With an increasing amount of direct flights to European capitals and investment by the King of Morocco into a number of new projects, Rabat is slowly growing beyond its reputation as a political hub and is earning a reputation as a destination for travelers to Morocco, and for good reason.
Rabat enjoys warm weather nearly year round, with palm trees lining the wide colonial-era boulevards, and sports numerous attractions, both new and historic, as evidenced by its inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Surfing and sunbathing are popular pastimes along the municipal beaches and there are couple of popular music festivals that liven up the city.
Because Rabat plays host to many expats, dignitaries and diplomats, foodies will be happy find a variety of restaurants that feature classic and fusion menus from around the world. First time visitors will want to spend at least one full day wandering through the Oudaïas Kasbah, souks of the old medina and the Chellah Necropolis while those seeking a day of relaxation can consider wiling away an afternoon at one of the many European-styled cafés dotted throughout the Ville Nouvelle.
Dotted around the Ville Nouvelle are a number of budget hotel options. For students, backpackers and budget travelers, the dated colonial Hotel Splendid (8 Rue Ghazza, tel. 0537/723 283, 125Dh single, 150Dh double) and its local, stodgy old competitor, the Hotel Le Gaulois (corner of Mohamed V & Rue Hims, tel. 0537/723 022, 200Dh), are well-located, generally clean choices and prices can be negotiable with rooms with TV and wifi access. Strangely, it is usually more expensive to book ahead of time, though if you don’t, you run the risk of rooms possibly being sold out during events or festivals. Reception at these places is often gruff, and you pay around 50 Dh extra for en-suite bathrooms. A shower in the common bath will cost you an extra 20Dh, making the local hammam a tempting excursion.
Just off Mohamed V is Dar Yanis (20 Rue Lalla Hannou, tel. 0537/706 440 or 0670/268 572, www.daryanis.com, 600Dh). The decor here is a bit dated with aged beds and furniture that clutters most of the rooms. Toward the back of the riad there are some problems with humidity, however, it is a clean, viable option for those wanting to save money and stay in the medina. There is AC and wifi, and a simple breakfast is included with your reservation.
Riad Kalaa (5 Rue Zebdi, tel. 0537/202 028, www.riadkalaa.com, 950Dh) is a little larger than most of the guest houses in the medina with a sprawling, maze-like floor plan and a bar/lounge space (though the drink menu is limited) just off the restaurant area. The service is top-notch and on hot days, the terrace pool is refreshing. The rooms downstairs tend to be larger and more airy, while the terrace rooms are more cozy, though their large bathrooms make up for the smaller rooms.
Tajine Wa Tanjia (9 Rue Baghdad, tel. 0537/729 797, Mon.-Sat. noon-3pm and 7pm-midnight, 130Dh) is an authentic, cozy Moroccan restaurant with a warm, traditional taddalack and zellij decor that serves to enhance the vibrant tajines and salads on offer. Friday is couscous day, and beer and wine are on the menu. The free wifi is especially handy to do a quick post of your lunch on Facebook to make your friends back home jealous and the non-smoking section is appreciated.
Hop aboard Le Dhow (Quai des Oudaïas, tel. 0537/709 381, www.ledhow.com, Mon.-Fri. noon-2am, Sat.-Sun. 11am-2am, 220Dh), a restaurant, lounge and coffee shop tucked aboard the sailboat docked on the Bouregreg River. The wooden planks and wrapped sails of Le Dhow truly channel the old pirate vibe of Rabat. Enjoy a selection of seasonal seafood and grilled steaks, but non-smokers beware, the cabin seating fills with smoke fairly easily. If you’re sensitive and the weather cooperates, ask to sit outside on the deck overlooking the river. Beer, wine and alcohol are available and the cocktails here are surprisingly competent. Yo ho ho, indeed.