Whether you want to hit the national monuments or just meander through the medina, Rabat - the capital of Morocco - has a lot to offer. Because it’s neither as steeped in history as Fez or as flashy as Marrakech, Rabat tends to attract less tourists - and that’s a benefit in my book. Even the tourist attractions in this city feel relaxed in comparison to Fez and Marrakech.
Since Youness grew up near Rabat, our family has spent a lot of time there. I’m going to share how we like to organize our day if we’re planning on showing Rabat to friends or family. As you may notice, we like to intersperse the day with opportunities to run around & also eat lots of snacks!
In the morning, stop by a cafe or mhelaba, a small shop the sells breads and milk products, to pick up some breakfast treats. You definitely want to try some reghaif, a type of buttery flat bread, or harsha, both prepared on a stove top and (usually) visible from the street. If you prefer French style pastries, you’ll find plenty of those as well! Don’t hesitate to buy your breads or pastries and bring them to a cafe, where you can order a coffee to round out your breakfast.
The Kasbah des Oudaias is a historical landmark located adjacent to the Rabat Medina, or old city, and at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river. Across the river, you can see the city of Sale, and behind the Kasbah lies the Atlantic Ocean. Inside the thick walls of the Kasbah is a beautiful Andalusian garden (with lots of cats!), and there is space for the kids to roam. Also, there are no cars in the garden, and even in the inhabited part of the Kasbah, cars move pretty slowly.
Inside the Kasbah and next to the gardens, you’ll find a cafe selling basic drinks and cookies. If you need a quick break, the view from the cafe down toward the river is worth a stop! Afterwards, you can meander through the rest of the Kasbah, including the residential area with its characteristic white and blue walls. If your kids need to run and jump, you can head down to the little beach behind the Kasbah. The waves here are gentle and it’s a good place for little ones to stick their feet in the water.
Since the Rabat Medina is just across the street, it’s easy to stroll through town from here. The Rue des Consuls, a large and partially covered shopping street, ends across from the Kasbah. Vendors here sell a lot of jewelry, carpets, and other souvenirs, but as you wander the streets, you’ll find products targeted at local residents as well.
Whenever we’re in this area, I plan on taking a break in the Cafe El Bahia, which is tucked into the Medina wall. They serve full meals, as well as harira - Morocco’s most famous soup - and juices of all kinds. Morocco is unique in that “juices” are often fruit mixed with orange juice or milk. So, if you order an apple juice, banana juice, avocado juice or almond juice, keep in mind that it may be blended with milk! Try them, they’re delicious.
The Bahia Cafe is close to Avenue Mohammed V, the main avenue that stretches from the old Medina to the train station and beyond. Late afternoon is prime time for strolling, and a lot of Moroccan families can be seen walking up and down this avenue. You’ll pass some stately buildings, including the Parliament, and if you need (another) snack, the Cafe Majestic on Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah is my favorite.
If you still have some energy, a visit to the Tour Hassan, a UNESCO world heritage site, is worth your time. The tower that you find at the site was intended to be the minaret of the largest mosque in the world. Unfortunately, the Caliph who commissioned it, Yaqub al-Mansur, died before it was completed and construction stopped. This landmark is huge, and my kids loved running around and hiding behind the columns. Don’t miss the Mausoleum of Mohammed V on the same site - both the interior and exterior are beautifully decorated in traditional Moroccan fashion.
Hope this gives you some ideas on what to do in Rabat with little kids. Bslama!