Rabat: Morocco’s Vibrant Capital

Rabat is one of Morocco’s imperial cities and also the state capital. Although it trails behind Fès and Marrakech in terms of visitor trends, this eccentricity makes it all the more attractive as a tourist destination. Here, you can find out why the white royal city on the Atlantic coast should not be missed on a cultural tour.

History of Rabat

Rabat was founded in 1150 by the great Almohad sultan ‘Abd al-Mu’min, just north of the ancient Roman city of Sala Colonia (Chella). The place where his expeditions to Spain began was the ribat of ‘Abd al-Mu’min, which was both a religious and military camp. It had a citadel (the kasbah of Oudaa) and massive walls.

Several sultans after that completed these installations. In the 17th century, Muslim refugees from Andalusia boosted the city through trade, racing, and crafts. Still, Rabat suffered a sure decline during the 18th and 19th centuries.

It was only a small town of 25,000 inhabitants in 1912 when Lyautey made it the political and administrative capital of the French protectorate.

What to see and do in Rabat 

see and do in Rabat

The Mohammed V Mausoleum

The Mohammed-V mausoleum is in the middle of the city of Rabat. It is known as the place where the royal tombs are kept. For this purpose, it houses the king’s tombs, ex-sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Youssef, known as King Mohammed V, and his sons. These include Prince Moulay Abdallah and Prince Moulay Hassan, who later became king and was known as King Hassan II.

Eric Vo Toan, born in Vietnam and a brilliant architect, made the Mohammed V Mausoleum. Ten years were spent building it (1961 to 1971). Since 2012, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has listed this building as part of the World Heritage. The Mohammed V mausoleum is made in a beautiful and unique style and takes up an area of 1,500 m2. And the Muslim people of the Arab world have a long history.

The Chella

The Chella or Chellah designates the site of a cemetery of the Merinids, a dynasty of AmazighZenete origin. It is located in Rabat, the administrative capital of Morocco, nearly two hundred meters from the Almohad rampart. The Chella has hosted the Jazz au Chellah festival for over 17 years. It was listed in 2012 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This archaeological site houses the memories of a Roman city.

Access is possible through an extensive and sumptuous martial door. The latter is held by a pair of practically octagonal bastions fitted with corbelling on which rest acute melons. This door leads to a peaceful relaxation area that covers almost 10 hectares.

Hassan tower

The Hassan Tower is a symbolic building located in Rabat, Morocco. It is also the tower of an unfinished 12th-century mosque at the top of which the muezzin invited the Muslim faithful to prayer.

Indeed, the construction of the said mosque was started by Yacoub El Mansour, sultan of the Almohad dynasty. The latter had the vision of setting up one of the largest mosques in the world, if not the most prominent place of worship, after the Samarra mosque in Iraq. However, the work turned towards abandonment in the year 1199, following the death of Sultan Yacoub El Mansour.

At first, the minaret was supposed to be more than 60 meters tall. But it could only go up to 44.3 m. Hassan Mosque was later called Hassan Tower. It should be noted that the Hassan Tower is made of red stone, as in palaces and religious buildings in Morocco.

The muezzin rode his horse up ramps inside the building to the top of the minaret to call the Muslim community to prayer. Additionally, you can take a closer look at the remains of the unfinished mosque through its failing and near-ruin walls.

Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rabat

The Saint-Pierre cathedral, for its part, is a chapel located in the Hassan district of the municipality of Rabat. To be more precise, it is installed on Golan Square, which was once known as Cardinal-Lavigerie Square, and is the seat of the Archdiocese of Rabat. The construction of the Saint-Pierre cathedral began during the French protectorate period in Morocco. The architect responsible for designing this masterpiece was Adrien Laforgue.

The cathedral’s inauguration took place in November 1921 under the presidency of Hubert Lyautey. The finishing works were then completed in 1930. Since its creation, the Saint-Pierre Cathedral in Rabat has been functional. The excellent proof, a mass is said there every day.

