City Profile

City Profile | Rabat

By December 12, 2015 No Comments

Rabat (ⴻⵔⵔⴱⴰⵟ in Berber): The seat of the Moroccan kingdom is a diplomatic town that merits one day maximum.  CNN rated Rabat as one of the top places to visit in 2013 – this baffles me as I would pass on Rabat (and Casablanca for that matter) if you’re on a tight schedule…

The Chellah

The Chellah

Nitty gritty first, then rainbows and puppy dogs…

Though Rabat is a diplomatic town, conservative dress for women is still advised.  You will see local couples holding hands on occasion, but not without dirty looks from others.

Places to avoid:

  • Mellah (the former Jewish quarter) is located North and East of the medina. Drugs and unsavory types lurking here.
  • Rue côtière at night. (This is great during the day – you can also take surfing lessons out here).
  • The Rabat medina is safe, I’ve wandered the windey streets until 8 or 9pm without incident; however, I do leave before the shops close down.
  • Parks are not/not/not safe at night.
  • I hesitate to put this in here, but it speaks to a larger cultural norm and is something women travelers should be aware of: Local men  get ticketed for sitting in their cars outside of parks and… well, playing with themselves.  The explanation may be found in an article I recently read in a local magazine titled ‘Forbidden love’ (L’amour interdit). The authors express shock to learn that 14% of the country (admits to) sex out of wedlock…

Things to see:

Feels like Zanzibar, doesn't it?

Door in Des Oudayas

  • Chellah: World heritage site, traces of Phoenecians, Romans, Carthaginians, Mauritanians and more are found here. Entrance fee is 10 dirhams, guides ask for 200 dirhams, but will take 100.
  • Mausoleum of Mohammad V: Remains of the former king, plus King Hassan II, Prince Abdallah are laid here. Impressive architecture.
  • Tour Hassan: Unfinished mosque started in 1195.
  • Des Oudayas: Almohad fortress in 1150AD turned Portuguese lookout around 1400AD set up to battle the pirates. More details on TripAdvisor.
  • Artisanal Ceramics: On the way to Salé, this strip mall of ceramic shops might just be the best spot to find ceramic pots and the famous Tajines.

Transportation: What to expect:

  • Rabat has a new tram, it’s clean and safe.
  • Local buses looked cramped and break down A LOT. I’ve spoken to women who use them and report a lot of “accidental” gropings but nothing more.
  • Blue taxis everywhere, I aim for newer ones. The drivers in Rabat are usually very honest and start the meter when you get in. This is not the case in Marrakech or Casablanca.
  • I recommend not jumping in a loaded maxi taxis or ‘grands taxis’.  These are the big old Mercedes (usually white but I’ve seen blue ones in northern Morocco) and packed with six people. Better to rent them by yourself, be prepared to pay 100-300 dirhams ($12-$36) for a solo ride.
Center map
As a stop along the way, Rabat is perfect for a layover if you’re making the northbound trek to Fes or southbound route down to Marrakech. More than that and you may miss out on more impressive sights.

Have you been, what did you think? Do you disagree with my assessment?  Any other areas to avoid?

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