Rabat, the capital of Morocco, is home to a little more than 1 million people in the larger metropolitan area. A historic city whose roots go back thousands of years, Rabat now provides an intriguing mix of tradition and modernity. Students love the ability to take the tramway past the old medina and to see historic sites mere minutes from high-end stores and restaurants. This fusion of old and new also allows students to learn about a language and culture that may be different from their own while in a safe and well-structured environment.
Map of Rabat
Below is a helpful, interactive map to give you a better idea of the layout of this capital city.
Sites to visit
As mentioned above, there are numerous sites to visit throughout Rabat that reveal its historical and cultural importance. Some of the most famous include the Hassan Tower and Mohammed V Mausoleum. Located in the same complex, these two massive structures represent kings of Morocco who ruled hundreds of years apart.
Like many Moroccan cities, Rabat is also known for its old medina. The ancient, walled city is still home to hundreds of families, shops, cafes, and hotels. Not as massive as some medinas in Morocco, Rabat’s medina is manageable and inviting, allowing students to wander through for a few hours, taking in all the sights and sounds.
Another well-known site is the lovely Kasbah of the Oudaya, an ancient fortress that now serves as a coastal neighborhood. Located on the northwestern corner of the city, the Kasbah is also home to an Andalusian-style garden and a café with traditional Moroccan tea and cookies.
Chellah, the site of Rabat’s old Roman ruins, as well as a selection of museums and galleries throughout the city, also attract students and tourists throughout the year.
Qalam wa Lawh frequently takes students on tours of these sites as part of its cultural immersion excursions. To learn more about these educational visits and how you can take part, take a look
at the Cultural Activities page.
Rabat offers several different types of public transportation that students can use. The simplest is the small (petit) blue taxis. These taxis run all over the city of Rabat but cannot leave the city. With a maximum of three passengers, these taxis can help students get where they need to go at any time of day. Please note that the prices rise after 8 PM (20:00).
The big white taxis (grand taxis) are mostly for out-of-town or long-distance use. These taxis have a maximum of six passengers and a specified, set route and price.
The tramway system is clean, reliable, and easy to manage. A one-way ticket, bought at the tramway stop, is only 6 MAD. However, the tramway does not stop in all neighborhoods in Rabat, so it is important for students to take a look at tramlines before setting off on an adventure.
Trains run to most cities across the kingdom. First-class tickets are usually about double the price of second-class tickets but guarantee a seat (this is especially important on long voyages or during weekends and rush hour). At the end of 2018, Morocco also added the TGV, a French high-speed train. From Rabat, the TGV runs to either Casablanca or Tangier. The train schedules can be accessed by visiting oncf.ma.
Students can also use Rabat city buses if it is convenient for their route. Several bus companies also provide an alternative for out-of-town travel. CTM is the cleanest and most reliable of these companies.
Food and Restaurants
Critics from around the world rave about Moroccan food, and Rabat provides so many options!
For students, Qalam wa Lawh’s cafeteria provides traditional Moroccan breakfast, lunch, and snack options daily. Please visit the Campus page to learn more about food options on campus.
Qalam wa Lawh is located in the Agdal neighborhood, which has an abundance of delicious restaurants to choose from, as well. For Moroccan food, the famous Chez Ouazzani is only a few minutes down the street (be ready for a wait during lunchtime!). Avenue Abtal, just around the corner from the center, has an impressive list of restaurants that currently include Mexican food, Thai food, Turkish food, Syrian food, chawarma, sushi, and plenty of cafes! For a cheaper option, Avenue Dades provides an assortment of traditional snack-style restaurants with made-to-order sandwiches, plates, and tajines.
A quick taxi ride from the center, in the old medina, students, tourists, and locals alike enjoy anything from sugar cane juice to couscous to rotisserie chicken! The bread and sweet options, as well as the pizzeria and snack options, are reasonably priced, although students should of course be wary of overloading their system on new tastes too early in their stay.
(If you’re looking for something specific during your time in Rabat, just let someone
at Qalam know and we will do our best to help you find it!)
When it comes to shopping, you can find just about anything you’re looking for in the medina. Clothing shops display the latest trends, while tailors and traditional Moroccan dress stores reveal every color and material available. Walking down one street of the vast marketplace, students can find pastries and clothes and touristy trinkets, as well as leather goods, Moroccan lanterns, and bunches of mint leaves. While different sections of the medina specialize in different items, it can often be nice just to stroll around during your shopping trip!
The Agdal neighborhood, where Qalam is based, has more Western shops, including Lacoste, Aldo, and other clothing, shoes, and jewelry stores. For higher-end shopping, students can make their way to the more luxurious neighborhoods of Hay Riad and Souissi, which each have a variety of shopping centers and malls, including the Rabat Mega Mall.
When it comes to groceries, students should feel free to partake in the open-air markets in the medina and all across town. (Students should be careful when washing fruits and vegetables in the tap water, however.) Grocery stores, with more materials and packaged options, can also be found throughout the city. The most well-known is Carrefour. There is a Carrefour only a 10-15 minute walk or 2-minute taxi ride from Qalam Center. Large supermarkets, such as Acima and Marjane, can be found on the farther edges of town. There, students could find groceries, as well as more home goods, including blankets and chairs, etc.
Safety and Security
As the capital, Rabat is generally considered the safest city in Morocco. While pickpocketing,
purse-snatching, and phone-stealing do occur, they are significantly less likely to occur than in larger, touristic cities like Marrakech and Fes. Additionally, because the king, politicians, and diplomats from all over the world reside in Rabat, there is constant police and security presence year-round.