Capital of Morocco, Rabat is an engaging imperial city on the Atlantic seaboard that provides a relaxing contrast to the hustle and frenetic traffic of Marrakech and Casablanca. Like many Moroccan cities, it is divided between the French inspired “Ville Nouvelle” with pleasant leafy boulevards and the original 12th century medina and walled city. However, its laid-back, accommodating atmosphere belies its notorious past which for years plagued European shipping with Barbary pirates and privateers. Today, Rabat may lack the excitement of Fes or Marrakech, but its easy-going nature and mix of historic sites make it a wonderful starting point for experiencing Morocco. Allow a few days and you can take in the impressive ruins of the Hassan Mosque, the Mohammed V Mausoleum, the fortress Kasbah des Oudaias and the ancient Roman site of Chellah rebuilt by the Merinids in the 14th century.