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Things to Do in Rabat

The laid-back Moroccan capital of Rabat is all too often overlooked in favor of its more vibrant neighbors, but the coastal city is more than just a political and administrative center and makes a worthwhile day trip from nearby Casablanca or Fez. Without the frantic traffic jams and frenzied souks that characterize many of Morocco’s big cities, Rabat feels more like a provincial town than a bustling city, but this polite and self-effacing nature is all part of its charm.

This is a city where it’s easy to explore on foot, strolling along the tree-lined boulevards of the French Centreville; shopping for souvenirs and sampling local cuisine in the medina’s many shops and restaurants; and taking in the views from the cliff-top Kasbah of the Udayas. Other key attractions include the landmark Hassan Tower, the lone-standing minaret of Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour’s unfinished mosque; the opulent Rabat Royal Palace; and the Roman ruins of Chellah.
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Hassan Tower (Tour Hassan)
57 Tours and Activities

Rising above the northeastern corner of Rabat, Hassan Tower(Tour Hassan) stands as a visual promise of what the city’s historic residents hoped it to be: a grand city, even a capital city (which it now is). Its construction began in 1195 during the Almohad Dynasty, and it was built as part of a larger mosque, which was meant to be the largest in the world.

But alas, when the sultan passed away, work on the project came to an end, leaving the mosque unfinished, and its minaret – the tower – standing only 44 meters high (some say half as high as it would have been). Then, come an earthquake in 1755, the incomplete mosque was further destroyed. Today, though, you can still see the surviving, sandstone Hassan Tower, along with the mosque’s remains, such as the columns and walls. Other highlights while here include impressive city and sea views, as well as a visit to the nearby, free-to-enter Mausoleum of Mohammed V.

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Kasbah of the Udayas (Casbah des Oudaïas)
32 Tours and Activities

On your visit to Rabat’s medina, take a few steps farther north to explore the 12th-century Kasbah of the Udayas (Casbah des Oudaïas or Kasbah les Oudaias), the city’s oldest quarter, which was built during the Almohad dynasty. The tightly packed neighborhood has evolved through the centuries, with many of its signature, whitewashed and blue-based houses built by Moroccan refugees from Spain during the 16th century.

Today, there are many highlights to behold during a visit to Rabat’s wall- and tower-surrounded Kasbah. Entrance through the grand 12th-century Almohad gate of Bab Oudaia hints at the discoveries to come, including a walk down the neighborhood’s main street Rua Jamaa and past the city’s oldest mosque, El Atiqa; a visit to the palace-located Museum of Oudayas; and especially the unparalleled views of the river and sea (and inviting shoreline), best taken in from the various terraces.

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Mausoleum of Mohammed V (Mausolée de Mohammed V)
36 Tours and Activities

Across from Rabat’s sky-reaching and unfinished Hassan Tower, sits an equally visit-worthy structure, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V (Mausolée de Mohammed V). The building was constructed between 1962 and 1971 on the order of the late King Hassan II for his father, Mohammed V. Now it is the resting place of not only its namesake but also his sons, including the one who commissioned it.

The exterior is simple yet stunning, with a green-tiled roof; the building’s entrance protected by handsomely dressed royal guards. The interior, on the other hand, exudes nothing but royalty, featuring marble floors, and walls of elaborate mosaics, and gilt and carved wood. The tombs, which are situated on the lower level, are the centerpiece, and can be viewed from the balcony above. There’s more than just the mausoleum to see here too; visitors should plan to explore the entire grounds of Yacoub Al Mansour Square, which is home to not only Hassan Tower, but also the remains of an ancient, never-completed grand mosque.

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