©Aussies In Morocco Tours™
The capital of Morocco, Rabat, is a destination often overlooked by visitors. If people do visit, it’s for a quick stop to see the highlights and move on – but, there is much more to appreciate when you spend a little time here.
We encourage you to use your five senses to gain a full sensory experience of Rabat. It is more than just the sum of its sights and take-home memorabilia, it is a special place that has many surprises waiting to be seen, heard, tasted, smelled and felt. First though, there are a few preliminary words of advice from our principal Cara introducing this “sensory sensitivity” series, about what we mean by that, here.
Enter the medina of Rabat and you’ll no doubt be approached by noisy vendors selling their wares. Even if you’re not in the market for a new rug, take some time to seek out Rabati rugs (they are something of a status symbol for quality) – the hand-woven rugs in the medina feature at least 150,000 stitches per square metre. Yes, most rugs in Morocco are beautiful and well-knotted, but Rabati rugs are truly special and often consist of diamond motifs and geometric designs. They are generally handwoven from start to finish and traditionally the dyes are made from various local ingredients such as spices and minerals. Run your hands over the tightly woven patterns, and take in their overall appearance – the weavers use Berber symbols to describe their life and culture. So desirable!
FYI: You may notice that some carpets carry the Ministry of Crafts hallmark. The colour-coded labels feature the date they were checked, their provenance and their quality. In Rabat ORANGE label indicates extra-superior quality. BLUE label indicates superior quality. YELLOW label indicates medium quality. GREEN label indicates ordinary quality. These certifications are not available in relation to second-hand or (faux or truly) vintage rugs. You can always ask your local guide to take you to a rug vendor with these certifications.; most likely these will be (genuine) cooperatives.
Stay on foot as you wander the streets of the Kasbah des Oudayas. On the edge, where the ocean meets the walls of the city, take in the salty smells of the ocean air. It’s free to visit this area on your own, but when accompanied by a paid guide not only will you gain a better understanding of the history of Rabat (and Morocco in general), but also a deep appreciation for everything you’re experiencing.
Across the Bou Regreg River and the Kasbah sits Salé. This twin city to Rabat once stood quite separate, but today the two cities blend together. This was home to the infamous Salé Rovers, a group of 17th-century Barbary pirates, who were feared throughout the Mediterranean. You could search for the secret pirate past, hidden in the walls of Salé. Start at Bab Lamrissa where there are several hidden (and some not so hidden) pirate remnants you’ll want to see. A word of advice – as with the kasbah, having a guide who knows where to look will make all the difference to your experience.
Now that you’ve taken in some of the cooler, lesser-known sites of Rabat, it’s time to take a break. Sure, you could go for a great tagine or other traditional tastes of Morocco, but might we suggest a trip to the Mohamed VI Museum of Contemporary Art? Not only is it a fantastic example of contemporary Moroccan (and international) art, but their attached Café Carrion is also worth a visit especially if you’d like to eat somewhere a bit more secluded. If you’re in the mood for French and Mediterranean flavours, Les 3 Dou’soeurs is another cute cafe in Rabat to pop in for something delicious and a pot of tea. Their sweets are a feast for the eyes and a revelation for the tastebuds.
Now to hit that final sensorial note; depending on when you visit Rabat look to see if the Chellah Jazz Festival is happening. Typically, it is scheduled to happen annually in September. You should know that the location in and of itself is worth a visit anytime, but when paired with the music festival it’s an extra special destination. The Chellah is a medieval fortified necropolis dating from the 13th century. The site has evidence of its Phoenician trading past and ruins of an ancient Roman colony. So, there is much to explore, stories to hear, and landscaped gardens to enjoy. The Chellah is open to the public year-round.
Rabat is truly a great city to visit and you’ll enjoy it, even more, when you use all your senses to dig a little deeper. If you only have a single day you can still do everything, but if you can spend more time for a leisurely exploration, it’s well worth it.
Dialling up your sensory sensitivity when out and about in Rabat will give you a different way to experience the city, but when paired with the classic highlights and the support of a great guide you’re sure to have an even better time. Talk to us at aussiesinmoroccotours.com.au about arranging a sensory tour for you – what would you like to see, taste, hear, touch and feel in Rabat?
Published February 2021
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