At first, we weren’t really friends. You looked at me and I looked at you and there wasn’t much of a connection there. You reminded me of someone that I used to know, and being back in the same sphere made me uncomfortable. As far as I was concerned, I’d already had my affair with Arabia and I had never intended to go back.
You cozied up to me.
You grew on me.
You proved to be quirky, sometimes charming and certainly more than I initially gave you credit for.
In the end, I’m glad we met.
I’m glad I stayed.
Life is like that sometimes.
Chefchaouen: the beautiful blue city.
Located about a 4 hour drive from Rabat; Chefchaouen is nestled high up in the hills. Our driver was a sweet Moroccan man who knew the roads better than we ever could and he drove like a local. He wasn’t shy about playing chicken with a tour bus on a one lane highway and for a fleeting moment, I was deeply afraid. But then I noticed that my heart was still beating and was more impressed than anything.
Chefchaouen was the only place in Morocco that I really had my heart set on exploring. I found a riad on AirBnb that was located in the middle of the medina and we enjoyed every minute of it. Most of the walls in Chefchaouen are painted a vibrant blue and the small city is a nice change of pace. The whole place is magical, like walking into a blue dream.
One evening I even got the chance to help paint the city blue. On our way home from dinner, we came back to our riad at 2am to find a local lady covering the walls outside with a fresh coat of paint. It answered so many questions and she was kind enough to let me borrow her brush.
The weekend that we were in Chef was the weekend before Morocco’s biggest bank and cultural holiday, Eid. Because of this, we were privy to witnessing many lambs being wrestled off the streets and into homes and alleys in anticipation of the next day’s sacrifice. I watched Moroccan men chase elusive lambs up and down the streets of Chefchaouen and we even drove by (a live) lamb being shoved into the trunk of a small car. Some of my friends were brave enough to witness a traditional sacrifice the next day, while I chose to hide in my flat and have McDonalds for lunch. Which in looking back, I’m still 100% okay with.
If you ever have the chance, visit Chefchaouen. Located nearby, Akchour is a small town where you can hike for the day and explore waterfalls. It was also the perfect escape from Rabat.
Rabat: Unfortunately, Rabat won’t ever make my list of favourite cities in the world or even come close. But it’s where we lived and it’s where I called home, so I learnt how to navigate it’s streets. Perhaps more than some, I really struggled with being able to feel culturally appropriate and wore only 10% of my wardrobe. I also struggled against the male-dominated culture and the lack of freedom I felt.
It wasn’t for me, but it could be for you. So if you ever find yourself visiting Rabat, here are a few of my favourite things.
The Bluebird Cafe: One of the only places in town where I could find proper baguettes in a land full of undesirable, frisbee shaped bread. The cafe’s also located near the marina and a great place to people watch.
Paul: Caesar salad and pastries. Enough said.
Amoud: Just walking into this shop made me feel happy. Amoud provided perfect, pristine, freshly-baked sweet and savoury pastries on the cheap.
Dar Naji: Delicious traditional Moroccan food, in a traditional setting. Try the couscous and chicken tagine, assorted salad platter and sweet mint tea.
Yamal Asham: This restaurant was loved by everyone who went. It has amazing Syrian food (more like the food I was used to eating in Dubai than anything else) where you could dine on hummus, kebabs, shawarmas, arabic sweets and more.
Yoka Sushi: The best sushi spot in town. Yoka Sushi’s located in Agdal and offers a great selection of sushi (think melt in your mouth salmon sashimi) for reasonable prices.
Sushi House: My happy place on a dark day. This restaurant was in a great part of town and had surprisingly good sushi considering that not one Japanese person worked there. Also, solid wifi. I got into the groove of ordering a mango smoothie and salmon chirashi almost every time.
Naga Thai: If and when you’re over tagine, visit Naga Thai. The food here is delicious and refreshing (choose any curry) and the ambiance was both beautiful and authentic.
Le Dhow: Party on a boat moored to the wharf, but don’t bother with the food. We had a welcome party here that included Moroccan tapas, Casablanca beers and a local band. On a different night, we came across a super chill Bob Marley cover band and enjoyed watching them jam out all night in the hull of the boat.
7yay co-working space and the staff that keep it running smoothly took great care of us. With three floors and an outdoor, rooftop work space that included a giant bedouin tent, it was easy to enjoy the unique decor, friendly staff and authentic vibes.
Traditional Thai Massage: My little safe haven, located a block off one of the busiest streets in Agdal. The massages here were just as good as the ones in Thailand and they even give you cookies and tea when it’s done! For women, all services were 50% off on Saturday and for men, Sundays. Everything was also 50% off during the week, before 2pm.
Sofitel Pool: Another little sanctuary in busy Rabat. Go to the Sofitel for the day and rent a chair by the pool. It’s money well spent.
For more about where to go in Morocco, check out the article I wrote for oyster.com :