City guide to Rabat, Morocco
Look past the Moroccan greats of Casablanca, Marrakesh and Fez to discover Morocco's capital Rabat, brim full of ancient treasures.
Rabat is known for
Old medina, the beautiful Kasbah, Souq shopping
Rabat's Eat streets
When dining in Rabat you should sample the best of both the Moroccan tradition and the French colonial influence.
A much-loved traditional restaurant can be found in the old medina. Dinarjat (+212 37 70 42 39) adds a little theatre to proceedings: you’ll be met at the medina gates by a man in traditional dress bearing a lantern who leads you through the labyrinth of old streets to the old wooden door of the restaurant.
Inside a 17th-century mansion you choose from a classic menu of lamb tagine, couscous and salads under vaulted ceilings.
For a taste of France, head to Le Grand Comptoir. Housed in a restored 1930s Art Deco building, it has that Casablanca romance; a place of martinis, jazz and rare steak.
Out and about in Rabat
If you only have a day or two in Rabat head straight for the 17th-century walled Medina, a rabbit warren of streets that carry that old North African sense of romance and adventure.
Dip in and out of the souqs and cafes and you could get lost, but not for long as you’ll eventually hit one of the ancient fortress walls.
Head north up the Rue des Consuls past grand old courtyards before leaving the Medina and entering another of Rabat’s treasures, the beautiful Kasbah les Oudaias, through the spectacular Bab Oudaia gate.
Relax in the Andalusian Gardens here and wander the narrow streets and blue-and-white walls of this 12th-century citadel that overlooks the Atlantic.
Summer heat getting too much? There's a lovely clean swimming beach right in the city.
Make your way to the 14th-century Grande Mosquée de Rabat Medina, which marks the start of Rue Souika, a thoroughfare of shops with the reed-covered Souq as-Sebbat at its eastern end.
Practise your bartering for Moroccan lamps, embroidered babouche slippers, jewellery and fabrics among baskets filled with bright spices and Turkish delight.
Don’t miss the bustling souqs in the neighbouring city of Salé, a short taxi hop over the bridge that crosses the Bou Regreg river.
Salé is known for its carpenters, who produce fine chairs, tables and trays.
Stop by one of the woodworking factories to pick up a gift.
The ultimate experience
Looking like some alien obelisk, the Hassan Tower forms a striking edifice on the banks of the Bou Regreg river.
The 44-metre high minaret, a slab of ornately carved red sandstone, is all that remains of Sultan Yacub al-Mansour’s effort to build the biggest mosque in the world, an attempt that was destroyed by earthquake in 1755.
Take a walk in the surrounding gardens and then catch a five-minute taxi to Rabat’s other must-see sight, the Chellah.
This medieval muslim necropolis was built on top of a Roman Fort. You’ll find the remains of a spectacular mosque here and the ancient ruins now play host to an annual jazz festival in September.
Avenue Mohammed V is a tree-lined boulevard with plenty of shady spots to sit and have a coffee.
Try La Comédie, which bakes its own pastries every day, and watch the world go by.
Stay & play
Affordable: The Repose has traditionally styled suites in a lovely old riad in Salé’s Medina.
Moderate: Riad Sidi Fatah is set in a traditional mansion in Rabat Medina.
Luxe: With its own hammam, wellness centre and pool, the Relais & Châteaux property Villa Diyafa is the ultimate way to indulge after a day in the hot, crowded souqs.
City guide to Windhoek
A green oasis in a dry, mountainous landscape, Namibia’s capital is surely one of the most surprising African cities, retaining striking connections to its Germanic past.
Windhoek is known for it's
African crafts, German castles and a gateway to the Namib wilderness.
Eat streets in Windhoek
For an upmarket South African menu and its fine wines head to The Stellenbosch Wine Bar & Bistro. Joe’s Beerhouse is great for a selection of craft beers and well-cooked game
Out & about in Windhoek
Head to the old heart of Windhoek for a stroll past its intriguing German colonial buildings, some of which are as old as the city itself.
Start in the middle of it all at the city’s most recognisable landmark: the striking German Lutheran Christuskirche.
It’s a rather photogenic, curious mix of neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau influences, designed by Gottileb Redecker, who also created the country’s parliament building just down the road.
The official name of the parliament is the Tintenpalast, or ‘ink palace’, perhaps a cheeky reference to the vast quantities of ink spent drafting red tape.
Rest your legs a while in the ornate gardens before heading over to the city’s oldest building, the imposing Alte Feste, the ‘Old Fort’, built in 1890 to house the Schutztruppe, Germany’s occupying forces in Africa.
The fort marks the beginning of the modern city of Windhoek, and you’ll find the National Museum of Namibia here too.
Housed in the industrial setting of the Old Brewery complex you’ll find the fantastic mixed-use arts space that is the Warehouse Theatre.
Join office workers for their post-work drinks in its cosy bar, the Boiler Room, and adjoining courtyard, before going on to watch everything from a play, stand-up and live bands at one of several stages. warehousetheatre.com.na
The people of Namibia produce some stunning art and fabrics that you shouldn’t leave the country without.
Head to the Namibian Crafts Centre for more than 30 stalls selling everything from woven baskets, beadwork jewellery, tribal masks, and exquisite sculptures fashioned from the roots of the country’s ironwood trees.
A 10-minute walk away you’ll find the colourful and bustling Post Street Mall for more arts and crafts, the centre of which is marked by a public installation incorporating meteorites from the famous Gideon Meteor that exploded over Namibia in prehistoric times.
The Ultimate Experience
Of the three German castles in Windhoek it’s Heinitzburg Castle that you can’t leave the city without paying a visit, if just for a cocktail or two.
Commissioned by Count von Schwerin in 1914 for his fiancé, ensuring he positioned it with the best views of the city, the castle is now a luxury hotel and the ideal spot for an evening drink to take in the city and the mountains beyond from its Garden Terrace.
If you’ve settled in for the night then stay for dinner at Leo’s at the Castle; the priciest restaurant in town but also the best.
With easy access to beans from across the continent, Windhoek has experienced a surging coffee culture in recent years.
The Kaffee Bar in the Wecke & Voigts store, is a ‘national treasure’ of a cafe, to get your fix for the day.
Stay & play
Winnie Guesthouse has well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, bar and an outdoor pool to escape the African heat.
In the heart of the old town, the Hilton Windhoek has restaurants, bars, a rooftop pool, spa and gym.
Stay in the regal setting of Heinitzburg Castle with fantastic views out across the city.
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