Aromatic spices and dried herbs cover the rancid smell of carcasses from cows and sheep. Everyone seems to search non-stop for the best bargains, while sellers announce their offers incessantly. All of this hustle and bustle takes places under a scorching hot sun. Fortunately, the narrow streets provide a lot of shade and cooling.
Before we enter the mysterious medina, we visit the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
Mausoleum of Mohammed V
Within ten-minutes walking from the walled medina lies the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. A giant domain in honor of two royals: Prince Abdallah and King Hassan II. Two very beloved rulers. That is if you can believe the size of this memorial site!
We have to search a bit for the main entrance, because in total there are more than four possibilities to enter the park. When we see a bunch of Chinese tourists fleeing to their busses, we can’t be wrong.
The main entrance is decorated with two living soldiers, each sitting on their own Arabic thoroughbred.
Although temperatures begin to creep closer and closer to the boiling point, these fiery soldiers are still wrapped in their winter clothes. A beautiful red suit with a beige / white mantle draped over the muscled horses.
Once you’ve walked in between the two guards, you’ll find a giant square with a couple dozen of columns. The real eye catcher can already be seen in most of Rabat: the Hassan Tower. A beautiful example of Moroccan architecture.
When we had seen the scattered columns and the Hassan tower from up close, we went to take a look at the actual Mausoleum. Impressive from the outside and inside!
The white building with beautiful arches resembles a palace in itself. Each of the four entrances is monitored again by a guard in his beautiful Moroccan costume.
We walk through one of the decorated arches and enter into a sober room. One floor lower lies a decorated tomb, which undoubtedly belongs to one of the kings that has fallen into eternal sleep.
Behind the tomb sits an Islamic scholar studying the Quran.
The medina of Rabat
From the Mausoleum of Mohammed V we slowly stroll through another exit. Through this gate we stumble upon a small park, where sellers sell fresh fruit drinks and tired locals look for the shadow of the palm trees.
The serene Mausoleum is being exchanged for an extreme amount of vehicles racing along the medina’s walls. Right in front of the gateways of this giant old town, dozens of sellers sell all kinds of items. The continuous influx of people in and out of the Medina soon causes some clogging, and soon, we learn that we need to sift between all these locals with a little agility to make at least a little progress.
The streets start wide, but the deeper we get into the maze, the more narrow they become. Narrow or not, every street is filled with hundreds of salespeople. Their shops filled with worthless junk, beautiful decorative materials, tower-packed souvenirs or fragrant spices.
The scarce surface is fully utilized. No millimeter is lost! Along the facades, beautiful, hand-woven carpets and curtains flaunt around, next to tens of puffy carcasses that still have blood slowly dripping down.
I was a little afraid that all these sellers wouldn’t leave the tourists alone, but in fact that turned out to be alright! We could walk around almost everywhere without annoying sellers trying to scam us into buying some of their ‘fine goods’.
Besides countless shops and stalls, you also regularly see a mosque in the medina, but also well-hidden restaurants and some homes. To me it’s a miracle that people actually don’t get lost here!
Cemetery after cemetery
It’s impossible not to get lost in the medina of Rabat.
After five -or perhaps ten- times, we still couldn’t find the exit. However, the non-stop raging traffic outside the city walls told us we were on the right track.
We followed the sandstone walls again as we navigated to Rabat’s next landmark. We had only just left the medina and my mother had slipped between a small gate once more.
“We have to go that way! Come back!” I said. But as I walked through the gate I saw that our next landmark had to wait for a little while longer.
For us lay a giant cemetery. And, of course, it looked different to what we were used to.
Thousands of graves -some very sober, others with excessive decorations- were located in this field.
Unlike burial grounds in Belgium, much less attention was paid to the overwhelming powers of mother nature. The green grass had overtaken almost every grave, and sometimes there was even a small tree whose roots slowly took over the tombs.
There wasn’t really a real corridor to navigate through the cemetery, so we had to squeeze ourselves through this cemetery until we found an exit.
The cemetery was gigantic, but when we walked along the busy road we could only see the real size of this domain.
We hadn’t even seen one tenth of all the graves! I think the whole cemetery was even bigger than the medina laying next to it!
Kasbah des Oudaias and the Andalusian gardens
In the meantime we had already walked a lot more than we first intended, but eventually we arrived at Rabat’s next must-see.
The Kasbah des Oudaias is close to Rabat’s old medina, so clearly we had taken the wrong way to get there. But hey… Eventually we got there. And that’s what counts, right!
Behind, again, a giant wall you’ll find a little oasis.
A quiet place with lots of greenery in the middle of this big city. Decorated with tall trees that provide a cooling shade.
This place attracts both tourists and locals. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise! It seems like you have arrived in another world. Here you aren’t bothered by noisy vehicles or sellers! The only thing that is thrown at you here is the enormous mix of scents and colors from the many flowers and plants that are planted here.
The garden itself is not very big, but it still houses a much larger treasure.
As we walked through the Andalusian gardens, we noticed a much smaller gate. As we walked through it, we ended up in a kind of village. Completely different from the medina we saw a few hours ago.
The quiet streets are painted white and blue and go uphill and downhill. Near the gardens you will find an incredibly cozy terrace, where you can have a nice mint tea for few dirhams and get a beautiful view over the sea.
For me personally, this was one of my favorite places in Rabat. Perfect to escape the hustle and bustle of the Moroccan capital.
Chellah is quite far from all other attractions in Rabat. But we had read so much about it that we couldn’t skip this.
This necropolis used to be a vibrant trading center for many inhabitants of Rabat, but nowadays, much less remains of the original city. The ruins have been taken over by many families of storks. And that’s a spectacle in itself!
The -how could it be any different- walled city is located just a short walk from Rabat’s medina.
Right behind the gateway, we walk through a tropical garden that brings us up and down the domain. When we hear the noise of the storks, we can’t control ourselves anymore and ruw down the gardens until we reach the ruins of Chellah.
On pretty much every wall, there’s a family of storks. But the most impressive is the family who lives on the minaret. Without a doubt, the best piece of real estate in this region!
2 days in Rabat
Two full days in Rabat are more than enough to see all sights and get a good impression of the capital of Morocco.
It may also be possible to see everything in one day. But on a vacation you must of course also relax and enjoy, and with two days you can definitely do that!
On our first day, we visited the Mausoleum, ventured through the medina’s maze, spent some time at the impressive cemetery, relaxed a bit in the Kasbah of Oudaias and enjoyed a lot of delicious Moroccan delicacies.
The second day was a lot less crowded, but if you visit everything on foot, you are still walking for a few hours. I recommend starting your day exploring Salé (a small town next to Rabat). Be sure to visit the madrasa and get consciously lost in the medina. I think this little village is an attraction in itself, and certainly not to be missed!
After you have also discovered this labyrinth, you can spend the rest of your day relaxing in Chellah. Rabat’s necropolis. It’s very nice to simply sit down here and stare at the majestic storks until the sun sets.
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.