The Capital City of Morocco, Rabat is situated on the Country’s Atlantic Coast at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. There is a very impressive marina on the river where several of the city’s historical sites are positioned. In relative terms Rabat is a new city though Sale on the other bank of the river dates backs back much longer; it is now largely a commuter town. While Rabat flourished in the 12th Century the death of Yacoub al-Mansour saw its gradual decline until in the 16th Century it is reported that there were only perhaps 100 homes. When the Moors were driven from Spain Rabat began to grow once more though it had a history of piracy even into the 19th Century.
Rabat is perhaps slightly overshadowed by other cities in Morocco that are better known to tourists; Casablanca, Marrakesh and Fez come to mind immediately. However Rabat is a fairly laid back city, a feature that sometimes does not apply to the bustling lifestyle in those aforementioned cities. Certainly people who want to get to know Morocco well should certainly include its capital on their itinerary.
Transport in Rabat
Rabat is the capital city of Morocco, but Casablanca is the real hub of the country. The national airline is based in Casablanca, and the main train station of the country is there too. This makes Rabat a little bit more difficult to get to, and so the most viable options for transport are either by train, bus or taxi. You can take the train from Tangier and Casablanca, although be aware that punctuality is a big issue with the national rail operator – ONCF. The safety issues with Moroccan buses are well detailed elsewhere on the internet, so in this article we will focus on taking a grand taxi.
Taxis in Rabat
Although Rabat is a bit more laid-back than other Moroccan cities like Casablanca, Marrakech or Fez, you will quickly see that this is not the case on the roads, and the traffic is just as chaotic here as it is elsewhere in the country. Taking a petit taxi in the city is probably the best way to get around, and taking a grand taxi for intercity transfers is also probably the best option. This is fine for short journeys, but if you are planning on taking a longer taxi trip, such as from Rabat to Marrakech or Rabat to Chefchaouen, you may find a grand taxi particularly uncomfortable since they do not have air-conditioning and you may be sharing with 6 other people.
If you’re going to take a grand taxi, use our Moroccan taxi fare estimator to see what sort of price you should be paying for intercity transfers.
We’ve calculated the fares of some popular routes below:
Rabat to Casablanca: 310dhs (about €30)
Rabat to Meknes: 720dhs (about €70)
Rabat to Fez: 990dhs (about €95)
Rabat to Tangier: 1200dhs (about €110)
Rabat to Marrakech: 1550dhs (about €145)
On popular routes like Rabat to Chefchaouen, prices are probably fixed well above what the locals pay, and so you should bargain hard to make sure you are not paying over the going rate. These prices do not include a tip, and are to be used only as a guide. You may find you pay more or less, depending on how well you can haggle in Morocco. You also need to take into account other factors, such as the time of day, and any public holidays or celebrations that may be taking place while you are in Morocco. Rabat is not the worst city with regard to tourist overcharging since it is much more laid-back than other places, but you should still be aware and use our calculator before agreeing a price with a driver. Remember – taxi drivers in Morocco work for themselves, so if one driver is too expensive, find another one and negotiate.
In addition, there are a small number of companies that offer private transport within Morocco. You can expect to pay slightly more than for a grand taxi, but the vehicles are new, air-conditioned and normally have English-speaking drivers. Find out more about private transport in Morocco.
There is no need to rush in Rabat. Indeed it is a real pleasure to walk around with sunset by the Ocean a particular delight especially are a day seeing the many sites that Rabat has to offer. The Old Town is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and after you have walked around it you will understand why.
Sights Not to Miss
Kasbah des Oudaias is in the old part of Rabat and provides great views from on high down to the river and sea. It is primarily a residential area of whitewashed houses in narrow streets. The houses date back to the time when Muslims returned from Spain. Entry to the Kasbah via the late 12th Century Almohad Gate is especially impressive and the city’s old mosque from the 12th Century and restored in the 18th is on the left a short walk away.
Chellah was built by the Phoenicians and conquered by the Romans before Arabs ever arrived. It was subsequently abandoned to become a home for birds; the storks nest are a hive of activity from spring onwards. Some impressive ruins still remain within this abandoned area, notably the minaret with the stork’s nest atop. The atmosphere is still great despite the desertion. There are fruit trees and wild flowers and the smells of olive, fig and orange test the senses further
Mausoleum of Mohammad V near the Hassan Tower is in marble, traditional Moroccan style. It contains the remains of the present king’s father and grandfather.
Archaeology Museum chronicles the Country’s history though the labelling is only in Arabic and French. The highlights include ceramics and artefacts from Roman times in the Salle des Bronzes.
Le Tour Hassan is Rabat’s most prominent landmark. It was originally the intention to build a mosque to match any in the Islamic World but its creator Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour died before the 60 metre minaret was finished so it stayed at 44 metres. An earthquake in the mid-18th Century resulted in what is there today; a pile of shattered pillars.
Musee des Oudaias contains some wonderful pieces of Moroccan jewellery.
Moroccan Museum of Money chronicles Moroccan history through coins from the days of the Romans to the present day. There is an art section well worth some of your time.
Any traveller to places such as Moroccan is likely to want to really get to know the Country. One way to help do that in Rabat is to take an eco-tour into the rural surroundings. It will include historical and cultural aspects as well as introducing people to village life today, to farms and local craftsmen. There is the chance to enjoy local produce and just experience how life is today for the locals.
Sometimes it is just nice to sit and relax. There are cafes in the Kasbah where you can simply watch the world go by and one with great views out to sea. Buy the mint tea and the famous sweet delicacies found everywhere in Rabat. You have to eat somewhere and Morocco’s fine cuisine ensures it is a pleasure.