"Finding Calm in the City" by Liora Silkes
Rabat, like any big city, can be a little crazy. The tram fills to capacity at rush hour. The cars honk, the cats screech, the vendors hawk their wares. I find the endless rumble of people and animals and vehicles to be wonderfully exciting, but it can also overwhelm me at times. For every moment I’ve been bombarded by sights and sounds, though, I have also had a moment of quiet peace. Here are some of my favorite calm places:
I knew before coming here that Rabat was a coastal city, and I had been in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans before, but nothing could prepare me for the magnificence of the Eastern Atlantic. I am left speechless every time I visit the water, and, since the waterfront is a four-minute walk from my apartment, I spend a lot of time there. Rabat has a beach — a large sandy area with surf shops, cafés, and lots of tourists — which is a wonderful place to visit, but not a quiet spot. A little farther down the coast, however, the sandy beach disappears, and cliffs replace it. There are usually still people milling about, especially on the nearby soccer fields, but not nearly as many as at the beach. I love sitting here after a busy day, reading a book and watching the sunset.
Le Jardin Botanique d’Essais
Rabat has a garden that I pass every day on my way to and from AMIDEAST, but it took me over a month to stop and smell the flowers. To be fair, the garden is open only for a few hours each day. In fact, when I finally visited, it was about to close for the day — but the landscaper kept it open for an extra 15 minutes just so I could take a look. The garden sits at the intersection of two major avenues, but after taking four or five steps into the garden, I forgot the busy streets were there. Tall trees line the perimeter, blocking the noise and view, creating a cozy oasis in which to relax. There are a few gardens scattered throughout the city, but this one is my favorite: well maintained, a pleasing mix of flowers, trees, and grasses… and not too crowded with visitors hoping to update their profile picture.
The National Library
I love libraries. I love the smell of books, the solemn feeling that everyone is busy with important learning, and the unique architecture that many libraries feature. La Bibliothèque Nationale does not disappoint. Unlike books at American libraries, all those at la bibliothèque are for use only in the library; you can’t check them out. I have not read anything from the library’s collection yet, but it's on my list of things to do before the end of the semester. Perhaps because you can't take books off the property, the library is equipped with everything a student could ever want: comfortable chairs, good lighting, and large windows. If sitting inside at a large table isn't your style, take a short break and walk from the reading room to a small courtyard within the library with trees and fresh air — and, for anyone who needs to fuel their brain, the café has some delicious crêpes. Studying abroad does actually involve some studying, and the national library is my favorite quiet place to do so.
From gardens to cafés, beaches to markets, mosques to concert halls, I am discovering there is a space for everything and everyone in Rabat.