Chris Koney writes: Rabat, Morocco’s modern capital with deep-rooted history

I arrived at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca in the early hours of a rainy and cold morning with a group of journalists for a week’s trip to explore the best Morocco has to offer in terms of tourism, culture and business as part of the bilateral relations between the Republic of Ghana and the Kingdom of Morocco.

Also referred to as the Casablanca Airport, the Mohammed V International Airport is an international airport with state-of-the-art technology and currently Morocco’s biggest as well as one of Africa’s busiest airports serving as a key air transport hub for the North African region. The team of warm border control officials on duty at the time made our immigration processing easier and smoother.

Our destination for the first three days was Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. For the fun, adventure and fully discovering Morocco, we opted to do a two-hour road trip from Casablanca to Rabat. It was easy to draw the difference between the two cities immediately after we arrived in Rabat, which is more relaxed with an intimate vibe than Casablanca.

We checked into the four-star Rihab Hotel, located in the heart of the city. Rihab Hotel offers several activities and services including evening entertainment, nightclub sessions with a Disc Jockey (DJ), happy hour, themed dinners, live sports events and broadcast of key sports activities.

My immediate observation after arriving in the city of Rabat was that it has a more relaxed and intimate vibe than Casablanca, smaller, more traditional and cleaner too. There is a less hectic pace and it feels less crowded and chaotic. These make Rabat much more pleasant to walk around, especially in the city spaces and souks.

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My first activity is to catch up with an award-winning Ghanaian broadcaster and trainer transitioned into a communications expert. Nana Boakye-Yiadom is currently based in Morocco and works with Africa50 Infrastructure Investment Platform as Senior Communications Coordinator. He picked me from the hotel for lunch at the Bouregreg Marina located in the heart of the city of Sale with ten centuries of history that crystalizes the Qasbah Oudaya.

The next morning, we paid a courtesy call on His Excellency Mohamed METHQAL, the Ambassador Director General of the Morocco Agency for International Cooperation (AMCI) to have a deeper insight into their operations. Since its establishment in 1986, AMCI also contributes to the promotion of South-South Cooperation that is guided by the Vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

AMCI’s mission is to contribute to the expansion and strengthening of cultural, scientific, economic and technical cooperation between the Kingdom of Morocco and the countries to which it has friendship ties and cooperation.

The Agency also offers scholarships and grants to foreign students in accordance with the procedures set out in the scholarship regulations. The grants are awarded annually within the framework of cooperation agreements between the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco and other governments.

At the Agency, we toured their facility, which included housing units for hundreds of students, language centre, sports centre, gymnasium, clinic among others. We met and interacted with the leadership of the Ghanaian students in Morocco and twenty other students out of 200 Ghanaian students currently studying in various disciplines in the Kingdom of Morocco.

Rabat is a cultural city deep-rooted in history. Many masterpieces decorate its streets and squares as we realized during our tour of the city. Visit the Kasbah des Oudayas which is a majestic and splendid architecture embellished by the surrounding gardens. Not far from the walls stand the imposing walls of the Chellah; a necropolis from the time of the Merinids. Crossing the walls is like entering another world; walking among ancient vestiges, gardens and storks.

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Rabat is also a modern eco-responsible capital with its green spaces. Beautiful parks await you, such as the botanical test garden or the Exotic Gardens of Bouknadel, which is a few kilometres from the city. Rabat boasts an outstanding coastline; on the Atlantic Ocean shores, it has kilometres of well-equipped beaches that lead to the neighbouring city of Casablanca.

With its modern infrastructure and various festivals, Rabat is a living city. Airport, tram, shopping centres, cafés and restaurants, all the amenities are within your reach. Revel in bustling vibes of music that Rabat celebrates like no other city; from Mawazine, to Jazz au Chellah and many others that fill the atmosphere with sounds and rhythms from all over the world! Rabat is a city where the treasures of the past blend with the most modern and environmentally friendly achievements.

We also had the opportunity to visit the Royal Palace of Rabat also known as the Palais royal. It is the primary and official residence of the King of Morocco and situated in the Touarga commune of Rabat. Its official name is El Mechouar Essaid Palace, which means “The Venue of Happiness Palace”. The palace sits at the end of the mechouar, a large parade ground also containing a small mosque. The mechouar is used for large public assemblies, such as the return from exile of Mohammed V in 1955. As well as living space for the king and the royal family, there is accommodation for the Moroccan Royal Guard. The palace complex also contains the Collège Royal, a school for senior members of the royal family, a cookery school and a ground floor library built to contain the manuscript collection of Hassan II.

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One of the must-see attractions is the Medina of Rabat, which is in the older part of the city. There are also stalls on Green Street in the Rabat Medina that sell plastic bags full of mentha leaves which are used to make meantha tea. This particular type of tea is sometimes called Moroccan vodka because it is the cheapest drink you can buy in Morocco. There are lots of bargains to be found here at Rabat’s medina and so you are assured of coming away with a couple of affordable items to take home with you.

Rabat is simply an amazing unique attraction!

By Chris Koney