Rabat has been the capital of Morocco only since the days of the French protectorate. However it has a long and interesting history which goes back over 2500 years to the days when the Phoenicians were exploring the north African Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts and setting up colonies and trading posts.
It has a relatively modern history compared to the ancient city of Salé. In 1146, the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu’min turned Rabat’s ribat into a full scale fortress to use as a launching point for attacks on Iberia. In 1170, due to its military importance, Rabat acquired the title Ribatu l-Fath, meaning “stronghold of victory,” from which it derives its current name.
In the oldest part of Marrakesh Medina (old walled city), things haven’t changed for hundreds years. I remember going with my parents when I was young in a camp-van. We would have a modest holiday visiting the souk in ‘Jamaa el Fna’ place, one of the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco and also has one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world. The square bustles with acrobats, story-tellers, water sellers, dancers and musicians. By night food stalls open in the square turning it into a huge busy open-air restaurant. Certainly one of the most remembered places from my holidays fas a child.
Marrakesh is an exotic bird, and it’s street, souks (market) and gardens teas and sets your senses a tingle with colour and life. This is a city of intrigue, of jewel-bright tiling, lazy pavement cafes where you can sip sweet mint tea and watch the theatre of the streets, and rooftop bars swathed in bright dyed cotton where visitors sip cocktails, away from prying eyes. You can even steam up your escape literally, by enjoying a treatment at one of the city’s hammams (Turkish baths).
It’s a magical experience to explore this city with a loved one, but the Riad (traditional Moroccan house) is the pounding heart of Marrakesh’s romance.