I Heart My City: Yasmine’s Rabat

Rabat native Yasmine El Baggari has always been a dreamer. Her desire to discover the great unknown led her to America, to attend Hampshire College in 2010, and from there her dreams kept getting bigger.

First, she set out to visit all 50 states (she’s covered more than two-thirds so far). Now she’s on a 15-country journey around the globe to continue her quest to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes through travel. Key in that quest is Voyaj, a social network that facilitates cultural immersion through homestays in a safe and affordable context, a concept inspired by her own experience of families who generously opened their homes to her as she traveled around the U.S.

But no matter where Yasmine is, her hometown pride comes with her. Here are a few of her favorite things about Morocco’s capital city.

Rabat Is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is the Kasbah of the Oudayas, a “city within a city” favored by travelers for its traditional mint tea and delicious pastries while offering a stunning view of old Rabat. Make sure to visit the incredible Chellah mausoleum, located on the southern outskirts of the capital. You can sense the cultural crossroads of Morocco’s history as you walk around the historic foundations.

Spring is the best time to visit my city because the climate in Morocco is Mediterranean. In a single day, you can feel cold air in the Atlas Mountains and then drive a few hours to experience the heat of the dry Sahara dunes and adorned oases.

Locals know to skip sub-par coffee and check out Chez Paul in Agdal or Venezia Ice in Mahaj Riad instead.

The Rabat souk (market) is the best place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. You can find anything you want, but most travelers opt to go to Marrakech because of its famous and colorful handmade carpets.

My city’s best museum is the Museum of Udayas because it displays traditional clothes and jewelry worn by ancient people and consistently offers a diverse array of exhibitions throughout the year.

If there is one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s to use the tramway or to jump in one of the blue “petit taxis” you’ll see around Rabat. The drivers, who are as much of a reason to hire a taxi as getting to your destination is, always have fascinating stories to tell.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is El Harhoura. Rise early and have breakfast on the beach, then spend time along the coast swimming, horseback riding, or even riding a camel! The Hilton Forest is also a great place to walk and go for a morning jog.

My city really knows how to celebrate music, as evidenced by its many festivals. A favorite is Mawazine in late spring.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they speak at least three languages (French, Arabic, and English represent the most common trifecta) and are always excited to show tourists around or go to coffee shops to sit and socialize.

For a fancy night out, I go to the Le Dhow Restaurant Lounge, located on a boat just north of Rabat in Salé, with my friends for karaoke night, or to the Théâtre National Mohammed to see a show.

The Mohammed V is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance and listen to some great pop music, Monte Cristo is the perfect spot.

Just outside my city, you can visit Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, and Ouarzazate. Start at the Mediterranean and Atlantic beaches and venture all the way to the fiery deserts after climbing the craggy snow-capped Casablanca. The beauty of my country is that everything is close, and Rabat is ideally positioned for heading north or south.

My city is known for being Morocco’s administrative capital, but it’s really one of its oldest cities, with a rich culture to offer. Rabat’s distinctive attractions—especially its architecture, gardens, and decorative style—will leave you in awe, and its weather will warm your heart and make you feel as though you belong here.

When I am feeling cash-strapped, I play guitar and drums with friends around a campfire on Skhirat beach, one of the nicest in Rabat. We always end up watching the sunset before jumping into the water. Most locals just walk the streets around Mohammed V chitchatting and eyeing the fancy boutiques when they do not want to spend money.

To escape the crowds, I go to the National Library of Morocco to read. But sometimes, when I feel the wind coming from the south, I travel to other cities, such as Zagora, where I can enjoy a cup of mint tea and local music while facing a heaven of empty sandy beaches and dunes.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be DJ Armin Van Buuren, because he is uplifting, and can make people dance. People in Rabat do love to dance.

The dish that represents my city best is rfissa. This cuisine is rich in spices, which is only natural when you consider Rabat’s role in the spice trade from Arabia to North Africa. Spices here are used to enhance (not mask) the flavor of food.

The Hassan Tower, an incomplete mosque intended to be the world’s largest, is my favorite building in town and absolutely worth visiting because you get to enjoy the view of the Bouregreg river and the new promenade. Go late in the day so you can watch the sun set on the beautiful coastal capital of Morocco.

In the spring you should venture outdoors to take part in festival season. When the soft spring air blows, artists, artisans, and musicians can be found everywhere. The city just seems to explode with creative expression.

In the summer you should spend most of your time at Rabat’s beaches. Relax in the warm sand, listen to the lovely rhythm of the waves, and reflect on life.

In the fall you should venture to Casablanca to experience the city’s stand-out restaurant scene and to visit the Hassan II Mosque. It is simply dazzling to walk into this traditional Moroccan structure built on the edge of the ocean, where beauty, love, and art are on full display.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because Rabat’s deep traditions, rich history, complex culture, and warm people make it a city anyone could consider a second home, no matter where they’re from.

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Comments

  1. Hanni
    United Kingdom
    November 22, 2014, 3:39 pm

    Nice article and I was also especially impressed by the Chellah and the Ryads. Here you can find some pictures:
    https://globalmuslima.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/rabat-and-the-beautiful-riyat/

  2. Burcu Basar
    Istanbul
    September 29, 2014, 8:47 am

    I think Rabat is the most underrated – yet the most amazing city in Morocco. (www.burcubasar.com)

  3. Laura
    Canada
    September 24, 2014, 7:14 pm

    One of my favourite cities in Morocco!

  4. Michal
    Paris
    September 20, 2014, 4:15 pm

    Great what you say about your city, Yasmine. I’ve been to Morocco 7 times yet -Marrakech mostly, but have travelled to Fez twice and been to desert (Zagora). I’ve fallen in love with your home country, and am planning to visit Rabat and Salé shortly. Thank you for your overview of the capital city.

  5. Mohamed Chtatou
    Rabat, Morocco
    September 18, 2014, 3:27 am

    A wonderful account and a facinating presentation of the capital city of Morocco, Rabat by the travel expert Yasmine. She has aptly brought out what is sweet and enjoyable in this garden city that mingles long history with creative arts and graceful living. This insightful account makes you want to pack and go vist this vibrant city at once.