Where to stay in Rabat-Salé: the best Riads and boutique hotels

The Rabat-Salé region offers the chance to discover one of the most magical corners of Morocco. Not only the capital, a metropolis in the process of change and modernisation but which still retains that traditional touch that makes it unique, but another town a stone's throw away where you can appreciate the most genuine vestiges of this beautiful part of the Maghreb. Secretplaces offers you the chance to stay in the best charming hotels in the area, or would you prefer something more authentic? How about a romantic getaway in an ancient North African palace? Choose one of our charming riads in the medina, real havens of peace and serenity where you can enjoy a dream retreat.

What to visit in Rabat and Salé?

Rabat is the political and administrative capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. With a population of around 1.7 million, it is located on the southern shore of the Bou Regreg estuary, which separates Rabat from Salé.

It was originally a Carthaginian and then Roman settlement, and is named after Ribat al-Fatah, a fortress founded in 1150 by the Almohad regent Abd al-Mu'min, who used the Kasbah (or fortress) in the area to fight the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula.

During his reign, what was once a military camp gradually developed into a small town known as al-Mahdiya, with its mosque and royal residence. And in 1170, given its military importance, Rabat acquired the title of Ribat al-Fath, meaning 'bastion of victory', from which it takes its present name.

Rabat is the second most important city in the country after Casablanca - the largest and most economically significant. But it is still an enclave where ancient history and tradition merge with the drive to become a dynamic, cutting-edge, modern city.

Berber, Andalusian, French... The dual essence of Rabat and Salé is perfectly manifested, so close and yet so different from each other. While Rabat is more cosmopolitan and open, Salé is a residential area, more traditional and ancient.

Rabat offers the possibility of getting to know at first hand the attractive historical, cultural, and religious mix that has been developing for hundreds of years in this corner of the Maghreb. With an enviable heritage that is irresistible to any traveller, it is a must-see for anyone visiting Morocco. For example, the Kasbah - the citadel or fortress - of the Oudayas, named after the tribe that occupied it in the early 19th century, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 12th century, it is one of the city's main attractions, and inside you should visit the café, the garden, and the Museum of Moroccan Arts.

The medina is another point of interest in the city. Surrounded by walls built by the Andalusians expelled from Spain, it is an enchanting tangle of narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses tinged with blue. Highlights include the El Atiqa Mosque, the oldest mosque in Rabat, and the Corsairs' Tower, a reminder of the city's pirate past. The Almohad ramparts are very striking, and five of the old gates have been preserved. The remains of the Hassan Tower - the minaret of the mosque of the same name - the necropolis of Chellah Sellah, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V are also remarkable.

Salé, on the right bank of the Bou Regreg River, functions as a dormitory town for Rabat. It is a more chaotic city due to the intense rural exodus it has experienced over the years, but that does not mean it does not have some interesting places to visit. The Medina, for example, is one of the most authentic in the country, with its ramparts, seven gates and intricate maze of labyrinthine streets. Here you can visit the souks, such as the Ghezel souk (for textiles), the Merzouk (for jewellery and mats) and the Kebir (selling general products).

Possibly the finest monument in the city is the 14th-century Merini Madrasa, with its beautifully decorated doors and spectacular courtyard. Next to it is the great Almohad mosque, although it is not open to non-Muslims. Also highly recommended is the potters' village of Oujla, outside the city and next to the river, full of workshops with a wealth of experience working the clayey soil of the area.

Gastronomy in Rabat-Salé

Most of the region's typical dishes are based on pasta - such as couscous, the mainstay of Moroccan cuisine - vegetables and meat. Although some types of fish are also eaten. The use of spices is also very common and they are present in many dishes.

The traditional cuisine has resulted from a mixture of different styles and ingredients, and is homemade, with recipes being passed down orally from generation to generation. For example, seven-vegetable couscous is very typical. It is usually eaten on special occasions - and despite its name, it may contain lamb meat - and is prepared using ingredients such as onions, tomatoes, carrots, turnips, pumpkin... and spices such as turmeric, ginger and cloves.

Also well known is Harira, a soup typical of the whole country, which is quite thick and contains ingredients such as flour, tomato, chickpeas, and onion, as well as spices. And Tajine, which refers to the container in which it is served - an earthenware dish with a conical lid - prepared with lamb meat in general, or chicken on some occasions, with pulses and other vegetables, plums, lemon, olives, and other ingredients. Kefta is another popular dish, a kind of skewer made of highly spiced meat and vegetables.

And you cannot end an authentic Moroccan meal without trying the famous Moorish tea - with mint, which is quite sweet and oxygenated by pouring it several times into the glass and returning it to the teapot to improve its digestive properties - which is offered as a token of hospitality. The region's sweets are delicious, mostly made from almonds and honey. Pancakes are also common, as are doughs made from flour such as bagrer or harcha.