Oudaïa Kasbah, Rabat
Visiting the Oudaïa Kasbah in Rabat is a visual treat for lovers of Moroccan inspired gardens and architecture. It became the first official historic monument in Morocco during the French protectorate period (1912 – 1956) and with good reason. Enter the Bab Odaïa through its ornate gateway, the entrance itself is worthy of admiration. With the familiar domed archways it is complicated in its designand history. Although it is said that the gate was used mainly for decoration; history tells us that at one time it was used as a place to hold prisoners captured by Barbary pirates who went on to be sold at slave markets.A small stone staircase at the back leads down to dungeons where prisoners would have been kept.
The Oudaïa was built under the command of Sultan Yacoub el Mansour in 1195. A Kasbah is usually a fortress and serves the same purpose as a castle; it was used as place of refuge when a city was under attack, with high walls and small windows, like castles, they were usually built on hilltops so they would be much easier to defend where enemies could be seen much sooner. Sometimes they would be situated near harbours so any incoming invaders were spotted in advance of an attack and could be quickly intercepted.
Today the Kasbah is a thriving village where families gather to meet and shop – and it is an ideal place to really capture a sense of traditional Moroccan life.Walk through the narrow alleyways that run between houses painted in blue and white, take in the aromas of the beautiful flowers that adorn the walls of each house. Once inside the Kasbah, it is also worth looking out for the oldest mosque in Rabat, the El Atika.Once you have strolled through the magnificent walls and doorways slip through into the Andalusian gardens,where you can relax and take in the lush smells of jasmine, gardenia, orchids and other plants and flowers familiar to Morocco. Survey the perfectly shaped doors and the luxuriously tall trees and take your time. Spend as much time as you want the entrance is free, and when you’re done with the gardens look no further than the eastern gate on the far side to enter the outdoor Cafe des Odaïasoverlooking the sea, where you can taste traditional mint tea and sample some delicate almond pastries.