Rabat: Chellah Gardens and Oudayas Kasbah
Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, is a popular destination for tourists who want to see some of the country’s main sights. Rabat replaced Fez as the official capital of Morocco, and is now the official home to King Mohammed VI’s Royal Palace. This attraction is a major draw, and you can view parts of the palace’s courtyards from an outside vantage point, but get too close and the guard’s will shun any attempts.
Located just 45 minutes north of Casablanca by train, Rabat has a much calmer feel. Its streets are clean, its medina relaxed, and the choices of restaurants astounding. The prices are steeper than in areas of Meknes and Fez and the cultural flare is not quite what it is in some of the other historically significant cities and towns.
Two of the most popular areas to visit near Rabat are the Chella Gardens and the Oudayas Kasbah. The Chella Gardens are referred to as the Necropolis of Chella since after it was abandoned around 1150 by the Romans who found other inland areas more profitable for their olive production. It was then an ancient cemetery for royalty, and later on, sultans added their own touch to the outer walls and inner sanctum, which overall, is still in great shape after nearly 800 years. Such additions were generally made to honor the dead.
The area has been converted into a series of gardens to help attract tourists, and the garden hides most of the obvious clues of the area’s past. The gardens are beautiful and display a wide variety of plant life, flowers, and colors. During the months of April and May, and before Rabat gets its summer heat, the gardens truly live up to their namesake. The cost of entrance is around 30 Moroccan dirhams per person, and a traveler could easily stroll around the area for an hour or two, or better yet, pack a lunch and picnic along the grounds freely.
The Oudayas Kasbah is so nice that foreigners are moving in and buying apartments by the handfuls. Its attraction lies in the fact that it is removed from the city, located across the street from the central medina, and is as easy going as any beach town. Most the houses in this area are bright white with blue trim, reminiscent of the colors found in Chefchaouen and Essaouira. Locals and tourists alike take leisurely strolls along the outer ramparts that look out over the Atlantic Ocean surrounding Bouregreg River and Rabat’s sister city, Sale.
Of the many advantages when visiting Rabat, the cuisine and plush accommodations also stand out. If you feel like spoiling yourself, upscale hotels offer a gamut of international foods. If you have had your fill of Moroccan tagines or couscous, then you can enjoy Asian or European dishes.
Rabat is an intriguing city, one which offers sites that no tourist or traveler should bypass when visiting Morocco. From the seaside strolls around the Oudayas Kasbah to admiring the beautiful Chella Gardens over the old necropolis, Rabat offers a wide variety of sights sounds, smells, and laid-back beach flavor that shouldn’t be skipped.