7 Cultural Things to Do in Rabat, Morocco
I like to travel like a local, and one of the best ways I’ve found to spend time with locals and get to understand their way of living is by volunteering. Last November I added a new chapter to my travel book of volunteering abroad in the magnificent country of Morocco.
Morocco is unlike any other African country. It is not a typical safari and adventure-centric nation that many other countries on the continent are known for. It sustains an intriguing amalgamation of three different cultures: Berber, European, and Arabic. Here’s how to make the most of your time in the country’s diverse capital of Rabat with seven cultural must-dos:
Peek into Morocco’s economic heritage
The little-known Musée de Bank Al-Maghrib houses a fascinating collection of coins that tells the story of the country’s historic currencies dating all the way back to the Roman Empire right up to modern times. The museum also contains an art gallery in a strikingly modern space by Moroccan and foreign artists that’s worth a visit.
Explore Roman and medieval ruins
The Chellah is a medieval fortified town later turned into a necropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, just south of the city. Fascinating layers of different religions and waves of civilization can be seen here, where ancient Christian architecture from the Roman Empire blends into the later Muslim influences: a 14th-century minaret and mosque.
Shop Rabat’s traditional medina
Rabat’s medina and kasbah offer a traditional, local shopping experience much like the famous medinas of Marrakech and Fes. Rue Souk as Sabbat is the place to go for jewellery, traditional robes (djellabas) and shoes (babouches), and musical instruments. Rue des Consuls is the main shopping street where you’ll find handicrafts from all over the country like Fassi pottery, lamps and carpets. Don’t miss Pop Art-L’Art Moderne, a tiny metalworking shop known for its up-cycled lampshades decorated with little punched holes to create intricate light-and-shadow designs on the wall.
Visit the Bou Regreg river
A beautiful river in western Morocco, the Bou Regreg runs between the sister cities of Salé and Rabat out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the perfect spot for a quiet walk along the banks to the sandy beach, particularly spectacular at sunset.
Taste Moroccan delicacies
If you get the chance, staying with a local family is the best way to experience Moroccan cuisine as it should be eaten. Alternatively, there are some stand-out restaurants in Rabat. Dinarjat or Le Ziryab (traditional Moroccan), Samaky (fish and seafood), Le Grand Comptoir (French bistro) and Yamal Acham (Middle Eastern) are some of the best spots to check out. Or why not just take a stroll through the old medina for some tasty street food.
Hear international music at the Mawazine Festival
The annual Mawazine Festival is one of the biggest music festivals in the world. With the biggest national and international names in music, it’s a megalithic affair. A huge range of musical talent has performed on these stages. Think names like: Stevie Wonder, Usher, Akon, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Kanye West and Shakira, to name a small few. It takes place in May/June every year.
Help make a difference in the community
Volunteering in Morocco is a great way to travel on a budget and immerse yourself in the country’s unique culture. It can help you begin to learn a new language, it’s an ideal way to make new friends abroad and share your travel experiences with likeminded people, all while contributing in a meaningful way. If you’re not sure where to start check out Volunteering Solutions for some inspiration.
Despite being Morocco’s capital city, Rabat is often overlooked by the international traveller. If you’re looking to get under the skin of Morocco and avoid the tourist crowds, give Rabat a try.
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