From Chefchaouen to Marrakech, there are plenty of mind blowing destinations to visit in Morcco. With so much beauty, it’s easy to overlook Rabat, the country’s administrative capital. However, as a top destination for study abroad students and a city packed with gorgeous architecture and rich history, it’s worth taking the time to appreciate some of Rabat’s hidden gems.
While other neighborhoods, like Agdal, have more vibrant, modern atmospheres, the Rabat medina will always hold a special place in my heart. So if you find yourself nearby this centuries-old travel destination, be sure to appreciate some of these lesser known spots:
The beachfront surf spot– The surf scene in Morocco is no secret. Cities like Essaouira and Taghazout boast booming surf cultures, but you don’t have to journey south to catch great waves. The swells on Rabat’s most popular beach regularly reach 10+ feet, and the warm water and relatively safe conditions make this location great for beginners. When you head out to catch some waves though, skip the official, crown-sanctioned surf school in the modern white building by the cliffs.
Instead, walk down to the beachfront between the jetties at the foot of the Kasbah and pop into the small surf shop run by Nabil. It’s about half the price, much friendlier (they even hold classes for young girls to get into the sport) and if you build up a friendship with the staff, you’ll be able to ask them to open early or close late when the wave reports look good.
Pizzeria/café Odyssia-This one is a must if you’re a woman living in Rabat. If you’ve ever been there, you know that many cafes are still considered male spaces and while nobody will stop you from grabbing a coffee, the atmospheres of many coffee shops on the street are smoky, uncomfortable, and can feel high stress for young women. Café Odyssia is run by woman, for women, and presents a unique atmosphere where women can feel welcome and safe. It also has delicious pizza for very cheap prices, smoke free air, and excellent wifi. It’s a great spot to camp out for the day if you’ve got some studying or (travel blogging!) to get done, or do some self care if you’re feeling stressed out. It’s technically right outside the walls of the medina, right along the tram line, but I’ll include it here because it truly is a gem.
The secret liquor store-The classic question of so many study abroad students is “where can I buy alcohol in Rabat?”. While I don’t recommend going out and partying too often during your time in Rabat, if you’re staying long term, wanting to unwind with a drink or two is perfectly natural. There is one bar where young people can hang out (even women) without much hassle called Upstairs, in Agdal, but if you’re looking for something a little closer to the medina or just want to stock up, it’s worth checking out. Unlike shops in cities like Marrakech, the Carrefour in Rabat doesn’t sell liquor, so your best bet is a little garage-style shop right on the city wall. Look for the row of open front shops near the intersection of Ave Mohammed V and the tram line as you head toward the colonial city, right next to the Marche Centrale.
A quick note about buying liquor—while you might get some interesting looks, no one is going to explicitly stop you from purchasing alcohol. Just be respectful with your use of it and be conscious that this isn’t really a place where it’s socially acceptable to run around while intoxicated. Also be aware that the more passably Moroccan you look, the less acceptable it will be for you to buy liquor, since it is technically illegal for Morocan citizens to drink. So if you’re concerned for your safety or social standing, consider using your most obviously foreign friend as the face of this transaction. European-looking people risk essentially nothing but a few interested stares when purchasing booze.
Cliff jumping behind the Kasbah-If you’ve been to Rabat, you know that the city’s ancient fortress, the Kasbah, sits right at the spot where the ocean meets the river that divides Rabat and its sister city, Salle. The Kasbah is well known for its stunning views of the ocean, but if you head toward the river side of the building while navigating the fortress and head down a few sets of stairs, you’ll be able to find some amazing cliff jumping spots that the local boys frequent. If plunging into the water isn’t for you, enjoy watching the locals or just unwinding in a beautiful secret spot.
Ladies night at the Dhow-Last I checked, this occurred on Thursday nights, but consult the restaurant’s website for details during your stay. If you’ve never heard of it, the Dhow is a literal pirate ship sitting on the water front of the river, right next to the small carnival. (You can find it by just walking toward the colonial city from the Kasbah while outside the main wall) It’s a restaurant on top with luxurious lounge cushions and live music, but below deck it’s actually a nightclub and bar. It’s always a good time, especially if you’re looking to be in a space frequented by other foreign tourists, but on ladies’ night, girls are allowed free wine seemingly without limit. (I consider myself to have a high tolerance, and I never got cut off) Check it out for some great food, fun dancing, and free drinks. What more could you ask for?
Rabat is a vibrant city and a great place to live for a longer period of time. The Kasbah is actually a very popular neighborhood among expats, and there is always a sizeable population of students and adventurers living in the city. As you explore all of the trendy spots across Rabat’s different neighborhoods, don’t overlook the charm and energy of the medina.
Still have free time in the medina? Check out these places to eat.