We had a couple of days in Rabat. After driving from Casablanca, we arrived in Rabat sometime in the mid-afternoon. Our riad was in the medina. We had two problems. First, was to find a suitable parking lot to park our rented car that was not too far off from our accommodation. This is because we had luggage to lug around and we did not want to lug our luggage at great distances over unfamiliar territory. Second, we had to navigate through the bustling medina to our riad, hoping not to get hopelessly lost along the way.
I remembered having to circle around the medina several times because I kept missing the turn that led to a potential parking area to park our car. I kept driving the same coastal road again and again, which I did not mind actually since the coastal road was beautiful, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was bright and sunny with almost no clouds in the sky. It was a beautiful day.
When we finally found a parking lot, we made our way on foot. We only had a vague address and the GPS coordinates on Google Maps showed the way on foot to our riad. The riad is unlike any hotel that we have ever stayed, not the ones where they prominently display the name of the hotel in big letters outside the buildings. The riad, like a traditional house, can resemble many riads in the surround areas in the medina. So finding them can be quite a challenge.
In the end, after about navigating for the better part of the hour, we finally made it. It was beautiful. Upon entering the Riad and into the inner courtyard, we were treated to a nice little fountain in the middle of a courtyard and a small reception off to the side for guests to check in. I remember the welcome reception, warm and friendly. Free wifi and beverages were served upon entering and after filling out a form for guests to check in, we were shown to our rooms. Madu the resident cat, simply looked at us in disdain. In her eyes, we were just another guest.
Our rooms were on the first floor. It was actually two rooms, one on the left and one on the right with a shared main door. directly in front of the main door was another door containing the shared bathroom. The bedrooms were on the mezzanine level, not quite second floor but there is a staircase in the room leading up to the bedrooms.
The rooms were cosy, if not a little bit spartan. Everything was new to us so we were not complaining. After putting our luggage down, we explored the riad. We had access to the roof and it was gorgeous, with plush cushions and chairs to lounge around in the evening and night. The rooftop also offered great views and the sounds from the hustle and bustle of the Rabat Medina can be heard.
Rabat Medina and The Bou Rougreg river.
We had a few of daylight and made this opportunity to explore the Medina. By now, we were familiar to the sights and sounds of the medina. The crowd, the shops, the street food. It was a feast for the senses.
We made our way to the Bou Rougreg river, just outside the Medina. The river overlooks the Kasbah of the Udayas. A kasbah is essentially a fort, or a keep or a walled old city. There are numerous kasbahs all over Morocco. Some well-preserved, like the Kasbah of the Udayas. Others in the more rural parts of the country, are largely abandoned and in disrepair, when the family that owned the land and the structure for generations, could either no longer pay of the upkeep of such a sprawling building or no one within the family has offered to stay in such a building and left for the cities.
Along the river, we saw locals fishing and fishermen repairing their nets, locals and tourists alike strolling and just enjoying the sunset, taking picture sand selfies. There were also makeshift food stalls dotted all over the place, selling roasted peanuts and cotton candy, popular among the kids.
We got hungry and started looking for a good restaurant to eat.
We came across Dar El Medina Restaurant that Google Maps recommended to us. Its inside the Medina, but we did not know how to get there. Upon reaching the general area of the restaurant, we were met with various dead ends. We simply couldn’t find the entrance to the restaurant. I remember a random boy approaching us and asking us if we were finding Dar El Medina. We told him yes, and he simply led us to the restaurants.
One of the most fascinating things about the Medina and the locals living inside one is that they seem to know where they are going. As far as I could recall, there were hardly any formal signs and street names for the numerous alleyways inside the medina. It’s just one gigantic labyrinth. I guess you need to live your whole life in the medina, just like the locals do to really know your way around the medina.
Andalusian Garden and The Kasbah of the Udayas.
We made our way to the Kasbah of Udayas, but not before checking out the Andalusian Garden. Its a well tended garden at the foot of the Kasbah. We were there in the morning and the ait was clean and fresh. There were a lot of cats around the gardens, a number of them kittens and they did not seem to mind humans. We headed to Cafe Maure, a gorgeous cafe situated on the cliff side on the river’s edge and overlooking the Kasbah of the Udayas situated at the top of the hill. It was a gorgeous place to chill and have coffee. We had some sweet treats and interesting pastries along with our coffee and played with a couple of cats that sauntered past us from time to time.
The Kasbah of the Udayas is a World Heritage Site. The oldest structure in the kasbah is a mosque, dating back to the 10th century. In the alleyways, the buildings in the kasbah were primarily painted blue, great for selfies and Instagram worthy shots. Souvenir and artisanal shops including art galleries dotted the place. At the top of the kasbah, we were treated to scenic views of the river and the ocean. The place had this Dubrovnik vibe to it. For a moment it felt like you were in King’s Landing from The Game of Thrones.
Hassan Tower and Chellah
Hassan Tower and Chellah were two other popular tourist attractions in Rabat that we checked out. Hassan Tower is particularly interesting for me because it was supposed to be a mosque but it was never completed. Therefore, all you see are the half-built minaret, which was supposed to be the largest minaret if completed and the 384 columns that were left behind in different states of completion.
Despite it being half built and abandoned, it is a very interesting site. I could appreciate the potential for this place to house the world’s largest mosque if it had been completed in the 12 century. It could have been majestic in its own right. But alas, it the project was never completed. The site also housed the modern Mausoleum of Mohammed V, on the opposite end of Hassan Tower. It contains the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons. It is a beautiful white building featuring architectural features of the Alaouite dynasty with green tiled roof, representing the color of Islam.
Chellah is a Muslim necropolis, which was previously occupied by Roman settlers. The influences of Muslim occupation and Roman settlers made this site really unique. You can see ruined mosques with minarets erected on the site, and royal tombs now no longer occupied. On top of it all, you can ancient Roman architecture among the ruins. I have seen such Roman ruins while I was travelling to Turkey, Tunisia and I have always loved such sites. It is full of history.