It’s easy to get lost in the winding, narrow maze of the medina of Rabat…
… and then, after passing through a gate of the city wall, find yourself on wide boulevards lined with cafes, shops, and an excellent modern art museum.
The city of Rabat is a UNESCO heritage site largely because of its blend of modern and historic. We didn’t know much (okay, anything) about the city before planning our trip, but were directed here by a friend who lived in Morocco previously. I told her we were considering Marrakech, and she suggested Rabat as a more livable home base, with potential weekend trips to Marrakech, Fes, and Tanger. (We didn’t leave Rabat for a whole month, but we’re now visiting Fes and Tanger on our way to Barcelona.)
There aren’t a ton of tourists in Rabat, especially outside of the obvious spots. However expatriate foreigners are pretty common, so no one finds us particularly noteworthy. We like this, especially since it has meant avoiding a lot of the common touristic hassle.
I’ve joked that the closest I’ve felt to a hard sell in when walking through the Rabat medina is when men say “Bonjour” to me and then vaguely gesture at their shops. (This has happened, perhaps, three times. Mostly I remain un-noted.) The taxis always turn on the meter. (Even though they mostly don’t have functioning seat belts.) Overall, it’s very low pressure and low-key when compared to say, Istanbul, Delhi, Bali, or Chiang Mai, where bargaining and needing to decline (again and again and AGAIN) to purchase random stuff were pretty much daily occurrences.
Our home-for-a-month was definitely in a more modern area of Rabat, a little bit outside of the main city, in what would probably be called a suburb. When we walked down the street for three minutes in one direction, we reached the mosque from which we heard the call to prayer five times a day and a shop with exceptionally beautiful produce. A three minute walk in the other direction brought us to Theo’s French/Arabic preschool and a small shopping center that included a grocery store and one of the best French-style bakeries we’ve encountered outside of France.
We stayed on a property with two houses, one inhabited by our hosts and the other by us. There is a garden in between the houses, with a swing set, where our son and their sons met to play. These two boys were definitely Theo’s favorite part of the month.
(Also, sometimes, the peacocks who live next door visited our yard. They were pretty noisy, but apparently only in May.)
We’re looking forward to being more immediately inside of a city next month in Barcelona, but Rabat has still been a lovely place to settle for a bit.