QUINTESSENTIALLY MOROCCO

A Traveler’s Guide: Where to Eat, Where to Shop and What to See

24 Hours In Rabat, Morocco’s Capital City

Rabat is Morocco’s capital city and the country’s leading political and administrative hub. Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2012, Rabat is home to the Ruins of Kasbah Chellah and the historic Mausoleum of Kings.  As the seventh largest city in Morocco, it offers a calm contrast of clean, well organized French boulevards amidst an ancient old world medina. Rabat is a city rich in architecture, art, fine dining, and performing arts. If you have only 24 Hours in Rabat then our step by step daily guide will prove to offer a keen combination of sightseeing and adventure.

Rabat Botanical Gardens

Stroll Through Botanical Gardens  

Rabat hosts several impressive gardens for those that enjoy early morning walks. The Sofitel’s 17.3 acres of Andalusian gardens with 3000 roses is one of the most loved gardens in the capital city, however, a more centrally located garden is the Jardin d’Essais Botaniques de Rabat. Established in 1924, under the instructions of Morocco’s first King, Yusef Ben Hassan, the garden houses 650 ornamental and fruit species from local,  tropical, subtropical and desert; it is valued for being an environmental education center for the public and for promoting national ecological heritage. There is also small museum housed in Moorish and Arab-Andalusian style architecture. The garden is located next door to the French Embassy, the National Library and near the Royal Palace of Rabat, the primary and official residence for King Mohammed VI.

Peitri Plaza, Rabat

Drink Coffee On Pietri Plaza 9 AM

After strolling the gardens, head into the direction the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art towards Le Petir Beur Plaza. Situated in the center of Rabat the plaza, designed by architects Oualalou and Choi serves as an ” urban living room” and hosts many cultural events and public gatherings. The plaza is sheltered from busy streets with its indoor atrium shape and lined with a flower market and several cafes. It is a relaxing place to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast before starting a full day of sightseeing.

Appreciate World Famous Art At The Mohammed VI 10 AM

Founded in 2014 by Mohammed VI, the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI) is housed in an Arab Moorish modern building. It is the first large scale museum in Morocco and is part of Morocco’s cultural infrastructure which includes the National Library of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Mohammed V National Theatre. The museum houses 200 Moroccan artists,  including Hassan Hajjaj and Ahmed Yacoubi and has reproductions by Chaibia, Hassan El Glaoui, Mohamed Kacimi, Gharbaoui, and Melehi.  The MMVI covers the evolution of Morocco’s art in the plastic and visual arts category from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. In Spring 2019, “Colors of Impressionism” 9th-century exhibit reaffirmed Morocco as an art hub. For lunch grab a snack inside the Museum or eat at one of the cafes on Avenue Mohammed V.

Walk Avenue Mohammed V 1 PM

Lined with a wide street filled with palm trees, cafes,  boutiques, and historical buildings Avenue Mohammed V has been called Rabat’s most beautiful street. Leaving the Museum and heading towards the medina, you will pass Alawite Square. Located just in front of Rabat Ville Train station, the square has a large fountain and a great place to snap architectural photos of Rabat. Buildings of note include La Chambre des représentants, a former courthouse during the French protectorate; Le Grande Poste; Bank Al-Maghrib, Morocco’s national bank; and the Renaissance Movie Theater. The avenue is also near Instituto Cervantes, a cultural center with many musical events and exhibitions. Nearby, Casa Jose Tapas, a nice place for evening finger food and Spanish wine. The end of Mohammed V will lead you near Bab El Had, one of the five gates of Rabat’s ancient medina walls.

Explore The Medina 2PM

Arriving from MMVI, enter the 10th-century medina near Bab El Had, Rabat’s Sunday Gate. The nickname comes from it’s the close location to Marche Central, one of the largest and well-stocked food and flower markets in Rabat. Visitors who have explored Morocco’s other imperial cities will quickly recognize that Rabat’s medina feels more organized, modern, and has wider streets than the medinas of Marrakech or Casablanca. Rue des Consuls, is an important street not to miss in the medina. It is lined with souks selling traditional crafts and silver jewelry. If you are interested in beautiful one-of-a-kind Berber jewelry, look for a Jellaba vendor; there is a small shop tucked behind selling collectors necklaces, unique charms, and traditional Moroccan earrings. Continue on Rue du Consuls into the direction of the Andalusian gardens and the Kasbah of Oudayas.

Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

Andalusian Gardens & Kasbah of the Udayas 3PM

Set in the Kasbah of the Udayas, the 20th century Andalusian garden is lined floral motifs, aromatic plants, murmurs of water and an atmosphere that channels the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada. In front of the garden facing the Atlantic ocean, Café Maure is the perfect stop for some Moroccan mint tea and corne de gazelle pastries. The open-air cafe has a terrace with a panoramic view of the Bouregreg River and faces the Bouregreg Marina, situated in  Sale, Rabat’s commuter town and up and coming city.

After some tea enjoys a walk into the Udayas Kasbah, dating back to the 10th century. Its history is connected to Almohad Caliphate, who rebuilt the kasbah structure in the 12th century when the Almohads captured Rabat and reconstructed the kasbah. The Almohads made many changes in Rabat including turning Chellah into a royal necropolis. To the kasbah itself, they added a mosque.

Walking around the kasbah interior will be nostalgic for travelers who have explored Morocco’s Blue City, Chefchaouen; the Udayas Kasbah has the same blue colors as the northern mountain city. Walk to the uppermost point of the kasbah to see a dynamic view of the Hassan Tower, lighthouse, and surfers riding the Atlantic Ocean waves. For a late lunch or an early dinner, take the kasbah stairs down to the port; Le Dhow is a unique restaurant on a boat serving up Mediterranean, European, and French dishes cooked by their amazing chef.

Changing of Royal Guards, Rabat

The Mausoleum and Sunset At Hassan Tower 4:30 PM

Mausoleum of Mohammed V and Hassan Tower are just a 20-minute walk from the Rabat Beach and located along Yacoub al-Mansour esplanade on the high south bank of Bouregreg River.

Mausoleum of Mohammed V was built during the 1950’s and houses the tombs of the Moroccan King and his sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The entrance to the Mausoleum is lined with remains of Roman and views of  the green tiled Mausoleum roof; the building is is surrounded by guards. The Mausoleum interior contains marble floors reflecting geometric patterns carved into the ceilings; the walls are lined with patterns of arabesque and unique floral motifs. The outside of the building hosts a variety of doors with Arabic design patterns, fountains decorated with muqarnas  tessellated zellige tile.

After visiting the Mausoleum, see the red sandstone Hassan Tower. The structure was commissioned by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, the third Caliph of the Almohad Caliphate in 1195. It was created to be the largest minaret in the world. The project was left half completed when the Al Mansur died in 1199. Today the tower reaches 44 m, about half of it’s intended height, however, the prestigious site was still inscribed into UNESCO World Heritage in 1995.

The Mausoleum and Hassan Tower face the Bouregreg River the Hassan II Bridge & Tramway, and emerging Grand Theatre Royal – with a 1, 677 million dirhams budget, it is aimed to revolutionize the theatre experience. The Hassan Tower hill is the perfect place to take in a sunset view of Rabat.

Le Dhow Ship Restaurant & Lounge

Evening Cocktails at Le Dhow Restaurant & Lounge 6:00 PM

Located on the harbor of Rabat, Le Dhow is a charming restaurant and lounge set on a boat with 19th Century insprired decor. Wood fixtures, comfotable stylizied arm chairs and elegant interiors away you. Cocktails ast this unique hideaway guarantees a one-of-a-kind experience and views of the magical Kasbah of the Udyayas. Charming and well appointed, Le Dhow is an exact replicate of a historic Moroccan merchant vessel. The menu is ideal for a cocktails and seafood starter options or if you prefer a longer dining experience prior to an evening out on the town, French cuisine is also offered. Le Dhow also has music on the deck at sunset. What better a way to wind down a day after site seeing in Rabat then to be taken on a journey to another era.

Chellah Jazz Festival, Rabat

A Night of Jazz Night 7:30 PM

Rabat has an active music and performance nightlife. In addition to many cultural performances which can be experienced at the Théâtre National Mohammed V and Rabat’s French Institute, the city offers many opportunities to experience live jazz. In autumn, Rabat hosts a 5-day Chellah Jazz Festival unearthing Moroccan and international talent. Off jazz season, there are several restaurants and spots in Rabat to listen to Jazz. Located near the Royal Palace of Rabat, the Le Georges restaurant serves French Moroccan food, offers a nice variety of wines, and from Wednesday into the weekends, hosts live jazz performances.  Other options include the Le Diwan Hotel Bar. Enjoy tapas against a musical blend of jazz, blues, and French chansons. For a cocktail with a view, the sky bar at the View Hotel in the Hay Riad neighborhood is the perfect place to end your 24 hours in Rabat.

Marina Solovyov

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