Holiday in Rabat, capital of Morocco
In 1912, General Lyautey chose Rabat as the capital of the French Protectorate in Morocco. Rabat, the fourth imperial city of the kingdom after Fez, Meknes and Marrakech, remained the capital of the Cherifian kingdom after its independence in 1956.
The administrative center under the Protectorate, Rabat has become a modern city very pleasant and much calmer than Casablanca. A number of its historic sites, including the new city, the Kasbah of the Udayas, the Chellah site, the Hassan Tower and the Mohammed V mausoleum, have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a cultural property since 2012.
Its extension next to the old medina forms today most of the current Hassan district. Among other things, there is the great Mohammed V Avenue linking the medina, which it crosses from north to south, to the Royal Palace, this major avenue of the imperial city is lined in its new part with big shops, cinemas, cafés-restaurants.
The big post office and the central railway station, the big banks, are also located here. The avenue’s medieval medieval site, with the freshness of its fountains, benches and numerous palm trees, has become, especially on summer evenings, the meeting place for many lowly families who have to spend their lawns.
The boulevard Hassan II runs along the Andalusian wall that separates the medina from the new city.
Perpendicular, the boulevard Hassan II.
Bordered by the Bouregreg in the north, it is protected by various historic walls: those of the Kasbah of the Oudayas, to the east by the Almohades walls and to the south by the Andalusian wall.
Less touristy than the medinas of Marrakech or Fez, it is all the more attractive because of its authenticity. Crossing it in its width from the covered market to Bab el Bahr near the river bank, the shopkeeper on Souika Street spreads out her food stalls and popular restaurants.
On the left before arriving at this gate is the rue des Consuls, named after the residences of the foreign representations it housed until the last century.
On the right, leaning against the Andalusian walls, the mellah of Rabat was built in 1808 under the reign of Sultan Moulay Slimane above the cliffs overlooking Bouregreg. A decision that forced a Jewish population of 6,000 people to leave the El Beheira district, in the upper part of Consuls Street, where it had an important role in the trade and administration of the port.
The Kasbah of Oudayas
The Kasbah was founded in the 12th century by the Almoravids on a site occupied since Roman times. Overlooking the mouth of the Bouregreg, it took on importance under the Almohades who made it a ribat, a fortress which, named Mediya, served as an advanced base for the conquest of Al Andalus.
The kasbah will then be invested by the Moriscans expelled from Spain who gave birth to the Republic of Bouregreg after independence.
This ephemeral republic was famous for the tireless privateers who chased the Christians and sometimes ventured as far as Iceland or Newfoundland on board their ships. It was in the nearby square of the souk El Ghazal where they sold the Christian prisoners they had captured during their maritime rezzou.
The Alaouites later had a palace built there before the Oudayas, a dissident Arabic-speaking tribe, were expelled from the surroundings of Fez and sent to the kasbah to which it gave its definitive name. < p>
You can enter through the Great Oudayas Gate or through the small door at the bottom, which overlooks the Andalusian Garden.
Located to the west of mellah on the banks of the Bouregreg, the ruins of the mosque wanted by Yacoub Mansour to be one of the most impressive in the Muslim world, destroyed during the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, will remain unfinished.
The Hassan Tower minaret, as it is known, was used for a long time as a navigator’s landmark. There is the mausoleum of Muhammad V, where the deceased King lies next to his two sons, King Hassan II who died in 1999 and his brother Moulay Abdallah.
The Necropolis of Chellah
The necropolis of Chellah was built in the 13th century on the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Salé Colonia in order to shelter the tombs of the Marinid Sultans.
The first Merinid Sultan, Abu Youssef Yacoub, erected a mosque in which he was buried with his wife in 1286 and then four of his successors.
In 1339, Sultan Abu al-Hassan, who wanted to make it a necropolis, protected it with walls that were crossed by a sumptuous restored octagonal doorway overlooking a paved path, lined with various and fragrant species and flowers. Located to the south of the city, outside the Almohad ramparts, it was then abandoned by the sultans who preferred Fez.
Falling into ruins, hit by the earthquake of 1755, it was the target of many looters.
It is at nightfall that the spectacle offered by these places imbued with legends becomes magical. The white marble stele of Abu al-Hassan and that of his wife Shems al-Doha,” Sun of the Morning”, a Christian converted to Islam, can be admired here, and the Moroccans, who call her Lalla Chellah, still worship her eight centuries later.
Access: Chellah El Youssoufia district, 2 km from the city centre. Open daily from 8:30 a. m. to 6:30 p. m., 5:30 p. m. in winter. Admission: 1 €. Guide: count from 8 to 10 €.
The seaside resorts that extend to the south-west of Rabat offer a large number of beaches, Harhoura, Granville, Smugglers, Sable d’ or, Sable d’ or, along the coastal road that has a nice ledge in Temara.
