Rabat, located in front of the Atlantic and to the northwest of the country, has a population of just over half a million inhabitants and is the current capital of Morocco.
Rabat gets its name from an Islamic fortress (ribat in Arabic) located here to protect the city of Sala Colonia and the mouth of the Bou Regreg River. The vicissitudes of history have caused it to decay and resurface not once but twice, which has given it a very unusual cityscape.
If we stick to its old town, the Kasbah of the Udayas alone makes a visit to Rabat worthwhile. This citadel is the starting point of the city and has a style more similar to the streets in northern Morocco, such as those of Asilah.
Next to this we find the medina, which although it may not be as architecturally interesting as others in Morocco, it has an almost rectilinear layout that makes it a true rarity within the country.
Another good reason to explore the city is the Hassan Tower, an unfinished minaret with a forest of columns guarding it, witnesses of what would have been one may have been one of the largest religious buildings in the world in its day.
But not everything is history in Rabat. Right next to the tower, stands the Mausoleum of Mohamed V, which has a traditional Moroccan style and a smart combination of white marble, plaster and wood. Or the Royal Palace, a huge complex that also includes a mosque, a school, several administrative buildings and a residential area, accomodating more than 2000 workers.
However, what is most surprising is the design of its new city: its wide avenues, its many green areas, but above all the continuous dialogue with its architectural past, have made Rabat the Moroccan city where tradition and modernity combine in the most elegant way possible.
Rabat has mild temperatures throughout the year. Even in summer, although the temperature rises, the warm sensation is still pleasant thanks to its geographical location.
Therefore, you can travel to Rabat at any time with light clothes (light jacket for the winter months). In the winter there is some probability of rain (around 20%), so it’s a good idea to carry a small umbrella.
Rabat airport is actually located in Sale, just 10 kilometers (6 miles) away, offering several public transport services. In addition, at the exit there are informative signs with the prices of taxis (a non-shared taxi to the city center will be approximately 200 dirhams). It’s a small airport with fewer destination options than nearby Casablanca, Morocco’s busiest airport that is only three hours away via the Rabat highway (in the following sections we explain the connections between Rabat and other major cities in Morocco.
By road there are two options: car or bus. You can rent a car or take a taxi (which is the most common option). Given recent improvements, the highway network is very convenient to access, practically from anywhere in the country.
If you choose to take a bus there are also many alternatives from different cities in Morocco. It is a surprisingly inexpensive but very lax in terms of schedule, so it can be a good option to travel cheaply as long as you’re not in a hurry.
The largest Moroccan bus company is the CTM. Tickets can be purchased at the city’s bus stations or from its website (it is in French), so we can make sure we have seats even in the high season.
Rabat also has a train station (Rabat Ville) located in the middle of Mohammed V Avenue, just over 15 minutes walk from the Medina. There are trains that reach the city all day and from many parts of the country.
The train company is called ONCF, and tickets can be purchased either at the stations (there are windows and self-sale machines) or through its website, although in the latter case it is only possible if you have a Moroccan credit card.