Rabat and Casablanca, two of Morocco's most modern and elegant cities, straddle the North Atlantic coast, welcoming visitors with their varied histories and blossoming cultures.
As the political capital of Morocco, Rabat is a surprisingly sedate urban center that brims with historical interest and splendid architecture from both Arab and Art Deco periods. The royal city boasts many monuments from successive Arab dynasties as well as a simple unmarked cave on the coast that is thought to be one of the first sites ever inhabited by humans. Rabat and her more traditional twin city, Salé, watch one another over the River Bou Regreg, where they both offer traditional medinas full of market bustle as well as some of the most important historical sights in the country.
No more than 100 km (62 miles) southwest of Rabat is Casablanca, once a Berber town and now a thoroughly modern city, developed by the French from 1912 until Moroccan independence. The country's main industrial and commercial axis stretches from Casablanca to Kenitra, making the city the undisputed commercial capital with rich strata of history piled everywhere.
Despite the historical riches, Rabat, Casablanca, and their surrounding towns are somewhat removed from the pressures of the larger tourist centers like Marrakesh, Fez, and Agadir. Quite apart from the more gentle climate, you'll generally find yourself—unlike in, say, Fez—free to wander around relatively unhassled.
Breakers roll in all along the rest of Morocco’s North Atlantic coast, contrasting markedly with the placid waters of Morocco's Mediterranean shore. From here, the ocean stretches due west to the United States. Much of this coast is lined with sandy beaches, and dotted with simple white koubbas, the buildings that house a Muslim saint's tomb.
What you can really sample when visiting this region is the urban side of North Africa, which overflows with modern structures in industrial, commercial, and leisure terms. Yet the old has been by no means ousted, so expect conspicuous contrasts: traditional dress alongside contemporary European designs and ancient Moorish edifices not far from trendy restaurants bubbling over with international tourists and young locals.