Rabat, Morocco sits on the Western coast of North Africa. Slightly north of Casablanca, and west of Fez, Rabat feels calm for a city of well over a million. The fifth-largest city in Morocco and the capital of Morocco since independence in 1956, it is sort of an in-between city; not quite as cosmopolitan as Casablanca, not quite as touristed as Fes and Marrakesh, and less hectic than Tangier. But with lovely sites and scenery, it is a pleasant place to spend some time. Settled as early as the 8th century, BC by Phoenicians and Romans, it outlasted the empire and became the home to Berbers. The city takes its name from the ribat, or “fortified place”, the fortress that the Berbers built on the Northern shore, which later became a kasbah. Over the centuries, the area saw waves of popularity, becoming home to many different groups, including the Almohads, Muslim refugees and pirates. Because it is bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean, it was an excellent spot for war campaigns, shipping, and yes, looting. Now, there are several beaches, particularly good for surfing, since the waves are untempered by a bay or much of a breakwater.
On the Northern tip of the city lies the Kasbah of the Oudaias, the site of the original ribat, now mostly residential. Just across the Bou Regreg river lies the city of Salé. Through the centuries, power often changed hands between the cities. Now, a tram runs neatly between them.
As you can see from the fog blanketing the Kasbah, the Atlantic Ocean plays a large part in the climate. This was quite an unusual amount of fog, and, although winter can be wet and chilly, March has been sunny and a warm 68 degrees.
Just below the Kasbah is the Medina, or old city, the quietest , most well-laid out medina that I’ve seen (not that I’m particularly an expert, I grant you). To the south of the medina is the new city, where most restaurants, cafes and business occurs. Below that are more residential neighborhoods, including the one we are staying in, as well as Mechouar where the Royal Palace is, and the wealthy Agdal. The new-ish tram system provides fast, easy, affordable (one ride is 6 dirhams, about 74 cents) transport to most of the city.
The main sites of the city which we will be exploring are the Kasbah, which is also the site of the Andalusian gardens, the Tour Hassan and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, where the previous two kings are buried, and the ancient Roman site of Chellah. There is also a very good archeology museum, and even a zoo.