I chose Rabat over Fez because they have an ice skating rink here. I’m not so sure if I would be leveling up soon. I left Manila almost taking the FS2 exam, but sometimes the Christmas holidays are just hard to predict. The plan is to just practice here so I can just take the test at once when I go back to Manila this April. Was I wrong to base my decision to learn Colloquial Moroccan Arabic in Rabat? I don’t think so. Besides, the school I enrolled in is reputable enough as far as online feedback is concerned.
Another issue for me is the big city feel. Living in Fez for a week, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to last there without dying of boredom. We are not saying that Rabat is oh so fantastic of Seoul or LA proportions. It’s just that, it’s the capital, so I’m guessing it should be convenient to live there. I lowered my expectations a bit, and they have all been met so far. What I like most about this city is that every place I have to be is always less than 15 minutes away by petit taxi, and the drivers are not from hell.
They have a different taxi culture here, where it operates more like a carpool service. It is no wonder that when I logged into Uber on my phone, there was nothing. They simply don’t need that app, at least not yet. The main obstacles for expats would be the language, as French and Arabic are much more common here than English. If you are a tourist, though, and not staying long, then a mix of broken English and some sign language will suffice to help you survive.
As for the tourist attractions, I guess I should let you know that most tourists coming to Morocco tend to skip Rabat in favor of Marrakech or Casablanca, the capital’s more popular neighbor. I’d say that Rabat is just like any other unpopular world capital, gaining such status just so the inhabitants of bigger and more popular cities vying to be the nation’s center won’t kill each other. Think Canberra or Ottawa, although I haven’t really been to either one so I wouldn’t really know.
I live in Agdal, which is a very convenient location. There are cafes and restaurants all around our flat, which makes eating out less of a hassle. If cooking is your thing, there are supermarkets and stores which have almost everything you can ask for. Rabat-Ville serves as the city center somehow, where all the fancy shops and government institutions tend to be located. Most tourists will choose their lodging somewhere over there, just to be at the center of everything.
Oh, I was talking about tourist attractions, right? The ancient necropolis of Chellah has its own blog entry, so read that one instead if you are interested. Other than that, another place of interest would be the Qasbah des Oudayas by the coast. Both Rabat and Casablanca are located at the Atlantic coast, which means you’ll never run out of beaches if sunbathing is your thing. I actually think that the locals love the beach so much, they still go sunbathing even in the afterlife.
Being from an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, I guess I should not be surprised to see a cemetery right next to the beach. But no, I haven’t seen such a scenario in Manila. Maybe our beach bums just don’t like hanging out with the dead. Well, it’s a different story here in Rabat. While the walls of the Qasbah will be the first ones you’ll see as you alight your petit taxi, that cemetery will surely catch your attention soon enough as you go downhill. A bigger one can be seen to your left with many tombstones dotting the hill.
While I’m no stranger to the depressing and the morbid, I chose to prioritize the beach. My last Atlantic excursion was more than a year ago in Cascais, which only had a lighthouse, a cliff, and a lot of Asian tourists to offer. Even then, I loved how you are overwhelmed by the tranquility brought about by just staring at the waves constantly bitch-slapping those huge rocks like a boss, because they can. Well, it’s the Atlantic, and Rabat gets its fair share of that awesome scenery.
What you will probably like about Rabat’s marina is the wealth of activities to choose from. You see a lot of teenagers there playing ball, while some are just there sunbathing. There are several peddlers hawking food and drinks but they will not really annoy you that much. You can also find some restaurants which I suppose would be overpriced but worth it if only for the nice view of the ocean while you’re eating. And then you have the gang of surfers daring to ride the waves, which always guarantees a good video clip.
I’ve heard that surfing here is really affordable, and given the proximity of the Qasbah to where I live, it could be a worthwhile distraction. But I think I prefer the skating rink at Megamall better. Being soaked in seawater in this cold climate does not sound so appealing. At least at the rink I get to break a sweat when I start hopping around, despite the cold environment. Anyway, the surfers today were a good mix of locals and expats, so if you plan to pursue this hobby, I don’t think you’ll feel out of place.
But wait, you’re a tourist. You didn’t come to Rabat to surf. If that is the case, then just choose one of the benches at the quay, sit on that bench, and be emo. Make sure you bring your selfie stick so you can capture your Oscar-worthy facial expression showcasing the difficulties of living with your first world problems. After that, it’s time to go back uphill and take photos of the Qasbah. If you love chaotic places, then I suggest going inside, although I’ve heard that this one is not as crowded as the other ones.
Go farther downhill on the other side and you’ll see the river dividing Rabat and Salé. You can ride a boat to get to Salé if you wish. There’s a restaurant there called Le Dhow, which is on a wooden ship on the river. Their profiteroles are quite pricy, but really good. Trust me, I hate food. When I say it’s good, it’s good. Cross the street and you’ll end up at the artisans’ section where you can go souvenir hunting. I also saw carpets and rags there, but good luck taking that home with you back to Manila.
The Hassan Tower is under construction, but still well worth the visit. The mausoleum next to it is really fancy, as most of them are here in Morocco. I don’t know if you have to pay to get inside, but the fee should be minimal if ever. The area is rather large and could be a good hangout spot after sunset. Otherwise, it would be too hot. You can also ride the tram back to the city center for MAD6 (PHP~30) one-way! Just take note that there are two lines, so make sure you know where you’re going.