Insider's guide to... Rabat


What's the weather like?

What's the weather like?

Fabulous. Blue skies, warm and windless. Sitting out in the evening you almost have to use a knife to cut your way through the blossom-scent wafting up from the gardens.

What are the locals complaining about?

Morocco is free, fair and democratic but no one would be stupid enough to put these liberties to the test by blabbing to a foreigner about politics or the police.

Who's the talk of the town?

Everyone is still madly in love with the young King. Where he is, whom he talks to, who has access to him, does he now prefer Tangier to Marrakesh? First-hand stories about Mohammed VI can reduce a room to silence, while everyone else has to fight for air space in the rumour factory. No one seems impressed by the story that the prime minister may have been aware of the 1972 coup before it happened, or concerned that the energy minister should have been sacked weeks after Morocco discovered oil, or that one of the leading firebrand socialists was all along in the pocket of the ex-minister of the interior.

What's the cool drink to order?

In the early evening you should pop into the restored La Tour Hassan hotel, now the grandest and most central of all the big hotels. Avoid ordering wine or local beers - the waiters always give an approving nod to a large Johnnie Walker Red Label on the rocks, or a Ricard.

What are people eating?

Couscous, you fool; what else in this country? The expatriate white settlers pretend to like fish in a French sauce, but rumour has it that, having pushed something small around a large plate in a public space, they sneak back home and guzzle couscous too.

What's the latest outrageous stuff on TV?

Outrage happens every five minutes on those interminable Egyptian soap operas that still dominate Channel 1. Channel 2 has some very good chatshows dealing with beaten wives, corrupt lawyers and sorcerers - subjects of enduring interest over here. The truly outrageous stuff is on Al Jazeera (the closest the Arab world gets to a free-spoken news channel) from Qatar. Al Jazeera is especially free about Moroccan affairs because of an old feud between the two dynasties, heated up by accusations that Qatar is currently running guns into the Sahara.

Where won't the locals dream of going?

One of the charms of Rabat is that the city's major sites - the vast ruined mosque of Hassan, the Oudaia museum, the kasbah and the walled Chellah - are as crisscrossed with locals on a gentle stroll as with tourists. You will, however, be quite assuredly alone in the echoing walls of the archaeological museum or the colonial cathedral of St Pierre.

Where are the locals going that tourists don't know about?

The lagoon at Moulay-Bousselham, surrounded by dunes, saints' tombs and unspoilt countryside, is a world away from tourist Morocco. A scattering of family-run pensions provide the backdrop to holidays of boat trips, fishing expeditions and bird-watching.

What's the trendy place to escape to for the weekend?

For a day out of town, the beautiful sands of the Plage des Nations, topped up by lunch at the Firdaous hotel, cannot be equalled by anything along the Chaouia coast. For the whole weekend, you sidestep the rival city of Casablanca and head south to wallow in the sea lagoon at Oualidia. The Hotel Hippocampe (owned by a fellow Rabati and his Lebanese wife) is your evening base.

Where are the chic doing their shopping

Mega-chic Moroccans go to Paris, while their more earth-bound contemporaries and foreign ambassadors stop off at the riverside galleries beside the Dawliz hotel. Or they often like to head out of town to the Belghazi private museum where many of the finer exhibits come with a price tag attached.

Barnaby Rogerson is the author of the 'Cadogan Guide to Morocco'.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy