Thanks to all my long weekends and the affordability of the rail and bus systems here, this semester has given me lots of opportunity to travel and see different parts of Morocco. However, I have loved just as much, and sometimes more, the time I have spent just exploring Rabat. And while visiting the famous Hassan tower and the Mausoleum, exploring the Kasbah of the Oudayas (old fortress), and shopping in the old medina are fun must-do’s in Rabat, there is so much more I love in this city. Here is a list, in no particular order, of the things we love to do and see in Rabat, big and small:
- Walk (or taxi) along the coastal road – especially just before or just after sunset
The last few weeks of my internship, our taxi drivers started taking us back to the old medina by way of the road along the coast. At 8pm, right around sunset, the view of the horizon and the waves is incredible. The road is just separated from the water by sidewalk and a little bit of space where there are occasional soccer fields or parking lots. I’m still meaning to take a walk along the sidewalk there, but I looked forward to that drive home every Monday and Wednesday night just to watch the huge waves crash on the seawall all the way home.
- Get some melwi with jam and cheese or amalou from the hanoot two blocks down from the IES Abroad center.
At one point, melwi runs were a daily occurrence among us IES Abroad students. The flat, fried dough is a perfect anytime snack and the combination of jam and cheese is unbeatable. Unless you’re a peanut butter fan, in which case amalou can fill the peanut butter-shaped hole in an American abroad’s heart. Amalou is a mixture of ground almonds, honey, and argan oil, originating from the southern region of Morocco around Agadir.
This is one that’s on guidebook lists, but still not all of us knew about it even after living here for a while. Chellah is a site of old ruins, including both Roman ruins and Islamic ruins, and also has a lovely garden, lots of cats, and a resident stork population. Watching the storks fly over and build their nests on top of the remainders of a minaret is a fun way to spend some time, and if the weather is nice I would say there’s probably few better places to pass the afternoon.
- Take part in les Journées du Patrimoine du Rabat-Salé
These heritage days are held once a year by the organization Rabat-Salé Memoire, so if you’re lucky enough to be in Rabat when it’s happening in the spring, take advantage. There are many free tours offered in different parts of Rabat and the neighboring city of Salé, as well as different kinds of activities and workshops. I unfortunately missed these events because I was travelling but they were recommended highly by my friend and fellow blogger Yu Chen (check out his blog for IES Abroad!)
Morocco has adopted a French form of fast food that is basically a panini-pressed burrito with fries inside but has been labeled “taco”. It may sound strange but they are delicious. You can get them all over Rabat, but my favorite so far has been from a place across from the Rabat train station incongruously named “Italia fast food”.
- Go to the Language Café at the Café 7ième Art
Every Wednesday at 6:30 (though I’ve been told it doesn’t actually start until 7:00), this café in central Rabat hosts an event where Moroccans and foreigners can get together to practice different languages. This is another recommendation from Yu Chen, and I have yet to attend. This seems like it would be a good way to make friends with some locals and have more chance to practice Darija, and I really wish I had known about it sooner!
- Hang out at a café in Agdal and go shopping at LC Waikiki
If the medina is the center of traditional life in Rabat then Agdal is the neighborhood where hip, young people go to be young and hip. There are several cool cafés, and though generally more expensive than the ones near the medina, they tend to have better atmospheres for studying and working. Agdal also hosts Rabat’s branch of LC Waikiki, a Turkish clothing store that seems to me to be MENA’s answer to H&M. While prices are more consistent with American and European prices, they are fixed, which is a relief when you’re new to the bargaining culture.
- Walk along the riverside and take a boat across to the Salé marina
The promenade along the river in Rabat offers beautiful views of the Oudaya, and there are several cafés serving yummy crepes. If you want to head across the river to walk along the (very posh) Salé marina, you can catch a ride on one of the many little rowboats that go back and forth. It costs about 6 dh a person, one way, and the boatman will wait until the boat fills up to row across. The views of the Oudaya are even more beautiful from the middle of the river.
- Watch the sunset on the beach
This is possibly my favorite thing to do in Rabat. Coming from the East coast, I don’t often get to watch the sun set over the ocean. The Kasbah always looks beautiful, illuminated by the rays of the setting sun, and the crashing waves and the old lighthouse standing against the horizon make for a beautiful tableau.