Rabat Introduction Walking Tour, Rabat

Rabat Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Rabat

Resting on the shores of the Bouregreg River and Atlantic Ocean, the capital city of Morocco, Rabat, is known for its picturesque natural surroundings, much as for its man-made beauty manifested in a mix of old and new architecture (featuring Islamic and French-colonial styles), abundance of mosques and historic monuments. The Medina (Old City) of Rabat is a World Heritage Site.

Rabat was founded in 1170, as a naval base, by the Almohad Caliphate, a Berber Muslim empire which at the height of its might controlled much of the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. The name Rabat comes from the Arabic word (er-Ribât) which means citadel. This name is short for (Ribâtu l-Feth) meaning the stronghold of victory, a title given by the Almohads when they established the city.

The Kasbah of the Oudaias, the oldest part of present-day Rabat, dates back to the city's early period. The Almohad caliph Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur (reigned from 1184–1199) set out to construct a new fortified imperial capital, called Ribat al-Fath, on the site of what is now the Medina. This project also implied the construction of an enormous mosque, the remains of which include the Hassan Tower, an iconic minaret and one of the city's most prominent sights.

Following the collapse of the Almohad empire, the city went into an extended period of decline. In the 17th century Rabat became a haven for Barbary pirates (corsairs), who preyed on merchant ships around the shores of Western Europe. Corsair activities were based in the area below the Kasbah, on the south bank, which was more heavily populated, thanks to the Morisco and Andalusi refugees expelled from Spain by King Philip III in 1609. What is now known as Rue des Consuls (Street of the Consuls) became an important road artery back then.

The corsairs and then the 'Alawi dynasty refortified and expanded the citadel in the 17th and 18th centuries. Under Sultan Moulay Slimane (r. 1792–1822) a Jewish quarter, the Mellah, was created. In 1912, the French established a protectorate over Morocco and made Rabat its administrative center. After Morocco achieved independence in 1955, the city became the country's capital.

Rabat is also one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco. Adjacent to the Hassan Tower is the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, completed in 1971 to a design by Vietnamese architect Cong Vo Toan.

For a more detailed acquaintance with the most famous attractions of the Moroccan capital, take this introductory walk.
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Rabat Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Rabat Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Morocco » Rabat (See other walking tours in Rabat)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: alice
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Mausoleum of Mohammed V
  • Hassan Tower
  • Mellah of Rabat
  • rue des Consuls (Consuls Street)
  • Kasbah des Oudaias (Oudaias Citadel)
Mausoleum of Mohammed V

1) Mausoleum of Mohammed V (must see)

The Mausoleum of Mohammed V is the final resting place of the Moroccan King Mohammed V (died 1961); it also contains the tombs of King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The complex features neo-Moorish or Moroccan revivalist style, and was designed by Vietnamese architect Cong Vo Toan, who skillfully combined traditional forms with modern materials. The intentional use of historical crafts and motifs was meant not only to pay tribute to the late king, but also to evoke his efforts to encourage traditional craftsmanship as a means of promoting Moroccan identity.

Construction began in 1961, commissioned by King Hassan II, and involved renovations to the esplanade of the ruined Almohad-era mosque. Upon its completion, in 1971, the body of Mohammed V was interred in the mausoleum that same year. Later, his two sons, Prince Abdallah and King Hassan II, were buried here too, in 1983 and 1999, respectively.

A true marvel of the Alaouite dynasty architecture, the mausoleum stands on an elevated platform and is clad in white marble. The exterior is marked by porticos of Moorish arches and a pyramidal green roof. The wall surfaces above the arches are carved with a typical Moroccan sebka motif. Inside the building is a dome of mahogany wood with coloured glass, and the walls covered in zellij tiling. Some elements are finished with chased brass. A reader of the Quran is often present on the site, having a designated seat.

The mausoleum is open daily from sunrise until sunset.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Hassan Tower

2) Hassan Tower (must see)

Hassan Tower (or Tour Hassan) is the minaret of an incomplete mosque. It was commissioned by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, the third Caliph of the Almohad Caliphate, in 1195, and was intended to be the largest minaret in the world.

Strategically placed on the high south bank of the Bu Regreg river, to provide an imposing spectacle visible for miles around, the tower is made of sandstone which, over the centuries, has turned red ochre in color. It has a square floor plan, like the other minarets in the region, measuring 16 meters per side. Instead of stairs, though, the structure is ascended by ramps. This was to enable a muezzin to ride a horse to the top of the tower to issue a call to prayer.

The design was done by an architect named Jabir and is similar to that of Hassan's sister tower, Giralda, in Seville, Spain. Both of them were modeled on the minaret of yet another one of Jabir's creations, the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech.

Despite having been commissioned by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, the structure carries the name of "Hassan" for unknown reason. What is known is that it has been called so since the 13th century. Suggestion that it could have been the architect's first name is not substantiated.

After al-Mansour's death in 1199, the construction came to a halt. The tower only reached 44 meters, about half of its intended 86 meters height. The rest of the mosque was also left incomplete, with only the beginnings of several walls and 200 columns finished.

At the center of each of the six floors there was meant to be a vaulted chamber surrounded by ramps and lit by the horseshoe-shaped windows set into the sides of the tower. The exterior is decorated with panels of sebka patterning as well as engaged columns and capitals carved from the same sandstone as the tower itself. There is also one marble capital of Andalusi spolia.

