Rabat – Where East Meets West

Rabat - Where East Meets West

The capital city of Rabat in Morocco is a land of many stories. Bearing influences from the Orient and the Occident, Rabat presents a confluence of cultures. First to arrive were the Phoenicians, followed by the Romans, and the Berbers – each bringing with them a unique strain of tradition that continues to resonate through the archaic buildings and marketplaces of Rabat. The Alhomad ruler Abd al-Mu’min converted the old city of Rabat into a fortress to mount attacks on Iberia and it became known as Ribatu I-Fath (“stronghold of victory”) from which its present name is derived. In the 17th Century, the port of Rabat was used by Barbary corsairs, notorious pirates who went by the name of Sallee Rovers in the United Kingdom. With the French invasion of Morocco in 1912, the country became a protectorate state and its capital was shifted from Fez to Rabat – a relocation that has remained in effect after the country’s independence in 1955. The many landmarks and monuments scattered around Rabat speak of its illustrious past and a visit to this historic city cannot be missed by any curious globetrotter.

Any day out in Rabat should begin at the Musée de l’Histoire et des Civilisations de Rabat. A survey of the artifacts presented in its collections will provide ample context to the historical attractions around the city. This archaeological museum opened its doors in 1932 and contains objects of interest from prehistoric cultures, the Ptolemaic dynasty, the Roman period, and the Islamic age. The most famous artifacts to be featured include the Bust of Juba II and the Dog of Volubilis, both of which are essential subjects for any student of archaeology. The museum is open from Wednesday to Monday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays and national holidays.

The necropolis of Chellah, which is a short drive away from the museum, can be the next destination of choice for enthusiastic tourists. The Chellah served several functions through the centuries: a trading post for the Phoenicians, a defensive outpost for Rome, a royal burial ground of the Berber Alhomads, and finally a sacred necropolis (“chellah”) by the Marinids by 1284. Although the site is largely in ruins owing to a nearby earthquake in 1755, the 13th-century minaret still stands and can be seen for miles around.

The Hassan Tower, which is located a few kilometres away from the Chellah, is a minaret that was originally constructed to be a part of a large mosque complex. Envisioned by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur – the third Caliph of the Almohad Empire – to be the largest mosque complex in the world, the half-built Hassan Tower, as well as the surrounding architecture, was abandoned after the ruler’s untimely death in 1199. The Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which is located nearby, contains the tombs of King Mohammed V, King Hassan II, and Prince Abdallah, and can be visited right afterwards.

The Andalusian Gardens, which are located within the Kasbah les Oudaias, present the perfect opportunity to take a break after a long day out. Designed by the French in the 20th century, this enchanting spot is bedecked with various fruit trees and fountains, and is an ideal site for photographs and leisurely strolls. Visitors may wish to refresh themselves at the lovely Café Maure, which serves Moroccan tea and cake.

Visitors who wish to witness the majestic junction of cultures in this cradle of civilizations should look up flights to Rabat today. Many airlines offer cheap flights to Rabat in Morocco through the year, although the best time to visit is between April and June or September to November. The climate during these months is mild and will be suitable for tourists from nearly every country.

To get cheap flights to Rabat, travellers are advised to book well in advance as the above months bring scores of tourists to the capital city and Rabat ticket prices sharply rise on a daily basis.

Having been ranked in second place by CNN’s “Top Travel Destinations of 2013”, Rabat’s characteristic appeal continues to resonate across the region, leaving visitors spellbound by its unique potpourri of Western and Eastern cultures.

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