It is an enclosure built in ocher-red carved stone, constructed in the 12 century by the Almohads. Formerly it was called "Mehdiya" and it was a sort of fortified convent, where religious soldiers departed to fight in the Holy War against the Christians of Spain. Later with the arrival of the Andalusians in the 17th century it was named "Kasbah Andaluse" until 1883 when the Arabs named it "Kasbah des Oudayas", the name by which he is known today. It is situated north of Rabat on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. It's like another city in Rabat, with narrow cobbled streets, the houses have few windows and walls are very wide. This is because they needed to be strong and resistant. The most characteristic are its blue and white walls.
In Arabic, the historic center is called "medina," which is the word for "city." Before Rabat fit fully inside the city walls that were built in the 12th century by the Almohad dynasty, it was a small fishing village, and the big city was Safi, on the other side of the Bou Regreg river. Some say "Rabat" meant "where horses are tied," because people left their horses there before returning home to Safi. During the French colonization the governor decided to make Rabat the capital. The medina is a fun, lively place with many shops, covered markets, mosques, and some hotels. I like staying here and sleeping in the historic center because the hotels here are cheap. However it's not very safe here at night and it's a little dirty. Daytime is the best time to visit the heart of the city. You have to see it!
Undoubtedly, the mausoleum is the main landmark in Rabat, and, as far as I'm concerned, the prettiest. The tomb of Hassam II and his father are there, and when he dies, the current King Mohammed VI will be buried there. Outside is made of exquisitely polished white marble (it looks wet!). There's a great mix with the green tiles and it's especially nice. It is guarded by several soldiers with white coats and very ornate rifles, soldiers on horseback. You can take pictures without problem simpre that silent out of respect. I recommend a visit abroad by night, in the dark highlights how Rabat this monument visible from almost any point in the city.
This small market is the souk of species. It's in the street Souika, left, starts a covered walkway, where a dozen micro stores. Most do not measure a meter long. The vendor is sitting in the middle, surrounded by bottles, and kilos of species. There is cumin, cinnamon, a mixture called ras el hanout which is the basis of many typical Moroccan meals, or just pepper. They sell beauty products like ghassoul (pronounce jasul), which is clay to make the skin crisp, and the kohl, the black powder to paint your eyes. The prices are cheaper than in Marrakech, do not see many tourists pass. Also tree products to cure all diseases!
Hassan Tower stands above the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and is one of Rabat's most famous landmarks (you'll see it on a lot of postcards from Rabat). The tower is actually the minaret of a mosque that was never completed, but which would have been the largest religious monument in the world in the twelfth century. However, Sultan Yacub who lead its construction died before finishing the work. The tower is 44 meters high, and the columns were supposed to support the mosque's roof but were destroyed in an earthquake. Hassan Tower was renovated in the 1960's, and there's a small mosque for the king nearby.
Salé is a quiet village that is next to Rabat, just across a river coming from the capital, and from the Hassan II Mausoleum it should not take more than 30minutes. Salé is a city of fishermen. At first it was more important than Rabat, but the French during colonization decided to make Rabat the capital of the country, which was equal to Saleh, a small village. The city has an interesting medina in the old town which is well preserved with low houses and covered souks. To get there one can take a train from Casablanca, and if you have to be in Rabat, the accommodation options are a little better in Sale, at least as far as backpackers are concerned. On Sale you can stay for only 10 euros between 2,while in Rabat costs more. The points of interest include several markets, a large cemetery of fishermen, and to the modern side, is the marine leisure harbor recently made.
The walls of Rabat encircle and protect the Medina, the historic center of the city. If you decide to take a train there, go down Mohamed V Avenue, past the central post office, and you'll be at the walls in no time. You can see that they're building the first metro line in Morocco, which is a huge project that will connect Rabat Salé Bou Regreg across the river. The doors each have a different name, and were excavated gradually with the increase in traffic and the population. The first wall dates back to the Almohad dynasty in the late 12th century. It measures more than eight feet high and two feet deep. It's well preserved, before there was a single door, Bab Zaer, now it's Bab el Alou, Er Rouah Bab, Bab el Had.
