Most people are surprised when they are told that the capital of Morocco is Rabat. The second-largest city in the country (behind Casablanca) is a hub for all things governmental, judicial, and administrative and has been the capital since 1956. Rabat event venues are mainly supported by capital business, but art flourishes here as well, due to Rabat also being the center of many foundations.
Rabat-Sale Airport (RBA) is the main entry point to the city. Five miles northeast of the city center, it sees arrivals from the European countries of Belgium, France, and Italy. Casablanca's much larger and better-serviced airport, Mohammed V International Airport (CMN), has service to New York City on Royal Air Maroc and is only 60 miles to the southwest.
The principal meeting space in the area is actually in the town of Skhirat, 20 miles southwest along the Atlantic Ocean. Known as the Mohammed VI International Convention Center, it has a 13,500-square-foot exhibition hall, a 528-seat auditorium, a 7,000-square-foot ballroom, and a large conference room that can be divided into three, 200-seat areas.
Hotel venues in Rabat include the 229-room Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses, which has 12 meeting rooms and other spaces for up to 1,200 persons; the colorful, 192-room Golden Tulip Farah Rabat, which has the 30-seat Les Oudayas room with views of historical Hassan Tower and a 300-seat ballroom, among other spaces; the gorgeous, 142-room La Tour Hassan, which has a 16-person boardroom and a much larger banquet space; the 114-room Hotel Rabat, which has meeting and function space for up to 400 persons; and the 77-room Mercure Sheherazade, which has two meeting rooms for up to 90 persons and the Kangourou Grill restaurant.
Rabat's riads, its historical houses with interior courtyards, are very pleasant. Three stunning examples, all able to host events, are Dar Trachen, Dar Rbatia, and Villa Mandarine, which all offer meeting and function space, the first two of which can be booked through the national tourism office. The city's Mohammed V National Theatre has an 800-seat auditorium, while the prestigious Royal Golf Dar es Salam has a clubhouse, restaurant, meeting spaces, 400 acres, and a Japanese garden, as well as a Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course.
Good restaurants in the Moroccan capital include Asiam for Asian food and bright colors; Eden Wed, which has a decided surfer-and-beach vibe with a cool outdoor beach patio; Dinarjat, a traditional Moroccan choice with fine dining; Le Dhow, which actually is aboard a moored ship, but is comfortable and has good French fare; and, more evidence of French influence here, Picolo's, with Gallic fare, seafood, and a courtyard shaded by lemon trees.