These beaches stretch for about forty kilometers to Skhirat and its beautiful beach of Rose-Marie. To the north, they extend beyond Salé to Sidi Bouknadel and the Mehdiya-beach in Kenitra.
History of Rabat
Founded on the left bank of the mouth of the oued Bouregreg river by Sultan Almohad Abd al-Moumin in 1150, instead of an Almoravid fortress, the city is first endowed with a citadel (the present-day Kasbah of the Udayas), a mosque and a residence.
The young city will take the name of Ribat al-Fath, the “fortress of victory”. Later, his grandson, Yacoub al-Mansour, enlarged the city and built it with imposing walls with monumental gates to use it as a base for expeditions to Andalusia.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Rabat, also known as Salé-le-Neuf, saw the influx of many refugees expelled from Andalusia give it a new impetus and became the seat of a city-state, the Republic of Bouregreg, until the advent of the Alaouites who seized the Bouregreg estuary in 1666.
It was under the reign of the Alawite Sultan Mohammed III (1757-1790) that Rabat became an imperial city. One of his successors, Moulay Slimane took the decision to stop the’ barbarian race’, piracy, leading to the maritime decline of the city.
In 1912, the French protectorate installed, General Lyautey, faced with the rebellion of many tribes in the Fez region, decided to make it the capital of the protectorate, the sultan of the time, Moulay Youssef, will reside there some time later.
Following the report requested from the urban planner and landscape architect Jean Claude Forestier on the urban development of Moroccan cities, Lyautey will have the French architect Henri Prost draw a” new city” that will house the European population and the political and administrative institutions.
Dar el Makhzen. The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is also the seat of government. Built in 1864, it was built on the ruins of an ancient royal palace. Two thousand people living and working there, his visit is forbidden for obvious security reasons.
Only accredited persons have access to these places where the royal family, whose official residence is located in Dar Essalam, next to Rabat, sometimes resides. In front of the palace door is the Méchouar, a vast square on which the main feasts in honor of the King take place.
Archaeological Museum of Rabat
Recently renamed the Museum of the History of Civilizations following renovation works and its reopening in April 2017, the Archaeological Museum is located in a 1930 building designed according to the plans of a Roman villa.
The museum’s vocation is to show the history of Morocco from prehistory to modern times through a permanent exhibition retracing the Punic, Roman and pre-Islamic periods.
While most of the exhibits are from Volubilis archaeological excavations begun in 1915 at the initiative of General Lyautey, some of the pieces are from the sites of Banasa, Thamusida and Lixus, ancient Roman cities all situated in the north-western part of Morocco between the Atlantic and the Rifan hills.
Among the museum’s flagship pieces: the famous’ Volubilis Dog’,’ The ivy-crowned ephebe’ or the’ Old fisherman’ with his red iron-scarred chest, magnificent busts including that of Juba II as well as plates engraved by Marcus Aurelius whose declaration of Roman citizenship to a Berber chief:”without being carried”
Access: Rue Al-Brihi. Open every day except Tuesday. Admission: 1 €.
Bordered by the Andalusian garden of the Kasbah des Oudayas, very pleasant, this one has a zelliges paved courtyard in the middle of which a marble fountain thrones.
The museum occupies the former residence of Moulay Ismaïl (1645-1727), built in the 17th century. Renovated in 1995, a room now presents an old Moroccan interior with sofas covered with silk and gold cushions.
The other rooms present a rich collection of jewellery tracing the history of jewelry from prehistoric times to the present day. Traditional costumes, potteries and superb illuminated Qur’ anes dating back several centuries are also on display. Numerous carpets, their manufacture is also a speciality of Rabat, including Berber carpets, complete this visit of the Oudayas museum.
Access: Kasbah des Oudayas, at the corner of Al Marsa and Laalou avenues. Open from 8:30 a. m. to 4:30 p. m. every day except Tuesday. Admission: 1 €.
Museum of the Mint
From the roman aureus to the almoravid dinar and the dirham idrisside, the money museum is a must-see for the numismatics of passage in Rabat.
The Currency Museum was created in 1992 in a former Bank Al-Maghrib building with an original collection mainly acquired in 1947. Over the years, the museum’s collection has been enriched with more than 30,000 coins and documents relating to the history of money in Morocco. The exhibits are perfectly illuminated and the museum is full of quotations on silver.
Access: Angle Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah and Rue Al-Qahira
Open Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 5:30 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 12 noon and then from 3 pm. to 6 pm. Sundays from 9 am to 1 pm.
Entrance: 2€, groups: 1€, free on Fridays and students upon presentation of a card.
Bab Er- Rouah Gallery
At the end of the ancient Avenue de la Victoire, Bab Er-Rouah is the largest of the Almohad gates. Among those erected at that time, it is also the best designed and preserved.
Monumental gate flanked by two prominent towers. Since 2002, the gallery has hosted national and international exhibitions of contemporary art since 2001.
