Tell me about Morocco, in particular Rabat
April 7, 2015 1:26 PM   Subscribe

My daughter is planning on spending her semester abroad in Rabat, Morocco. I've looked through Wikipedia/travel, but what should I know about the place beyond that information?

For example, I'm looking for suggestions like:
a) this place is not well known but you should visit for tourist/food/experience reasons
b) watch out for X/Y/Z
c) this is cliche'd but really go do/eat/experience this. The reputation is deserved.
d) anything else you feel like sharing

I've traveled extensively, she less so, but she's inherited my sense of adventure. This may or may not be a good thing :-).
posted by Runes to Travel & Transportation around Rabat, Morocco (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I spent a couple weeks in Rabat. Its very boring. Not a lot going on. Don't go to the sister town, its a dump. Don't follow anyone down an alley. Do a tour of the Sahara and sleep in the desert and ride some Camals.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:26 PM on April 7, 2015

I can't find my notebook, so I don't have any specific advice - but what I learnt in Rabat is that one really needs to get to know local peers. Don't hang out only with other international students. They can find the parties, the special sites, the restaurants, the cultural activities and well, everything.

Or else it will be boring.
posted by mumimor at 2:35 PM on April 7, 2015

Moroccans speak a mixture of French and Arabic. Inhabitants of the major Moroccan cities speak English but you/she may have to fall back on French/Arabic in the hinterlands. If you don't have any Arabic, you can get by with French.

Send her off with a scrip for cipro. I like to travel but I've only gotten sick in Morocco.

Eat bastilla--chicken or pigeon if she/you do that, vegetarian if she/you have the opportunity.
posted by Morrigan at 4:22 PM on April 7, 2015

Best answer: Contrary to MisantropicPainforest's perceptions and "advice", I found Rabat to be quite nice and not at all boring; so much so that I nearly bought a small riad there a number of years ago. What makes it nice, in my opinion, is that it's more laid-back than some other Moroccan cities (like Fes or Casablanca) and there are fewer tourists poking around (like you find in Marrakech). It's a fairly normal place with lots of normal locals going about their normal daily lives. It does also have a fair number of international folks given that its the capital city with embassies, consulates, etc. Sale (its, I guess, "sister town") is across the river and is not as "nice" as Rabat but there are some great experiences to be had there as well if one is open to them.

One tricky bit which I'll be fully open about is that I'm a dude with a fairly "come what may" attitude to traveling and to life. Your daughter should be more careful than I typically would be, because she's female; this is super annoying, but it is what it is. Morocco is more progressive than some other countries but well, I hope you understand what I'm saying; if she really wants to get out and experience *local* culture and stuff, I'd suggest she goes with at least a couple other folks (a male in the group will definitely "help") so she's not freaked out about her own personal safety. In some places, the touts and "guides" and shop keepers can be rather pushy and intimidating. And like anywhere, there is crime and she probably doesn't want to "follow anyone down an alley".

Okay, so, Rabat. One of the things I really liked about it was that the medina is really manageable and the shop owners are not as aggressive as they are in other cities. It's quite easy to wander around, smell the smells, eat random food, check out random stuff, and observe life. The kasbah is also a nice place to stroll around and check out. I forget the name of the place but there's a great little spot where one can get (the ubiquitous) mint tea and sit out overlooking the kasbah and ocean; pretty swell way to pass a few hours in conversation and taking it in. The chellah ruins just outside of town are also interesting and if she likes to take pretty pictures, she'll be in heaven. My info would be too far out of date to offer advice on good restaurants and places to hang out, etc. but I'm sure that if she's there to study she'll make friends and meet folks who know the "good places". I totally concur with mumimor that getting to know local peers will really enhance her experience.

Across the river, Sale is much quieter and more "local" than Rabat but there are a couple nice madrassas to check out and some really awesome bakeries.

Around the rest of the country, there is much to see and do. Far too much to blather on about here so I'll just hit a few of my own highlights...

- I really enjoy chilling out at the beach in Mohammedia, which is between Rabat and Casa.
- Essouaria is gorgeous and full of galleries and cafes and views, but with that brings tourists galore. Go off-season to try and get a real feel for the place.
- I love Marrakech but it's really "losing itself" by catering to tourists. Tourism has done a TON of good for Morocco but, well, it's complex hey? I loved poking around in the Atlas mountains south of Marrakech. The Tin Mal mosque is really impressive. If she's a skiier, she should try and get down to the (ahem) resort in Oukaimeden when there's snow, just to be able to say that she skied in Africa. Another skiing option would be Ifrane which is beautiful and kind of a head-f*** because it seriously feels a lot like Switzerland.
- I don't have a load of positive things to say about Tangier but then, I've only spent a limited amount of time (a couple weeks in total) there. Anthony Bourdain loved it, so...
- In terms of getting out into the desert, I concur with MP above, it can be a great experience. Everyone has their favorite place from which to set out; I liked Zagora.

I hope your daughter has a blast! Morocco is an awesome, awesome place and is a great sort of "stepping stone" to a life of adventure. In other words, it's a wonderful place to visit and really catch the travel bug. Good luck to her!
posted by lazywhinerkid at 4:30 PM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

Also Modern Standard Arabic will be next to useless so don't bother. Educated Moroccans will Prefer to speak French. In more rural areas French will decline in utility and people will speak Moroccan Arabic or Berber.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:13 PM on April 7, 2015

« Older Gluten-free, dairy-free cake in San Francisco?   |   Can I wake up alone (without having to sleep alone... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.