Along with the remains of the mosque and the modern Mausoleum of Mohammed V, the Hassan Tower forms an important historical and tourist complex in Rabat.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Mellah of Rabat

3) Mellah of Rabat

The Mellah of Rabat is a relatively “new” of all the ancient quarters in the city. It was created only in 1808, during the reign of Sultan Moulay Slimane ben Mohammed, and was formerly reserved for the Jews, who were forced to settle here in a sort of enclave, surrounded by walls, with several entry points.

Set on the cliffs overlooking the Bouregreg river, the Mellah has its own distinctive character, unsimilar to that of other local neighborhoods, with the atmosphere animated by merchants, street vendors and other activities scattered in its alleys swarming with shoppers.

The Jews built entire neighborhoods within the Mellah, baptizing the streets in their own fashion by using family names, such as Rue du Rabbi Shalom Zoaui or Rue David-Cohen. The former street is where the Rabbi Shalom Zaoui synagogue is located, near Bab Diouana and contiguous to the Andalusian wall of the Medina. It was named after Rabbi Shalom Zaoui (born circa 1839 and died circa 1918) greatly respected and revered by the community, and is established in his former house.

The synagogue is accessed through a courtyard painted bright red. It follows the Moorish architectural style distinguished by the three-lobed shapes of the windows and the lamps similar to those found in mosques.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
rue des Consuls (Consuls Street)

4) rue des Consuls (Consuls Street)

rue des Consuls (Street of the Consuls) is one of the oldest and most famous streets in Rabat, classified as a historic monument. Indeed, the history of this area goes back 500 years. In 1609, King Philip III of Spain expelled all the Moriscos (people of Muslim or Moorish descent) from the country, a good number of whom (up to 14,000) settled in Rabat and neighboring Salé, in 1627. The autonomous Corsair Republic of Salé that they formed became a base for corsairs (pirates), who preyed on merchant ships around the shores of Western Europe. Back then, the area below the Kasbah, on the south bank, grew heavily populated, and the territory of today's Rue des Consuls became an important road artery.

It was during that time that the first ambassadors came here to negotiate the release of prisoners kept by the pirates. The most famous of them, perhaps, was Louis Chénier, father of the French poet André Chénier, who served here for from 1768 to 1782, representing King of France.

Pursuant to a treaty signed with the Sultan, foreign diplomats were allowed to buy back their compatriots from the pirate captivity at the Souk El Ghazal in the special "negotiation zone". Owing to this, for centuries, first during the Republic of Salé and then under the Chérifien Empire, up until 1912, this neighborhood had been a home to numerous ambassadors and consuls, particularly European ones. Today, it still houses residences of the Swedish, Danish and Dutch envoys.

Also, rue des Consuls is a home to the landmark craft souk renowned for the traditional carpets, rugs, jewelry, leather, silks, lamps, wooden furniture and of course the traditional babouches (loose garments) and jellabahs (slippers) sold here in abundance and attracting many tourists. Here, alongside handmade tagine pottery and other authentic stuff, you can also find dried fruits and various types of Moroccan spices.
Kasbah des Oudaias (Oudaias Citadel)

5) Kasbah des Oudaias (Oudaias Citadel) (must see)

Dominating the hill at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river, adjacent to the old Medina of Rabat, is Kasbah des Oudaias, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The upper (northern) part of this citadel dates back to the 12th century and was erected during the so-called Almohad period, under Caliph Ya'qub al-Mansur. It is centered around the Rue Jamaa (Mosque Street), which runs between the Bab Oudaia ("Udaya Gate") and the semaphore platform, passing by the Kasbah's Old Mosque.

The monumental Bab Oudaia, otherwise known as Bab al-Kbir ("Great Gate"), is largely regarded as one of most beautiful pieces of Moroccan architecture. It was built between 1195 and 1199 and originally formed part of the Kasbah old fortification, constructed circa 1150. At a later period, when encircled by new walls, the gate, albeit massive, served rather ceremonial than defensive function.

Both its outer and inner facades are richly decorated. The intricate carving around the horseshoe arch entrance features a curved band of interlacing geometric forms (specifically, a pattern known as darj wa ktaf, commonly seen in Moroccan architecture), set inside a rectangular frame outlined by a Qur'anic inscription frieze in Kufic Arabic script.

The external façade of the inner gate, facing towards the Kasbah, is similarly embellished, but with minor differences in the choice of geometric forms. Inside, the gate has three chambers which form a bent passage.

As for the southern part of the Kasbah, it dates from the 18th century, and emerged during the so-called Alaouite period. This part of the citadel is taken up, to a great extent, by the Andalusian Gardens, the Oudayas Museum, and a terrace known as Café Maure.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Rabat, Morocco

Create Your Own Walk in Rabat

Create Your Own Walk in Rabat

Creating your own self-guided walk in Rabat is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Rabat Shopping Walk

Rabat Shopping Walk

Rabat is heaven for those who love shopping. Indeed, the abundance of shopping opportunities – traditional markets and shopping streets – in this city gives no reason to doubt that. There you can find all kinds of oriental delights you can possibly think of.

One of Rabat's top shopping destinations is Consuls Street (rue des Consuls). Steeped in a 500-year history, this street houses...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles