I am heading to Rabat via train this morning. This is from an article I read on the internet:
"Rabat was first founded by the Romans, whose ruins, known as Sala Colonia, is a minor attraction along the Bou Regreg today. It soon faded into obscurity and popped out occasionally as a minor provincial outpost of various dynasties such as the Idrissids and the Almoravids. It was during the reign of the Almohad Caliph, Yacoub al-Mansour (the Victorious), that Rabat first became an imperial centre.
After he won major victories in Spain and crushed rebellions in Tunisia, he decided to build a new capital, Ribat al-Fatah, or Victory Fortress. Grand projects were undertaken in Rabat, the most famous of which was supposed to be the greatest mosque in the Islamic world. His ambitions did not materialise, for work was stopped after his death in 1199. The only part of the Hassan Mosque completed was the grand minaret, now known as the Hassan Tower (or Tour Hassan in French).
Rabat soon faded into history but emerged again in the 17th century as a pirate republic. The Republic of Bou Regreg, which comprised the originally rival cities of Rabat and Sale, soon stroke fear among European sailors. The Republic was out to capture the rich booty of the Americas, which were harvested with great cruelty by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors. This, together with European slaves and the wealth of inland caravan trade, made Rabat a wealthy country.
This state of affairs did not last forever, for their activities were soon restricted by the arrival of the Alawite Dynasty and the subsequent French occupation. The French put Rabat on the political map again by moving the administrative capital from Fes to Rabat, where the French army and civil service could be supplied with greater ease. After independence in 1956, Rabat remains the national capital.
Rabat's Ville Nouvelle is a city of wide boulevards and grand buildings - the French surely know how to build capital cities. It is also cosmopolitan - and seems that many more people speak English here than elsewhere in Morocco. This is the city for big government and diplomacy.
Because it is not the commercial capital (Casablanca), people are also more laid-back, confident and friendly. Rabat doesn't depend on tourism for a living and so there little over-charging of tourists so prevailing elsewhere in Morocco."