Rabat is the capital of Morocco in North Africa. It is the country’s second largest city after Casablanca. It is located on the Atlantic Ocean and has over 2 million inhabitants. It is where the government is located as well as the residence of the King of Morocco.
The city itself has a vast history but only a short one as a capital. It was designated as such by the French in 1912 and remained the capital as per the King’s wishes after independence in 1956. The commercial capital is based in Casablanca, the port city on the south also on the Atlantic shores.
Rabat is the capital and second largest city of Morocco
As opposed to other Moroccan cities, Rabat is not so crowded and built in a pleasant way with wide boulevards outdoors cafes and elegant upper and middle classes that live and work in the city.
As it happens with other Moroccan cities it is divided into two, the old Medina or walled city and the Ville Nouvelle or new city built by the French during the occupation. Arabic is the main language and French occupies an important second place. You practically hear both languages on the streets in Rabat.
Most visitors will arrive into Casablanca International Airport, like we did and after visiting the city may arrive by road or train to the capital in about an hour. Rabat has a small airport called Sale Airport just outside of town used mostly for domestic and private flights.
The Mausoleum for Mohammad V in Rabat Morocco
It is a perfectly preserved example of the Alaouite dynasty’s architectural style, but it is the final resting place of three significant members of the royal family.
Here visitors and locals are able to pay their respect to these leaders and marvel at the detailed and beautifully designed mausoleum. It is both a tomb and a mosque and the Mohamed V Mausoleum is one of the few holy places that are open to the public.
It was commissioned by King Hassan II for his late father Sultan Mohamed V which ruled over Morocco from 1927 to 1953 and then after independence from 1957 to 1961.
He is remembered for his efforts to gain Moroccan Independence from France. This mausoleum stands proud as a great architectural and historical monument.
It is located in the Yacoub Al Mansour Square across from the Hassan Tower another building commissioned by Hasan II. The interior has a white marble finish and granite floors and, in the middle, a beautiful granite block indicating the final resting place of the great King.
The ruins of Chellah where the Capital of Morocco is located today
This seems to be the first place settled along the Bou Regreg River during the third century BC in what is today the capital of Morocco, Rabat. It is said to have been settled by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians.
The Romans took over the site in 40 AD and called it Sala Colonia and later came into the control of the Berbers coming down from the Atlas Mountains.
As it passed hands during the centuries it kept accumulating history that has been discovered by archaeologists until today. It is now an important complex of ancient and medieval ruins in Morocco. It is also a garden and one of Morocco’s main tourist attractions.
The Medina is what Rabat was before the French ruling
The small Medina was all there was of Rabat before the French rule that started in 1912. They expanded the city with new quarters. The old Medina was created by Andalusia Muslims fleeing from Spain.
In the Medina of Rabat there are lots of traditional shops and cafes that you can visit and explore. Rabat's Medina is a pleasure to walk around in as it is relatively hassle free in comparison to other larger Medinas in Morocco.
Kasbah des Oudayas fortress overlooking over Rabat
It is built on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean And be seen from long distances. It was constructed during the 12th century and originally called Mehdiya. It was in fact, a fortified convent from where the soldiers left on the mission and Holy War against the Christians of Spain. It was named “Ribat El Fath” giving origin to the name Rabat.
With the arrival of the Andalusia Muslims chased out of Spain on the 17th century it was called “Kasbah Andaluse” and later changed by an Arabic Tribe called the Oudaias established themselves here in 1833 naming it “Kasbah des Oudayas”, as it is called today.
Andalusian Gardens outside the Old Palace in Rabat
The Palace Museum, a 17th century Almohad Palace is now the home of the Museum of Moroccan Art and Culture. The Palace was built by Moulay Ismail, the first Almohad sultan to unify the country. Today, it showcases interesting exhibits of Moroccan art and culture.
A vast central patio gives access to private quarters and reception rooms containing the exhibits. In a separate hall the visitor will find oriental rugs made in Rabat, an exhibition hall for musical instruments and a salon reserved for customs and rituals.
The old palace grounds are occupied by the beautiful Andalusian Gardens. Although true to Andalusian traditions, with its flowering annuals and beds of shrubs, the gardens were actually constructed by the French in the twentieth-century.
The Gardens feature several acres of manicured greenery, especially vines, palms, and other tropical plants, with special sections like a Japanese garden, and a jungle with rope bridges.
The Hassan Tower in Rabat the Capital of Morocco
When construction began in 1195 it was meant to be the largest minaret next to the largest mosque in the world. Construction was stopped because of the death of Sultan Yacoub El Mansour.
By then the tower was 44 meters tall, only half of the intended 86 meters height. The construction of the mosque was also stopped. Today it stands across from Mohammed V Mausoleum and it’s an important tourist site for all visitors.
The Royal Palace in Rabat Morocco
The majestic Royal Palace is located right in the heart of Rabat and is open to the public. It is a beautiful palace that looks not so impressive from outside, but the beauty is admired once the visitor starts exploring the interior.
It is a fine example of Islamic Architecture built in 1864. The King's personal mosque stands directly across from the Royal Palace.
The gardens surrounding the palace are stunning and well cared lined with trees leading to the Main Square.
Map showing the location of Rabat the Capital of Morocco
images for capital of morocco
chellah by steven price
medina by pawel ryszawa
andalusia by shimi yoso
asan tower by bernard gagnon
all courtesy of wikimedia commons