Rabat had been Morocco’s coastal capital city since 1912. It is also the country’s political and administrative capital, where it is home to many foreign embassies. Visiting the city of Rabat will feel very different than other bustling Moroccan cities, but nonetheless, you will discover there are many historical landmarks that are worth visiting. The following are just some of the must-see attractions in Rabat:
Located beside the Atlantic Ocean, you will want to visit Rabat’s Kasbah district and enter inside the 11th-century fortress walls. Enter through the Bab Oudaia, the grand door which is the main gateway into the Kasbah and built by the Almohad Sultan, Yacoub al Mansour, in the year 1195.
Once inside the Kasbah, there is a small neighborhood that makes the perfect place for you to take a stroll through its beautiful white and blue whitewashed alleyways. Here you will also find the oldest mosque in Rabat, the Kasbah Mosque which was constructed in 1150. When you walk to the far end of the Kasbah, there is a large open space that offers a picturesque panoramic view of the nearby city of Salé and the Atlantic Ocean.
Interesting fact: The outside of this Kasbah was one of the film locations in the movie Mission Impossible V: Rogue Nation where Tom Cruise drove a BMW M3 in a car chase scene.
Within the Oudaias Kasbah, just south of Bab Ouadaia (the main gateway), are the Oudaias Museum and the Andalusian Gardens.
The palace was built in the 17th century by Moulay Ismail, the first Almohad sultan to unify the country. The palace was the first Rabat residence of Moulay Ismail. Today, the palace is home to the Oudaias Museum. Exhibits of Moroccan crafts, art, and culture are showcased inside private quarters, reception rooms and halls within the palace itself. Take your time to learn and appreciate traditional Moroccan arts and culture including handmade oriental rugs, jewelry, pottery, musical instruments, Moroccan decors, customs and rituals, etc.
The Andalusian Gardens lie just outside in the old palace grounds. This beautiful garden was constructed by the French in the 20th century. Take your time to walk through this garden to enjoy the fragrant smell and to admire the colorful variety of flowers, oleanders, orange, lemon, banana, and daturas. This garden provides great shades making it a beautiful spot for a stroll to escape from the summer heat.
The Hassan Tower, also known as Tour Hassan, is the minaret of an unfinished mosque in Rabat. In 1195, Sultan Yacub al-Mansour began his grand vision of building the largest minaret and mosque in the world. However, the construction was put to a halt upon his death in the year 1199.
It is worth visiting the Hassan Tower to see the remains of the incomplete construction. The first building you will notice is the incomplete minaret tower which stands at a height of 44 m (140 ft), reaching nearly half of its intended height of 86 m (260 ft). Standing in front of the tower lies 200 columns as the foundation of the incomplete mosque. Remnants of the wall at Hassan Tower can be seen as well.
The Mausoleum of King Mohammed V is located in the same premise as the unfinished Hassan Tower, which was also the same location where thousands of Moroccans gathered to thank Allah for giving independence to their country upon the King’s return from exile in Madagascar. You must be dressed appropriately with shoulders and knees covered if you you wish to enter the mausoleum. Once inside, you will be able to view the tomb chamber from the upper level and also marvel at the Moroccan traditional design of the interior of the mausoleum.
There is also an adjoining mosque in the same premise, but non-Muslims will not be allowed to enter.
The Chellah is both an ancient Roman ruin and an Islamic burial ground. The Phoenicians were the first settlers on this site, but the Romans seized control in about AD 40 and established the town of Sala Colonia here. Roman remains of the main road, Jupiter temple, arch, bath and forum can still be seen today. In the year 1154, the Romans abandoned this town and resettled in Salé across the river. In the 14th century, the Merenid sultan Abou al-Hassan Ali constructed a necropolis (Islamic burial place), a mosque, a medersa (Islamic institute), a minaret, and an ornamental pool at this abandoned Roman site. He also constructed a defensive wall to fortify and protect this necropolis.
When you visit Chellah Necropolis today, it is a common sight to see stork nests occupying the top of the ruined minaret.
Dâr-al-Makhzen is the primary and official residence of the king of Morocco. Visitors are not permitted to enter the royal palace. Visitors may only walk in the front area to take a picture of the front palace entrance. There is not much for visitors to explore outside the Royal Palace since the real beauty lies within the palace interior.