What you need to know
Rabat is the capital of Morocco and its seventh largest city center. The city is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. On the facing shore of the river lies Salé, the city’s main commuter town. Silt-related problems have diminished Rabat’s role as a port; however, Rabat and Salé still maintain important textile, food processing and construction industries. In addition, tourism and the presence of all foreign embassies in Morocco serve to make Rabat one of the most important cities in the country.
Once a reputed corsair haven, Rabat served as one of the many ports in North Africa for the Barbary pirates, who were particularly active from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Rabat is accessible by train through the ONCF system and by plane through the nearby Rabat–Salé Airport. The Moroccan capital was ranked at second place by CNN in its “Top Travel Destinations of 2013.” It is one of four Imperial cities of Morocco, and the medina of Rabat is listed as a World Heritage site.
It’s known for landmarks that speak to its Islamic and French-colonial heritage, including the Kasbah of the Udayas. This Berber-era royal fort is surrounded by formal French-designed gardens and overlooks the ocean. The city’s iconic Hassan Tower, a 12th-century minaret, soars above the ruins of a mosque.
Population: 577,827 (2014)
Area: 45.17 mi²
The official currency of Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham, denoted as MAD or Dhs. The Moroccan Dirham is composed of 100 centimes; notes are available in denominations of (Dhs) 200, 100, 50, 25, and 20, all in new and old varieties and coins are available in denominations of (Dhs) 10, 5, 2 and 1, or 50, 20, 10 and 5 centimes.
Rabat features a Mediterranean climate with oceanic influences. Located along the Atlantic Ocean, Rabat has a mild, temperate climate, shifting from cool in winter to warm days in the summer months. The nights are always cool (or cold in winter, it can reach Sub 0 °C (32 °F) sometimes), with daytime temperatures generally rising about +7/8 C° (+15/18 F°). The winter highs typically reach only 17.2 °C (63.0 °F) in December–February. Summer daytime highs usually hover around 25 °C (77.0 °F), but may occasionally exceed 30 °C (86.0 °F), especially during heat waves. Summer nights are usually pleasant and cool, ranging between 11 °C (51.8 °F) and 19 °C (66.2 °F) and rarely exceeding 20 °C (68.0 °F). Rabat belongs to the sub-humid bioclimatic zone with an average annual precipitation of 560 mm.
The official language of Morocco is Classical Arabic, but many residents of Casablanca speak a regional variation of this so practicing with a phrasebook before you arrive may only go so far to helping you converse with the locals. Additionally, French is commonly spoken while English-speaking remains a skill largely associated with the educated or those working in popular tourist areas.
Rabat is considered a safe city. Just use some common sense: avoid wearing expensive jewelry or looking flashy, do not flash large quantities of cash, and avoid unfamiliar and deserted areas at night. If you walk in the crowded streets of the Medina or use a bus, keep a hand on your pockets. Women should avoid low-cut tops, midriffs, or shorts to avoid harassment (which almost always consists of comments, but nothing physical) although this is less of a problem than in other cities. Don’t feel the need to be polite–no Moroccan woman would put up with behaviour like that.
There are two lines between Rabat and Salé. There is a tram every 10 minutes during the week and every 20 minutes during Sunday. One of the stations (Mohammed V – Gare de Rabat.) is located exactly just in front of the downtown train station (Gare de Rabat-Ville). It is a good way of getting around.
Petit Taxis All blue in color, mostly Fiat UNO and Renault DACIAS. This inexpensive way to get around tow. Be sure to check the meter is running to avoid being over charged at the end of the trip, although this is much less of a problem than in other cities. Don’t be surprised if the taxi stops to pick someone else up.
Avoid the white Mercedes Grand Taxis when traveling around Rabat: They are much more expensive and less safe than blue petit taxis.
There are now official bus routes listed and bus stops have signs showing at least the bus lines that stop there. The buses can be of very variable quality, but it could be worth taking the chance given the cost-saving and experience of what many locals with low income experience. If the bus is crowded watch out for pickpockets.