Rabat: A city of great architecture, cuisine and music
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Having been born and raised in Rwanda, I had always wondered why people in countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt were called Africans yet they had a different skin colour to other Africans.
This was until I recently discovered another image of Africa, the Arab Africa. I could not actually, believe it until I went to Rabat, one of the most beautiful cities in Africa.
I visited the North African after an invitation to the Moroccan fourth annual music festival, ‘Visa For Music’, an event that brings together artists, their managers, music promoters and journalists to discuss the status music in Africa and explore ways of improving it.
Rabat is the capital city of the Kingdom of Morocco and its second largest city with an urban population of approximately 580,000 and a metropolitan population of over 1.2 million. It is also the capital city of the Rabat-Salé-Kénitra, an administrative region.
The city is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg, and has important textile, food processing and construction industries. Tourism and the presence of all foreign embassies in Morocco serve to make Rabat one of the most important cities in the country.
Most Moroccans speak Arabic but French is also widely spoken as Morocco was colonised by the French. You can hardly ever hear people talk in English there!
On arrival in Morocco, one can easily realise that the lifestyle of Moroccans is totally different from that of African black people. The Moroccan lifestyle is almost similar to europeans living, which could be related to the country bordering Spain and Portugal.
They are only separated by the Atlantic Ocean. What I found more appealing is the conversations that I had with most Moroccans, who revealed that they consider an African their brother even though their skin colour is different.
The Moroccan culture can be perceived in the manner of building, wearing, eating, and governing. The Moroccans pay a high respect for their traditional culture. You marvel with amazement when you see their manner of building whereby several buildings are constructed like how ancient Romans used to do. No wonder this country was one of the colonies that constituted the Roman Empire during the ancient roman civilization.
There are some houses which were built centuries ago. People still live in them. During my short stay in Morocco, I stayed at Dar El Kebira Salam Hotel, a few meters from the Consuls Street near the Kasbah des Oudayas.
It is a luxury Moroccan palace (called Riad) reinvented to receive guests looking for tranquility and well-being, in the purest of Moroccan traditions.
From my room, I could easily see the famous Kasbah des Oudayas, the edifice built in the 12th century during the reign of the Almohad Caliphate (AD 1121-1269).
It does not come as a surprise that Rabat city was listed as a world heritage place by UNESCO in 2012. One of the reasons is the country’s architecture.
Houses are built very much close to each other. They are also identical taking the originality from edifices dating back to 110 BC.
Also, the country’s skyline is something to marvel. One of the buildings under construction is The Grand Theatre considered to be one of the largest developments in Morocco. This theater’s design is the creation of the famous late British architect of Iraqi origin Zaha Hadid.
Mausoleum of Mohammed V
Many tourists visit the Mausoleum of Mohammed V; one of the most powerful kings who ever reigned over Morocco.
This is one of the buildings showing the construction skills of the inhabitants of Morocco as well as their uniqueness in architecture.
This edifice is opposite Hassan Tower dating back to 1195. The tower that was first built in 1195, was intended to be the largest minaret in the world along with the mosque. In 1199, Sultan Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, the third Caliph of the Almohad Caliphate, died and construction of the mosque stopped.
The tower had reached 44 m (140 ft), about half of its intended 86 m (260 ft) height. The rest of the mosque was also left incomplete.
It did not take me long to get accustomed to Moroccan food consisting mostly of Moroccan couscous which is eaten mostly by Moroccans.
The main Moroccan dish most people are familiar with is couscous, the old national delicacy. Beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco, usually eaten in a tajine with a wide selection of vegetables. It is eaten using a spoon. Chicken is also very commonly used in tajines, or roasted.
Moroccans are considered to be among the best chefs in the world. They prepare some of the rarest dishes and give them various and delicious flavors from diverse sorts of foods to make them a delicacy.
They serve guest on their traditional clayed dishes called the tajine whereby any nutriment is prepared in its own special way.
I returned home after knowing how to eat using my bare fingers. They teach you how to eat using your thumb, index finger and the middle finger, which according to them is a norm for the Muslims. Using all your fingers to eat, is considered indiscipline to them.
Also, they have other types of delicious dishes like Pastilla (also spelled Basteeya or Bestilla), Tanjia, Chebakia, Harira and many others that any guest can try out.
As a person who had participated in such a great music festival, I was all ears to Moroccan music. As an Arab country, many of their songs are sung in Arabic and Arabic rhythm.
Apart from their local artistes, they also have musicians based in Europe and the US. The most famous ones include French Montana (popular for the song ‘Unforgettable’), RedOne who is also a producer, and has worked with many high-profile recording singers like Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias and Mariah Carey.
I had a chance to meet Moroccan rapper Mol Mic who is one of the most popular singers in the country.
After all the splendid time I had in Morocco, I promised myself to go back to this country has such beautiful architecture, good food and music.