reveal its treasures nestled behind imposing walls.
A fabulous medina
Made of adobe in the 12th century, the Andalusian ramparts protect the south side of the medina. The rectilinear layout of the old city is impressive as it is very different from the traditional mazes of streets. You can enter through the Bab El Had gate, scene of the Sunday market. This is where Souika street begins, the biggest and probably most animated in the medina. It leads to the Great Mosque and ends up at the Souk Es Sebat, the shoe market covered with reed mats and overflowing with hundreds of babouches, leather and handcraft goods and gold and silver jewelry. Then, along Rue des Consuls, which is partially covered by glass roofs, artisans work before your eyes on their deep-pile carpets, fabrics and copper objects. Heading back north, you approach the gate of the Oudayas.
This fortress quarter conserved its old cannons positioned on a bulwark. Beautiful and massive, its door is carved from top to bottom, and one of the towers houses three art galleries. The white and blue facades create a very Mediterranean ambiance. Its cobblestone streets lead to El Atiqa mosque, the city’s oldest, and then to the platform of the ancient semaphore. From here, as from the terrace of café Maure just nearby, the view of Rabat, its neighbour Salé, and the meeting of Bouregreg river and the ocean is simply splendid. From up high, the Oudayas Palace, which today houses the national museum, has conserved its original ornementations, imprints of sobriety and equilibrium. The Andalusian garden at its feet is a haven of peacefulness full of fruit trees, rosebays and cascades of bougainvilleas.
The soul of the medina
Protected by powerful ramparts, the medina reflects the soul of the old Almohad city. Souika street and its shops present magnificent rugs, the delicate work of copperware artisans, succulent pastries and appetizing brochettes. Rue des Consuls – which got its name because this is where representatives of foreign nations resided – is flanked by elegant residences where the craftmen practice their art under the watchful eyes of passersby. Tarik El Marsa street, which runs along the Andalusian wall, also boasts a full panorama of the crafts practiced here for centuries.
Salé, the rival sister
From the other side of the mouth of Bouregreg river , Salé, the old city of pirates, faces the capital. Founded before Rabat at the start of the 12th century, its medina, lined with fountains, magnificent riads, and mosques, buzzes with activity. Don’t forget the medersa, the Koranic school, a renowned chef d’oeuvre of Merinides art.
The historical heart
A fortress erected at the edge of the Rabat medina, the Oudayas Kasbah keeps watch over the city. The magnificent gate pierces the elaborate walls of the citadel and opens on Jamaâ street. On the left stands the city's oldest mosque, El Atiqa, which was built in 1150. Its white-washed houses give the city that Mediterranean character. Your walk could end at café Maure, where the view of the bay and Salé is breathtaking.
An art gallery in the wall
The magnificent Bab Rouah, the "Gate of the Winds", is monumental. It stands out for the richness of its adornments. It has become a gallery for exhibitions. Under the elaborate arches of the four square rooms, the works of famous Moroccan artists have found their venue.
The Chellah necropolis
Be sure to visit this peaceful place. The last residence of the Merinide sovereigns, it is protected by imposing walls, where storks like to build their nests. This is also where the old Roman city of Salé uses to be. You will admire the ruins of a triumphal arch, the forum, thermal bathes and several shops.
One of the remarkable things about Morocco is the harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. One of the largest shopping centres in Africa opened recently in Rabat. And this mall is not the city's only s shopping centre! Most of the local and international luxury boutiques are located along Mohammed V Avenue, the new city's true administrative and commercial nerve centre. You'll also find a number of stores in the upscale quarters like Agdal, which is particularly lively.