Easing in into the Madness in Rabat, Morocco

Rabat, Morocco

When I think of Morocco, I used to think of the madness and chaous of the souks of Marrakesh and the hassling touts in Fez.

Well, Rabat is nothing like that. We surely didn’t expect to walk out of the train station to find wide boulevards with palm trees, lined with imposing white buildings. Smartly dressed diplomats (it is Morocco’s capital after all) in suites mingle with traditionally clothed men and women on the wide sidewalks.

Downtown Rabat, Marocco
Downtown Rabat

Rabat’s old town (medina), just a couple of blocks away, provides a nice contrast to the city center. As we passed the wall the separates the old town with the new, a distinct increase in chaos was noticeable. Here the stores are closer together and the alleys are narrower. People yell more and louder here too. No one was hassling us or paying us much attention.

There were stores selling anything and everything from clothes, to leather accessories, to household goods, and dates. Tons of dates! And all this time I thought there was only one type.

Dates and more dates
Shoe store in Rabat, Morocco
This store caught my eyes because its walls and storefront are covered from ceiling to floor with shoes!

The nice thing about Rabat’s medina? Its relatively small size means you can’t get completely lost here (after half a day meandering around, I asked for direction only to find that I was a block away from our hotel).

Typical Moroccan doorway

We quickly learned that the doors and doorways of Moroccan houses are very photogenic.

Typical Moroccan doorway

At night, the streets of the medina come alive. This is when the snail vendors come out (selling boiled snails – eeew), the street sellers display their wares in the middle of already narrow alleys, and half of the town’s population (or so it seems like) come in droves to meet friends, shop, and drink tea in cafes that lined the alleys.

On the other side of the entrance to the Old Town of the medina is the Kasbah of the Udayas. Kasbahs are forts or citadels commonly built on top of a hill as part of its defense.

The outer wall of the Kasbah de Udayas, Rabat, Marocco
The outer wall of the Kasbah de Udayas, Rabat, Marocco

The Kasbah of the Udayas in Rabat has been gentrified, the houses inside bought as vacation homes by the rich. To wander around the blue and white painted dwellings inside this old fortress is a quiet affair.

Houses inside Kasbah the Uddaya, Rabat, Morocco View from Kasbah de Udayas, Rabat, Morocco

The view from the outer ramparts of the ocean below is particularly beautiful!

But the highlight of Rabat is Chellah – a mysterious Roman ruins that has been converted into a garden. But that’s for next time.

Rabat is not a picture of what I imagined Morocco to be. But as a place to rest up after a long flight and recover from a jet leg, it’s a very good thing it’s not. We were recommended to stay here even though we flew into Casablanca and we’re glad we did.

I’d like to think of Rabat as Morocco 101 – a laid back welcome to the rest of Morocco – and Africa.

Valuable Resources

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, for those who love anything weird and offbeat.
  • Resource Toolbox: How I find cheap flights, accommodations, and other travel hacks.

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16 Replies to “Easing in into the Madness in Rabat, Morocco”

  1. Interesting. I had a very different experience in Rabat. I found the medina very aggressive and unpleasant. I also had a very nerve-wracking encounter with some police who were looking for a bribe. So glad to see you had a much better experience!

  2. I hope you found the world's greatest juice stand just inside the medina…. the greatest juice bar in all of Morocco!! Enjoy the rest of the country…it is pretty easy to travel around, I suspect compared to SA…look forward to the rest of your posts on the country!

  3. Beautiful and not what I would have expected. Looks like a great place to adjust and prepare for the next wonderful adventure.

  4. Wow, this is not what I usually picture when I think of Morocco! But it's great to hear that you guys are easing into it and enjoying it so far!

  5. Oh I am going to enjoy reading your take on Morocco. A country it took me a month to fall in love with. It's a tough one, but you will love it! Loving this already… takes me back. I didn't visit Rabat… seems like a great place to start though.

    1. If you think that is cool you would like Chefchouen. It is a little northeast of Rabat. The entire city is blue and white. Its gorgeous.

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