Salé, Morocco

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

Spring has started in Belgium, but the hot temperatures seem to stay away. An excellent excuse to drop by in mythical Morocco! From Brussels-Charleroi, I head to Rabat together with my mother. The capital of Morocco. In almost three hours we arrive in the surprising metropolis of this North African country. The adventure has begun!

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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moroccan tea

Moroccan tea: INCREDIBLY sweet… But that’s just how I like it!

Arrival in Salé

In and out of the airport everything goes very smoothly and for just a little over 50 dirhams (about five euros) it takes us fifteen minutes to head to Salé.
Very close to Rabat lies this small, walled city. Much quieter and an attraction in itself!

Because the streets are so narrow, there is no traffic here -except for scooters, because they seem to squeeze in just about everywhere!
While the friendly driver gives us directions on how to get to our Riad, I look around a bit just to be amazed by the gorgeous city.

Our accommdation is located right in the middle of Salé’s medina; let’s say the old part of the city. This whole part is fenced by giant sandy walls with impressive battlements. Behind the surrounding walls you’ll find a giant maze. White, beige and pastel walls are decorated with beautiful stone arches or wooden doors, each featuring the finest handcraft and majestic curly Arabic inscriptions.

moroccan tea

How can someone not enjoy this delicious tea in such a beautiful environment?

As we navigate through the cool shadows, I soon realize that I should have listened a bit better to the man’s extensive directions.
There seem to be infinite streets and not one that I turn to seems to be the right one.
Meanwhile, I see some guys wandering around the streets, looking at us with their dark eyes, gleaming skin and strange language.
I notice we start to walk a tad more carefully.
Some boys come to us and ask us in French if we happen to be looking for the ‘Riad Marlinea’.
I was indeed looking for that Riad!

The group’s oldest boy gives the company’s latest count a soft push and he sprints in front of us, acting like our personal GPS through the narrow streets of Salé.
After ringing the bell for us, he grins and looks at us with his puppy eyes and we reward him with some dirham for the effort.

We had only just arrived and I already learned an important lesson. The international media creates a too general view of Islamic countries and their culture, and that makes us scared of things we shouldn’t be scared of. In the coming days my fear would melt away like snow.
I even dare to say that the Moroccan people are among the nicest and most helpful people I have met during my many travels! Well… Perhaps except for some of them in Marrakech 😉

riad marlinea Rabat Salé

The view from above in our riad in Salé. We couldn’t believe our eyes!

When the owner of the riad -a very kind woman- opens the majestic door, the graceful knocker in the shape of a hand gently knocks on the detailed wood carvings.
From the outside, a Riad looks quite modest, but once you walk through the entrance hall to the patio you are flooded by an excess of splendor.

Under a giant light dome, some beautiful wrought iron tables and chairs show off on a mosaic floor while graceful plants climb along the whole wall, a few meters high.
We are both pleasantly surprised. As we make ourselves comfortable on one of the wooden benches, the proprietor provides us with sweet mint tea from a beautifully decorated teacup.
Guided by the lady of the house we walk up to the stone-decorated stairs to one of the beautiful rooms of the riad.

When the wooden door is folded open for us, we stand amazed again. A giant four-poster bed, beautifully decorated chairs, a bench and a table of beautiful Moroccan design and a luxurious bath thub show off in this magical room.
It seemed like we had landed in a fairy tale of a thousand and one night.

Riad Marlinea

Our room in Riad Marlinea.

Sightseeing in Salé

Salé can certainly not be called a village. The maze extends over a few kilometers, and there’s a constant movement of hundreds if not thousands of people.
The labyrinth had little secrets for me after only a few short hours, and so I managed to no longer use Google Maps to navigate through these narrow roads.

While exploring Salé, we saw beautiful places and sights, which in many travel guides aren’t even spoken of.

We strolled through dozens of markets, drank tea in tea houses flooded by men and lost our minds in the cozy streets of Salé while we sometimes were amazed by certain habits or customs.
The most beautiful part of this small town was only a five-minute walk from our riad. Even if you’re staying in Rabat, I really recommend visiting this beautiful town.

view over Salé

This view over Salé doesn’t spill any of its secrets, but believe me: it definitely is worth to see the small streets and covered squares from up close.

The Madrasa of Salé

The smallest Madrasa of Morocco is located in Salé. Until 1920, this wonderful Islamic school of learning was still used to form imams, professors and jurists. Since it is no longer in use, this beautiful piece of architecture is now visible to tourists and locals for only ten dirhams per person.

Behind the big gateway -Yes, this too is wonderfully- the most impressive part of this Medersa is located.

madrasa salé

My first day at school in the Madrasa of Salé! That’s a joke of course… This school has been shut for a long time now!

The floor, pillars and walls were gorgeously laid in with petite mozaiques, which made this beautiful craftsmanship look so sophisticated that it, in fact, seemed like the work of a god.
One floor higher you find tiny dark spaces in which the diligent students studied the Quran almost non-stop.
To study in this Madrasa was no easy task! It took between eight and twelve years for students to spread out their wings and teach their faith and knowledge to others.
Another floor higher, you see exactly the same. Dozens of small rooms. But at the end of the corridor you can climb through a small hole in the wall. It doesn’t really look elegant -my mother definitely made that clear- but you really have to set your pride aside this time. I think it was the most beautiful view we had over Salé’s medina!

madrasa salé rabat

In the Madrasa, you’ll find tens of tiny rooms where smart students studied the Quran with a divine devotion.

Salé to Rabat

It would be kind of a bad idea to sit on the plane to Morocco for three hours, and not even see the capital when we’re so close.
Fortunately, Salé is right next to Rabat and you have plenty of possibilities to visit this metropolis.

The fastest way is perhaps the modern tram link between the two cities, but my preference was to take the route along the river.
With a short boat ride, just two dirhams per person, you will immediately arrive in the center of Rabat.
From the small boats you’ll also get a beautiful view of the capital of Morocco. A giant walled city center where old and new meet. From the relaxed Salé, the unprecedented hustle and bustle of Rabat is a bit of a shock. But behind the walls of the Medina you’ll find the authentic Morocco once more!

salé rowing boat to rabat

From Salé you can go to Rabat in only a couple of minutes. And that for only two dirham per person!

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