The small fishing port of Rabat is disappearing, replaced by the marina and the leisure port. Small boats leave in the morning, and it's a bit of a show in the evening when they return safely to port. You can go buy your fish straight from the boats, and there are grills around the harbour where you can eat your purchase immediately. The river fish generally aren't as tasty as those from the sea, but there are usually small fish available for frying.
The Gold Souk is in the old part of Rabat which is called the medina. It's a small souk which has sellers of gold, silver and precious jewels. In general, they give you a price that depends on the weight of the jewelry, not by the amount of work that has gone into it. Therefore it worth buying refined objects, necklaces and earrings that are cheaper than in Europe. Girls ve are getting married come here with their mother, because her husband buys jewelry before the engagement party. It can cost about 6 months salary. The tents are very small, but as everyone knows, if the seller does not have what you like, you may go to the store next door and they try to sell you something. The souk is on the trail through the Oudayas neighborhood.
The train station in Rabat Ville is in the centre of town. Trains leave every half hour in the direction of Casablanca, sometimes stopping in Casa Port or Casa Voyageurs. For connections to the airport and Marrakech station, go to Voyageurs. It costs 35 dirhams, 3.50 euros to go to Casablanca. Fez is three hours and 60 dirhams, and Meknes 50 dirhams 2h30. For Sale, you can walk, which is cheaper and faster than waiting for a train. They're not usually on time, but rarely more than half an hour late.
The traditional artisans' assembly is in front of the entrance to the castle of the Oudayas, in downtown Rabat. It is a point of passage if you visit the city. I like this place because compared to Marrakech, there is a varied assortment of artisans from every corner of the country, not just inside the Sahara - there are also objects from the coast, and a large selection of rugs. They are used to sending international packages to Europe, so don't hesitate to ask the cost.
The lavish, enormous Royal Palace's entrance is through "The Mechouar" gardens, which were painstakingly cared for among the major streets where military buildings rose up in the city. Armies of gardeners are responsible for them being spotlessly and perfectly maintained. Unfortunately the palace can not be visited and it is heavily guarded, but is allowed to approach the entrance and take pictures, unlike other similar buildings in Morocco.
Al Maghrib Bank is Morocco's central bank. In large cities like Casablanca, Marrakech, and Rabat, there is usually only one branch in the city centre. In Casablanca, it's located on Avenue Mohamed V. It is a perfect example of the architecture of the French protectorate in the 20's and 30's of the last century. You can come to visit but you can not take pictures inside. The decor is old and beautiful. If you go to Casablanca, I recommend that you go to see the branch, with its amazing dome.
Consuls Street is a place full of history. It is a long pedestrian street leading from the fortified castle of Oudayas to the center of the medina. There are fountains and decorations all along the street, but you do not usually find much in the medina as the houses only open inward, around a central courtyard. The street was the place of residence of international diplomats, which is why the houses are different to typical Moroccan houses. Most of these houses have been converted into shops and now the street is part of the covered souk in Rabat.
The Dar al-Mahkzen is the Royal Palace of Rabat and the seat of government. It is a relatively new building that was built in 1864 on the ruins of the old palace. The door to the palace is near Mechouar Park where the main festivals in honor of the King are celebrated. King Mohammed VI does not live in the royal palace, but nevertheless, you can't visit the inside.
The city of Sale was founded in the tenth century, and was a strategic point on the Moroccan coast. It grew rapidly until it was more important than Rabat, built 2 kilometres away across the River Bouregreg. The medina is the historic centre of the city, inside large, renovated walls. In the seventeenth century, there was a large community of traders here, both Muslims and Jews. The medina is a great place to go for a walk, with several souks, indoor and outdoor pools, a central market, public fountains ... the people are nice, and although they'll talk to you, they're not as annoying as those in Marrakech. Almost everyone speaks French.
When you leave the train station, if you take a right you'll find yourself on Mohamed V Avenue. Rabat is the capital of The Kingdom and has a ton of wide streets that are named after the country's ancient kings. There's a pedestrian promenade in the middle of the street where people come to go for a walk when the heat of the day is still going strong. During Ramadan, you can see families there until two or three in the morning strolling and chatting before they go home. It has tall palms, platters, and lawn in the center, to help keep it cool in summer. At the end of the strip on one side is Sounna As the mosque, and the other side is the medina, the historic part of the city.