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The Oudayas Kasbah: a city within a city

art & culture

This ‘ribat' (fortress) gave its name to the entire city. If you can only see one thing, it should be this kasbah.

Built in the 12th century by the Almohad, it was this ribat that housed the soldiers who went to the holy war against the Christians in Spain. The ribat became ‘Ribat El Fath', ‘Ribat the Victory' and then… Rabat. When Philip III of Spain drove out the Moors, they settled here. Therefore, when you walk about, everything reminds you of Andalusia: the whitewashed walls, the ubiquitous blue cobblestone streets, the heavy wooden doors, and the wrought iron gates.

Subsequently, this impregnable fortress became the haunt of pirates when Rabat was adopted as the headquarters of the gangsters of the sea under the name of ‘Salé-the-New'. It finally took that of ‘Oudaya' when a tribe expelled from Fez settled there in 1833. Meanwhile, the palace was built and it became the first royal residence of the Alawite rulers. Today it houses a museum of antique jewellery and remains popular for its beautiful flower garden.

In the kasbah, all is calm, almost subdued, and relaxing. Its houses are highly sought after by artists for the pleasant appeal of the quarter. Be sure to take Bazzo Street for tea or an orangeade at Café Maure whose panorama overlooks Bab Al Bahr. The view is less exotic than it once was, but it still has its charm.

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