Rabat

Morocco’s capital was an attractive place to explore for a few hours, even on a rather wet day. Although there is generally a fresh breeze from the sea the humidity is around 80% all year round. Established in the 12th century, the French made it the capital in 1912.

The father of Moroccan independence, Mohammed V, retained Rabat as the capital and his impressive mausoleum is an architectural highlight of the city. Designed by a Vietnamese architect, it opened in 1967 after six years of construction. There are some lovely fountains around the site.

The entrance is guarded by soldiers on horseback, under handy shelters given the persistent rain when I visited.

The inside of the tomb is quite exquisite.

While the outside is pleasingly simple.

Next to the mausoleum is a mosque, and a white pavilion.

The mausoleum complex was built next to the late 12th century Hassan Tower. This and many columns is all that remains of what would have been one of the largest mosques in the world at the time. The tower was a minaret that was planned to be 80m tall, but only made it to 44m.

From outside the mausoleum and Hassan Tower complex can be seen a flash new opera house designed by Zaha Hadid under construction.

An unexpected highlight of Rabat, not mentioned in any of the guides I read, was Cimetière Chouhada, a huge cemetery stretching down toward to the coast. Most of the many thousands of graves were relatively plain but some were bright yellow, and fewer were vibrant red and blue, quite a sight.

There was some impressive waves and coastal scenery by a clearly needed lighthouse just outside the cemetery.

The striking Kasbah des Oudaias is an fortified citadel from the end of the 12th century on the tip of the coast, with some great views out across the water.

Inside it is only about 150m long, but is home to the oldest mosque in the city, and a number of photogenic narrow blue and white lime washed streets.

Bab Oudaïa is it’s historic main gate, next to which are palm lined walls containing the pleasant Andalusian Gardens, developed at start of 20th century. Behind the gardens was a cafe with more sea views.

A legacy of French colonisation, St. Peter’s Cathedral was sizeable, rather dark in the naves, but well illuminated by it’s light filled tower.

Nearby was a wonderfully patterned building facade.

Stepping out from the train station it felt like arriving in the capital, judging by the smartness of the buildings and greenery.

Mohammed V Boulevard was lined with attractive buildings, including the red Parliament Building.

The boulevard runs parallel to and then through the city walls. They were built in 12th century and restored in 17th and 18th centuries though they look newer in places.

It then runs through Rabat Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a maze of narrow streets, containing a market, an attractive fountain and lots of dead ends.

To finish with some building sized street art.

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