I recently spent four months studying in Rabat, Morocco on an exchange. One of the lesser known cities in Morocco, Rabat is usually bypassed for places like Fes or Marrakech. While both those cities are exciting in their own way, Rabat provides a quieter insight into everyday life in Morocco.
When to go:
Morocco sits on the edge of the Sahara desert, the largest desert in the world, and has extreme summer heat. Although visiting in the summer months is doable, it’s much preferable to travel here in early fall or spring. Avoid November travel or you might get caught in their short rainy season.
Grand Taxi: There are two types of taxis in Morocco. Grand Taxis are the larger white cars you will see, and drive between specific checkpoints around cities. They are also the only taxis authorized to leave a city’s limits. These taxis hold up to six people, and often will not leave until they are full (an exception being airport taxis).
Petit Taxi: These taxis are coloured depending on the city, and in Rabat they are blue. Petit Taxis hold up to 3 passengers, and take you anywhere within city limits. Make sure to agree upon a price before hand, or request to use the meter to ensure you get a fair price.
Tram: The tram is a recent addition to Rabat, and runs with two lines across the city. It costs 6dhm to ride the tram in one direction. It is generally clean, though it will get crowded at peak hours.
What to do:
Visit the Oudaya. The Kasbah des Oudayas is the oldest part of modern day Rabat, and looks over the city’s main beach. This walled fortress is painted entirely blue and white on the inside that make for great photos.
Get lost in the old Medina. The Medina is what exists from before European colonization, and is the most exciting part of the city. Wander down Rue Souqa to see how locals do their shopping, or head to Rue des Consuls to pick up artisan goods.
Explore the ancient Chellah ruins. The Chellah is located on the outskirts of the city, and is home to some of the oldest Roman ruins in North Africa. Enter through the big gate and get lost in the ruins piled upon ruins. This is a great photo-op.
Learn to surf at the Rabat-Plage The Rabat beach is not as well known as a destination for tourists, but the locals love it and you can too. Two surf clubs offer lessons and rentals, and if you’d rather stay on land there’s always a soccer game to join.
Take a walk through the Océan market. If you’re really adventurous, leave the tour books behind and head to the Océan neighbourhood, located along the water front west of the Oudaya. Here you’ll find a daily fruit, vegetable, spice, and poultry market stretching out along several blocks with the cheapest produce in town.
People watch at a Moroccan cafe. Nothing defines Moroccan culture quite like the coffee and tea drinking customs. Find yourself a nice cafe in a crowed area and order Cafe Nus-Nus (half & half) or Na-Na (Moroccan Mint tea).
Where to eat:
Dar Naji: Despite being a well-documented tourist spot, Dar Naji is a surprisingly good restaurant with delicious Moroccan food. Order the Poulet au Citron tagine for a sweet and savory treat, or come on Fridays at noon for the famous Cous-Cous Tefaya. Before leaving, order a glass of tea and you’ll be amazed at the presentation.
Yamal Asham: So this one isn’t Moroccan food, but it never fails to disappoint. Yamal Asham, located just by Bad al-Had Medina entrance, is some of the most delicious Syrian food I’ve ever tasted. Order Jus de Citron à la Menthe and browse the menu for endless delicious options. If you’re looking for something sweet, the balkava is impossibly good.
Street Food: Street food can be found all over Rabat, but the best comes from the heart of the Medina. Buy a 5dhm sandwich (roughly 60 cents) made with Moroccan khubz bread, pick up a handful of samosas, or devour a freshly fried doughnut, and you’ll be glad you did.
Patisserie: There are hundreds of little patisserie sprinkled around Rabat filled to the brim with cookies and other treats. Stop by and pick up a collection of goodies. For a Moroccan specialty, try Chebakia, a pastry cooked in honey and covered in sesame seeds.
Home Cooked Meal: If you’re lucky, you’ll get invited to a home cooked meal at a Moroccan’s house, and this is by far the best food you will eat on your trip. From Tagine to Couscous, they’ll take excellent care of you. Don’t be surprised if they eat with their hands, or if they expect you to. They will be eager to feed you, so if you’re unable to force any more food in, you can say, “Safi, shbat” which roughly translates to “that’s enough, I’m full.”