Rabat, the capital of Morocco: the essentials

Getting around in Rabat

The Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI)

Inaugurated by His Highness King Mohammed VI in 2014 in Rabat, the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is one of the first museums in Morocco. Independent and entirely devoted to modern Moroccan art, the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art houses more than four hundred works by artists of Moroccan origin.

The primary purpose of this museum is to preserve and transmit to those interested in it the heritage of Moroccan art to support and encourage artists from the country. It was classified in 2012 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This tourist site is hosted by an R+2 type structure (ground floor associated with two feet) with a basement.

Bab Rouah Gallery

Also known as Bab er-Rouah or Bab er-Ruwah, the Bab Rouah gallery designates a monument (monumental gate) of Rabat’s ramparts of the Almohad era. Work on this building began towards the end of the 12th century by the Almohad caliph Ya’qub al-Mansur. The result was subsequently completed in the year 1197. Bab ar-Ruwah was given to it because of the high winds that blow from the Atlantic towards the city.

The interior of the gate serves as an art gallery following renovations in 2000-2001. On the one hand, the entrance is famous for its defensive structure and, on the other hand, for its very particular and aesthetic decorative aspect.

The Royal Palace of Rabat

The Royal Palace of Rabat is one of the main royal palaces in the country. It serves as the residence of the Moroccan royal family. In the very beginning, it was the palace of the Alawite sultans. Today, it finds its place among the royal palaces housed in the imperial cities. Take, for example, the court of Skhirat, where a coup attempt took place during the reign of King Hassan II.

However, the Royal Palace in Rabat is considered an administrative infrastructure, as it is occupied by the government.

The history of the Royal Palace of Rabat draws its essence from the Alaouite dynasty, which reigns until now. In 1785, a palace was built during the reign of King Mohammed III; his real name was Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah. Another court was created during the reign of Moulay Abderrahmane in 1854.

Moreover, the architecture of the Royal Palace of Rabat leaves no one indifferent: it is simply remarkable. The residence’s main entrance gives ample space to accommodate outdoor events. The palace also includes the royal cabinet and the royal college.

The Zoological Garden

The Zoo or Zoological Garden of Rabat is a national zoological park located in the heart of the Moroccan capital. Within the zoo’s enclosure, a symbolic copy of the Moroccan and African ecosystem is reproduced. It offers the public an attractive and exciting environment consisting of a swamp, savannah, rainforest, desert, and the Atlas Mountains. The fauna of the zoological garden of Rabat is diversified.

However, it is significant to notice the actual presence of the Atlas lions. Indeed, the Rabat Zoo is home to more than thirty lion breeds actively participating in maintaining the balance within the Zoo ecosystem.

The beaches of Rabat

Regarding the beaches in Rabat, it is essential to note that the capital is one of the most peaceful places in Morocco. It is stocked with resources and offers a relaxing atmosphere on its bay, not far from the Atlantic Ocean.

Rabat is a very hospitable land imbued with fabulous places of relaxation and relaxation. Among these attractive places, it is undoubtedly helpful to list the beaches of Rabat. Indeed, a beach trio fights to conquer the maximum number of people, thanks to their characteristics. These are, therefore, Skhirat beach, Tamara beach, and Oudaya beach.

The first mentioned is a beach with ample space for public use. Located in the coastal town of Skhirat, it is south of Rabat, about 16 kilometers. Skhirat beach is a pleasant place for relaxation and recreation, perfect for a family vacation. It should be noted that Skhirat is accessible by bus or train.

Tamara or Temara beach, meanwhile, is about 16 kilometers from the Moroccan administrative capital. It is located in a small town called Tamara, a provincial city. However, despite its smaller area, it has color and attracts more than one tourist.

About Oudaya beach, it is essential to point out that Oudaya is sparsely populated despite its availability of space. It is nevertheless favorable to sports activities such as surfing and bodyboarding.

How to go and get around Rabat?

You know what to see in Rabat, but you also need to know how to get there. Here’s everything you need to know to visit the capital of Morocco.

