A Perfect Combination of Old and New

Rabat is not only the capital of Morocco, but is also rated as “the best” Moroccan city by many travelers. Far smaller than Casablanca, and not as culturally diverse as Merrakesh, Rabat is none-the-less a hit with Europeans and other visitors the world over; thanks to the city’s seamless mix of old and new.

Rabat has acted as a turn-style over the millennium, as a who’s who of invaders has breached the city walls since the 12th century in search of a strategic retreat. Yacoub El Mansour, the Almohad, set up his tents there. Later the Merinids left their stamp when they raised the necropolis of Chellah upon the ancient Roman city of Sala. In the heart of the city stands the Tour Hassan, the last remains of an unfinished mosque. Behind its marble columns, the Mohammed V Mausoleum calls out for solemn respect and peaceful contemplation.

Built on the banks of the Bou Regreg estuary, Rabat spreads its arms to visitors to Morocco with a variety of flower-decked promenades all within earshot of the Ocean. There remain many buildings from Rabat’s golden age that bear ample witness to its proud history as an imperial city. Meanwhile in the maze of streets making up the Oudaïas Kasbah, Islamic art rubs shoulders with the modern city of today. The result is a glittering mosaic, enticing passers-by and daring them to come to play the game of buy and barter. Facing the city on the opposite side of the Oued, the stunning white medina of Salé – Sala Al Jadida – is a treasure-trove of intricate works of art.

The garden of Rabat-Salé, planted and adorned with flowers from all corners of the world, creates a labyrinth of pathways and footbridges in a truly exotic setting. Connected to Rabat by a bridge, Salé typifies the character of many small Islamic towns with its bustling markets, sun-drenched squares and quiet streets, while it’s more recently constructed offerings of international shops and restaurants attest to the fact that Rabat’s feet are firmly planted in the future.