Rabat, Morocco's capital since 1912 and a city of more than 1.5 million residents, is not as compelling to travelers as other imperial cities, but it's a relaxing change of pace from much of Morocco—the touts are not as aggressive as in other places. We recommend seeing it as a day trip or a stopover on the train from Tangier or Fez to Marrakech or Casablanca (Rabat is about 60 mi/100 km northeast of Casablanca).

Watch the changing of the Royal Guard at the Royal Palace (Friday mornings) and visit the impressive 12th-century Tower of Hassan. The tower has an unfinished minaret—the many broken columns nearby were part of a 12th-century mosque that also was never completed, and the adjacent royal mausoleum contains the remains of King Mohammed V and King Hassan II. Note the colorfully dressed guards.

You should also walk through the medina and visit the Oudaias Kasbah with its hilltop ocean views. Take time for some mint tea at the outdoor cafe in the casbah. If time permits, you should also visit the Musee Archeologique, which has the most extensive collection of ancient artifacts in the country.

Just outside Rabat is the fortresslike necropolis of Chellah, which includes Roman ruins in addition to Islamic domed shrines and tombs. We enjoyed exploring the quiet site, with its lush vegetation and dozens of storks' nests—hire a taxi for this excursion and ask the driver to wait while you visit the site. Near Rabat are several interesting towns that should be visited, if time permits. Chief among these are Sale, with its Grand Mosque, city gates, souks, quaint back streets and harbor filled with fishing boats, as well as Bouknadel, with its Jardins Exotiques.

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