From the Kasbah to the Cafes, The Best Places to Go in Rabat, Morocco
This summer, I studied Arabic with AMIDEAST in Morocco thanks to the Scholar Abroad award from the Arabic Honors Society and Qatar Foundation International. Over the month-long program, I had a chance to get to know Rabat after class. Here is a list of my favorite places in Rabat:
For shopping: The Medina
The medina is the old city of Rabat, and it’s probably my favorite place to spend time. There is so much incredible food to try! I can never pass up mini beignets, and I also love street corn and soft serve (pistachio flavored? Yes, please!). As far as drinks go, I’ve tried sugar cane juice and an avocado drink, and both were pretty good.
For shopping, the medina has just about everything, from souvenirs to spices to bags to jewelry. Shopping in the medina involves bargaining, so I was very grateful for the vocabulary I’d learned in class.
For a beach day: Skhirat
Well, Skhirat technically isn’t in Rabat. However, it’s only twenty minutes away, so I’m including it in this list. Although Rabat does have its own beach, it’s pretty small and crowded, so the Moroccans I talked to recommended going to Skhirat. I went with some friends on a Saturday morning, taking the train to Skhirat and then a cab to the beach. It was great! Make sure to stay in the public section (don’t wander into the royal beach!).
For atay (tea) and a view: The cafe at the Oudayas
I went to this outdoor cafe several times to meet friends. Located in the Kasbah of the Oudayas, the cafe is spacious, with colorful tile and blue stools. It has a beautiful view of the river and Salé, and the mint tea is delicious. However, it’s not my favorite study spot, as there is no WiFi. Incidentally, the cafe is adjacent to a garden where a lot of cute cats hang out. I recommend stopping by if you’re a cat lover like me.
For pastries and cakes: Himmi Cafe, L’Ocean
Himmi Cafe was my go-to study spot. It has everything a student needs: WiFi, tables, and an array of drinks and sweets to choose from. If you go, you have to get their chocolate cake.
For a view of the city: Terminus Hotel rooftop cafe
This is the perfect spot for views of Rabat, and it’s especially beautiful at sunset! It’s located by the train station on Mohammed V Avenue. I recommend going once for the view, but the cafe is a little expensive.
For movies: CineAtlas
If you want to see a movie, head to CineAtlas. If you’re like me and you don’t speak French, make sure to check what language the movie will be in before you buy your tickets.
For photos: Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V
This is a must-see. The tower is the minaret of an unfinished mosque which was built in the 12th century but abandoned in 1199 with the sultan’s death. The Lisbon earthquake in 1755 damaged the site, but fortunately, the tower and some columns still stand. It’s a great spot for photos. Across from the tower is the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which houses the graves of King Mohammed V and his sons. The building is incredibly beautiful. Built from 1967 to 1971 by a Vietnamese architect, it features incredible mosaics, calligraphy, a cedar dome, and Italian marble.
For history: Chellah monuments
Chellah’s history goes all the way back to the Phoenicians. When I visited, I saw Roman inscriptions and columns, tombs, gardens, a mosque, and a hammam (bath). I loved looking at the ancient mosaics. The site is also home to many storks.
For a day trip: Volubilis and Fez
Yes, this is most definitely not in Rabat. However, it’s totally worth driving a few hours to see! I was lucky enough to visit these sites on a trip with AMIDEAST. Volubilis’ ancient Roman ruins comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the Romans, Volubilis was briefly the capital of the Idrisid dynasty. The city was abandoned in the Middle Ages and damaged by the Lisbon earthquake. If you visit, you can see the ruins of temples, arches, columns, houses, mosaics, olive oil presses, and hammams.
Fez is an incredible city, and I wish I had gotten to spend more time there. I loved exploring the medina, where I learned about weaving in a fabric workshop and visited Fez’s famous tanneries (thankfully, we were supplied with mint to mask the stench). I also loved seeing the beautiful Madrasa Bou Inania, built in the 14th century. I highly recommend a visit!
I am so grateful to Qatar Foundation International and the Arabic Honor Society for giving me the opportunity to study Arabic in Morocco this summer. It is an amazing country, and I really loved studying its dialect (Darija) as well as learning about its history, cuisine, and culture.
The view from the cafe at the Oudayas