Access: 1, Avenue de la Victoire. Tramway: Bab Rouah.
Urban Forest Ibn Sina” Hilton”
In the Upper Agdal district, with its pine and eucalyptus plantations, it is the green lung of the city.
It is also called “Hilton Forest” because of its proximity to the former Sofitel settlement. The park is frequented, especially in summer, by sportsmen and women running on the long trails that have been laid out there, but also by families, by modest lovers who come to take refuge in the shade of its tall trees.
The park opens at 5:30 am (6 a. m. during Ramadan) and closes its doors at sunset. Attention to the closing time: no reminders from the guards.
Access: Ahmed Balafrej Avenue.
Nouzhat Hassan, the Garden of the View Triangle
Between the medina and the new city, the’ Garden of the View Triangle’ has welcomed, since its creation in 1924, generations of Rbatis who have come to seek a bit of freshness.
Discharged from the large bus depot on Hassan II Avenue, he has recently been groomed to seduce the more frequent walkers who come to rest outside the horns.
Garni of a great variety of trees, some very old, by many palm trees and endowed with retro benches of the 1930s scattered along the alleys bordered by vast lawns, Nouzahat Hassan park extends its 4 hectares in front of the Andalusian wall.
Access: Avenue Hassan II. Tramway: Bab Chellah. Open from 8 am to 6 pm.
Salé is connected to Rabat by a long cable-stayed bridge on the north bank of the oued Bouregreg, inaugurated in 2016 by King Mohammed VI. This 950-metre structure is the longest cable-stayed bridge in Africa.
Salé was founded in the 11th century under the Ifrénides dynasty. The medina is the oldest of the Moroccan Atlantic coast.
Often mistakenly considered to be a dormitory suburb of his rival, his souks, enriched with numerous monuments erected during the Almohad and then Merinid reigns, count as being among the most authentic of the Cherifian kingdom.
The craft industry is the most important economic sector, making Salé a city renowned for its portraits, woodworking, leatherwork and basketry.
The beaches of Rabat-Salé
They extend from Bouznika, 42 km south of Rabat to Mehdiya beach near Kenitra, about 40 km from Rabat. Among the most famous are those of Rose-Marie-Plage in Skhirat, Smugglers and Sable d’ Or in Temara, all south of Rabat.
The beaches of Rabat-city and Salé-city, then to the north, those of the Beach of Nations in Sidi Bouknadel despite its dangerousness and that of Mehdiya-beach, family and surfer.
Forêt de la Maâmora
Located between Rabat-Salé and Kenitra, the Maamora cork oak forest is the largest cork oak forest in Morocco. The name Maâmora comes from its fruiting acorns, whose quality was appreciated up to the Spanish court.
In 2003, only 50,000 hectares of the original 130,000 hectares of the original forest at the beginning of the 20th century remained.
This large forest near the ocean is crossed by numerous trails used by shepherds and men harvesting cork.
Its northern part, the most exposed to wild urbanization, has been replanted with eucalyptus, pine or acacia trees. It is in the royal reserve of Ain Johra, formerly the residential hunting ground of Marshal Lyautey to the east of the forest, that its oldest trees have kept most of their majesty.
Access: from Kenitra via coastal road N1 or R405, from Salé via N1 or P4006 and P4043.
Called Port Lyautey from 1932 until the independence of Morocco in 1956, Kenitra is a young town dating from 1912, only a kasbah with square towers was present before that time, guarding the south bank of the wadi Sebou.
It is the capital of Gharb, it is the fourth largest industrial city in Morocco. On the main Casa/Rabat/Tangiers/Europe road, Kenitra is a mandatory stop for international buses providing connections between major Moroccan and European cities.
The city without much interest, its inhabitants take refuge from the first sunny days in the nearby seaside resort of Mehdya-plage.
Known to be the cradle of surfing in Morocco, the beach welcomes beautiful ocean rolls. On weekends, it is the meeting point for many families who like to take refuge there, especially in the shade of the eucalyptus trees bordering the lake of the Sidi Bourgaba National Park south of the beach.
In the XIIth century a shipyard was built there to exploit the cork oak of the Maamora forest and Yacoub el Mansour then built a kasbah there.
Mehdiya was once a pirate lair, coveted by the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch, and was occupied and destroyed several times, then finally recuperated by the Alawite Sultan Moulay Ismaïl before slipping into oblivion. When the French protectorate entered in 1911, only a few hundred people lived in ruins.
Sidi Bourgaba nature reserve Bourgaba
At the gates of Mehdiya, the reserve is home to several endangered species such as the cape owl, among its eucalyptus and red juniper forest, and is also a refuge for many migratory birds between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
Picnic areas are set up on the shores of the lake inside the reserve.
Access: about 2 km from Mehdiya on the Rabat-Kenitra road. By the beach of Mehdiya.