Rabat is the city that most surprised us on our trip to Morocco. Unlike other tourist tanks like Marrakech or Fez, Rabat is much quieter. No one approached us to sell us anything or to insist us as in Asilah.
It was the second day that we were in Moroccan lands and we had a kind of paranoia that today seems totally unfounded. When we checked out the hotel in Asilah, we thought that someone from the hotel had stolen all the euros that Andrés had brought. For a moment we were desperate. It turns out that the famous euros were simply in his beautiful bag. They were so well hidden that he could not find them. That happens to us as prejudiced Argentines. I take this opportunity to point out that at no time did we feel insecure in Morocco. The problem is that we sometimes confuse the harassment of local vendors with “insecurity.” Fortunately, over time we get used to it and understood that this is something typical of Moroccan folklore.
We took the 8:05 am train to Rabat, left our frustrations behind and the journey began to change. In the train we met a woman who was traveling to Casablanca to meet her son. The woman worked in Tangier in an art gallery and had lived many years in France. She even suggested some places to visit in Rabat and recommended to cross to the sister city of Salé. We talked about experiences of travel, religion and art, a bit in English and a bit in French. With her, the train journey flew by.
How to get from Rabat train station to the medina
We arrived at Rabat Ville station past 11 am and as we did not feel like taking a taxi (which now is clear, Rabat has the cheapest taxis in the country, the train from the train station to the medina should cost 8 Dh) we walked to the hotel.
The walk was very pleasant at first because of the wide streets in the Ville Nouvellle (where the train station is located). But as we entered the city, the streets became narrower and the number of people increased exponentially. A few blocks from our hotel we began to walk with bags over our shoulders and trying to dodge the locals who came to the medina to do their morning shopping.
Accommodations in Rabat
We stayed at Hotel Lutece, a hotel that is fine, it wasn’t the greatest hotel we stayed in our life but it was cheap and it was a few blocks from the main gate of the medina. The hotel also includes the typical Moroccan breakfast: an infusion, orange juice (of course), toast and some pastries.
Here you have a full list of the best accommodations in Rabat.
How to get to Rabat from Asilah, Marrakech or Fez
From Asilah, Marrakech or Fez, Rabat is very well connected by train and we recommend this means of transport. We also recommend taking the tickets in first class. The price is not much higher than the second class but the comfort is much higher. On this website you can find more information. The most convenient is to get off at the Rabat Ville station which is the closest to the attractions of the city.
From Asilah to Rabat.
- Timetable: 06.05 – 08.05 – 10.08 – 12.06 – 14.06 – 16.06 – 18.06
- Duration: 3 hours.
- Price (1st class): 130 Dh.
From Marrakech to Rabat.
- Timetable: 06.20 – 08.20 – 10.20 – 12.20 – 14.20 – 16.20 – 18.20 – 20.00
- Duration: 4 hs 50 min.
- Price (1st class): 195 Dh.
From Fez to Rabat.
- Timetable: 06.30 – 07.30 – 08.30 – 09.30 – 10.30 – 11.30 – 12.30 – 13.30 – 14.30 – 15.30 – 16.30 – 17.30 – 18.30 – 19.30 – 20.20
- Duration: 2 hours 50 min
- Price (1st class): 127 Dh.
What to see in Rabat Morocco in two days
Morning: We start with a walk in the medina. The medina has interesting parts, but in general it is not the most beautiful we saw in Morocco. A good place to have lunch is the Riad Oudaya.
Noon: We enter the Kasbah of the Oudayas through the impressive Bab Oudaia gate. The medieval Kasbah of Rabat, along with the gardens and the museum are the main attractions of the city. There we sat down to have mint tea with delicious pastries at Café Maure; the highlight moment of our visit to Rabat. From the terraces of the Café, we contemplate the river Oued Bou Regreg and the sister city of Salé that extended in the distance.
Afternoon: Directly from Café Maure we went down to the beach and walked along the beautiful boardwalk of Rabat. It was a school vacation day so the promenade was full of families who enjoyed sailing to Salé.
We go to the tower of Hassan II and the Mausoleum Mohammed V about 40 minutes walk along the boardwalk. The Hassan II tower is the most famous monument in Rabat: it was the failed project of Sultan Yacoub el-Mansour who tried to have the minaret of 60 meters but the tower was abandoned at 44 meters. This tower has the same design as the Giralda in Seville and the Koutubia mosque in Marrakech.
The Mohammed V mausoleum is right in front of the Hassan II tower and can be entered free of charge. It is a beautiful place decorated with tiles and carved plaster where rests the remains of the father and grandfather of the current king (Mohammed VI).
Morning: the second day we started very early. We take the tram to the city of Salé. The tram cost us 6 Dh (1 € = 11 Dh) and it takes about 30 minutes to get to the main gate of the Salé medina. Once there, we crossed the medina, the visited the impressive Grande Mosquée and Medersa and next to the ocean: the immense Muslim cemetery, where stands the Koubba of Sidi Ahmed Ibn Achir.
At the exit of the Medersa of Salé, a good man begins to talk about the architecture of the Medersa and asked if we knew the Fort Bordj Northwest.
As educated Argentines we are, we listen carefully to the explanations about the medersa and we answered that we had heard about that fort but we did not know where it was located. The good man asked us to follow him and without realizing it we “hired” a guide. The technique I have just described is typical (although in places like Fez it can be much more aggressive). And although at no time the guide pushed us nor demanded money the situation became a bit tense. Finally the man took us to the fort, but we decided not to enter and enjoy the view. We gave him 20 Dh and said goodbye to our guide.
Noon: At noon we take the tram back to Rabat. The journey was beautiful, just a few minutes away, the tram runs along a bridge overlooking Rabat-Salé, crossed by the river Oued Bou Regreg.
When we got back to the center of Rabat we decided to walk to Chellah. The walk is quite long (about 1h), but it allowed us to see much of the Ville Nouvelle: with its impressive railway station, boulevards with palm trees and government buildings (including a palace that visits King Mohammed VI).
Finally we arrive at the necropolis of Chellah. Chellah is an ancient Roman, medieval complex and a necropolis of the merenids. It is covered by fruit trees and wildflowers and is an atmospheric place to roam for a couple of hours.
Protected by an imposing forum, accessed through a monumental door, the necropolis includes a zawiya (Muslim religious building) with an oratory, a minaret stained by tiles and several funerary halls, including Abu Al-Hasan .
An incredible colony of storks seized the ruins, dominating the place from their tree nests. When we visited the site, we heard the noise of couples mating.
Afternoon: We visit the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Rabat. This museum is the first of the great cultural magaproject with which King Mohamed VI seeks to turn Rabat into a City of Lights. And it is a place that we recommend 100%, mainly because it will be very difficult to find in Morocco museums of contemporary art of that magnitude. The museum restaurant is also recommended. It is not expensive and the food is very rich.