RABAT

Earlier in the year we visited Rabat, Morocco’s capital to experience the cities rich heritage; it’s one of four Imperial cities of Morocco, and the medina of Rabat is listed as a World Heritage Site. Whilst on our travels we also visited Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco and one of the largest financial centres on the continent of Africa.

There is a vast amount to see and do; a few of our favourite highlights from Rabat include:

[Hassan Tower]


Hassan Tower

Begun in 1195, the tower was intended to be the largest minaret in the world along with the mosque, also intended to be the world’s largest. The tower, made of red sandstone and sits neatly on the landscape along with the remains of the mosque and the modern Mausoleum of Mohammed V, which forms an important historical and tourist complex in Rabat.

[Mausoleum of Mohammed V]

Mausoleum of Mohammed V
A historical building located on the opposite side of the Hassan Tower on the Yacoub al-Mansour esplanade in Rabat. It contains the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons, late King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. It’s very grand inside gold decorations and intricate detailing on the walls and ceilings.

[Kasbah of the Udayas]

Kasbah of the Udayas
A beautiful kasbah in Rabat which is located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river opposite Salé (a small town). The edifice was built in the 12th century during the reign of the Almohad Caliphate (AD 1121-1269). When the Almohads had captured Rabat and destroyed the kasbah of the Almoravid dynasty in the town, they began reconstructing it in AH 544 / AD 1150. They added a palace and a mosque and named it al-Mahdiyya, after their ancestor al-Mahdi Ibn Tumart. After the death of Yaqub al-Mansur (AH 595 / AD 1199) the kasbah was deserted and Today it is a jewel on the coastline of Rabat.

Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
The museum is a great space to introduce the general public to modern and contemporary Moroccan and international art. The MMVI covers the evolution of Moroccan and international artistic creation in the plastic and visual arts, from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day. It’s well worth a visit.

Jardins Exotiques
If you fancy being outdoors and being closer to mother nature these beautiful gardens are open to the public, located north of Salé. They were created from 1949 by the French horticultural engineer Marcel François.

[Rabat Medina]

Rabat Medina
One of the must-see attractions is the Medina of Rabat, which is in the older part of the city and where you’ll find lot’s of gift ideas and authentic Moroccan products.

CASABLANCA

After a few days in Rabat we were excited to venture to Casablanca which took just under an hour on the train. The area which is Casablanca today was founded and settled by Berbers around seventh century BC and it was also used as a port by the Phoenicians and later the Romans. In the early 15th century, the town became an independent state once again, and emerged as a safe harbour for pirates and privateers, leading to it being targeted by the Portuguese, who bombarded the town which led to its destruction in 1468.

The Portuguese used the ruins of Anfa to build a military fortress in 1515. The town that grew up around it was called Casa Branca, meaning “white house” in Portuguese. In the 19th century, the area’s population began to grow as it became a major supplier of wool to the booming textile industry in Britain and shipping traffic increased (the British, in return, began importing gunpowder tea, used in Morocco’s national drink, mint tea).

By the 1860s, around 5,000 residents were there, and the population grew to around 10,000 by the late 1880s. Casablanca remained a modestly sized port, with a population reaching around 12,000 within a few years of the French conquest and arrival of French colonialists in the town, at first administrators within a sovereign sultanate, in 1906. Morocco gained independence from France on 2 March 1956.

Casablanca is also famed for being the backdrop of the 1942 legendary film of the same name which starred Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. The film has achieved worldwide popularity since then. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, it won three, including Best Picture. We couldn’t resits a visit to Rick’s Cafe. Opened March 2004 the place was designed to recreate the bar made famous by the film.

[Rick’s Cafe, Casablanca]

It’s easy to keep yourself occupied in Casablanca as there is plenty to see; a few our favourite places included:

[Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque
A very grand mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. It is the largest mosque in Morocco and the 13th largest in the world. Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 metres (689 ft). Completed in 1993, it was designed by Michel Pinseau and built by Bouygues. The mosque stands on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic Ocean.

[Beach sunset in Casablanca]

Casablanca’s Beaches
Whilst in Casablanca visitors often take time out to visit the towns beaches which face the Atlantic Ocean and also have beautiful sunsets. As with every surf spot along the Moroccan coast, the water is warm (around 18-24°C) and it benefits from some great swell, especially when the Atlantic waves come in from the north. Beginners should aim for either Jack Beach to the south of Casablanca or the beaches to the north of the city. Dar Bouazza has nice clean wave, perhaps the best left-hand point break in the country.

Hammams
The hammams in Casablanca offer a relaxing experience, which retains many of the age old traditions of this exotic culture.

Luxury Casablanca
As well as the accommodation, Casablanca can offer you plenty of activities to help you live life in luxury. There are some world-class golf courses and many gourmet restaurants in the city, as well as Africa’s largest shopping centre. Trendy boutiques and some of the finest jewellers in the country ply their trade here allowing you to take a piece of Moroccan luxury home with you.

[The outstanding roof top pool at Mövenpick Hotel Casablanca]

Casablanca is packed with art galleries, fine restaurants, top fashion designers and cutting edge nightlife. You can spend time and money in the old medina or the giant shopping mall that’s the largest in Africa. Casablanca is a cultural melting pot, a progressive city that welcomes visitors with open arms. Whilst in Casablanca we stayed at the very comfortable, 5-star hotel, Mövenpick Hotel Casablanca.

[Hotel room at Mövenpick Hotel Casablanca]

The rooms and suites in this 5 star hotel are all designed to a lovely high standard and fully equipped with the latest technology such as a flat screen TV and free Wi-Fi. From generously sized double rooms to luxurious suites and family rooms there’s a room type to suit all guests.

[Restaurant at Mövenpick Hotel Casablanca]

Guests also have access to their excellent wellness and gymnasium facilities. The hotel is centrally located within the business district of Casablanca and only a short distance from the Old Medina. The hotel is also easily reachable from both Casablanca Mohamed VI Airport and Casablanca Voyageurs Train Station. If you get hungry there are three unique restaurants Casablanca Café, Seven and XO Lounge provide international cuisine throughout the day.

We would highly recommend a visit to Rabat & Casablanca, for more information visit  www.muchmorocco.com.