Visit Rabat: the administrative formalities

If you plan to stay in Morocco for less than 3 months, you only need a valid passport. This passport is also compulsory for organized trips.

On the other hand, if your stay exceeds this period once you arrive in Morocco, it is recommended to report to the Moroccan immigration service and request an extension that cannot be more than 3 months.

Getting to Rabat

To get to Rabat, know that you can easily find direct flights from France or mainland Spain. Rabat-Salé airport hosts both national and international flights. This is why it is pretty easy to land in this Moroccan city.

Getting around in Rabat

Getting around in Rabat

As far as means of transport are concerned, if you are staying in the medina, I advise you to visit Rabat on foot. But if you are far away, you can choose a tram line that serves the major cities of Morocco. Thus, you can select the Bab Chellah to stop to reach the medina or the Bab Lamrissa stop to get to the medina of Salé.

In addition, it is possible to take taxis or buses, but most of the time, they are uncomfortable. As an alternative, I suggest you rent a car. Otherwise, ask your hotel if it offers an airport transfer – to Rabat. This is also good advice! Then you can visit Rabat on foot.

Visit the capital of Morocco

Once in Rabat, you can rent a car to other cities in Morocco. For this, use, for example, a site like Rentalcars, which compares all rental agencies’ prices. You will find reasonable prices there. This site is a car rental comparator.

Go shopping during your visit to Rabat

shopping during your visit to Rabat

Shopping in Rabat means discovering local crafts and window shopping in the most prominent national and international brands. Shops are present in this city.

You can also find your greatest happiness in Rabat’s central boulevards near the Souk. You can buy good things at clothing stores, jewelry stores, eyeglass shops, etc. Feel free to go to the Mega Mall, for example. Even though you can go bowling.

Visit Rabat: when to go?

Rabat has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and more or less mild winters. So, there is no best or wrong time to visit the Moroccan capital. However, November and December must be avoided because the rain is persistent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Rabat the capital of Morocco?

Rabat was chosen as Morocco’s capital for some reasons. One of the major reasons was that it was in a good spot on the Atlantic coast, which made it an important trade and business center. Rabat was also a well-known city with a rich past and culture, so it was a natural choice to be the country’s capital.

Rabat was partly chosen as Morocco’s capital because it is close to other important places like Casablanca and Tangier. They made it easy for government officials and diplomats to move around the country and visit nearby countries.

Lastly, Rabat was picked as the capital of Morocco because it had a stable government and a strong economy. She made it a great place for the government to set up shop. Rabat is now the political center of Morocco. The country’s parliament, government ministries, and many foreign organizations are located there.

Rabat was chosen as the capital of Morocco because it has a good location, a rich cultural history, and a stable political atmosphere. It is still an important center for business, culture, and government.

Rabat, as the central hub of Morocco, offers a compelling array of attractions and experiences for visitors:

Rabat boasts numerous historical landmarks, including the Kasbah of the Udayas, the Hassan Tower, and the Chellah Necropolis, which provide insight into Morocco’s rich history and culture.

The city showcases impressive examples of modern architecture, exemplified by structures like the Hassan II Bridge and the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, highlighting Morocco’s progression into modernity.

Throughout the year, Rabat hosts vibrant cultural events such as the Mawazine World Rhythms Festival and the National Folklore Festival, providing opportunities to immerse in Morocco’s diverse music, dance, and art scene.

Food enthusiasts will delight in Rabat’s culinary offerings, featuring iconic dishes like tagine, couscous, and pastilla, available at traditional Moroccan restaurants nestled within the city’s historic buildings or along its picturesque waterfront.

Situated on the Atlantic coast, Rabat offers beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts ample opportunities for recreation, including surfing, swimming, and sunbathing along its scenic coastline.

In essence, Rabat is a bustling and diverse city that caters to a wide range of interests, making it an ideal destination for those intrigued by history, culture, art, and gastronomy alike.

Rabat on the Map


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