Sale Medina is part of Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. Ryanair flies to Sale from many European cities and it is a perfect starting point for any road trip. Flying to Rabat Sale on a Saturday evening makes for a good start and helps you settle in.
The ride into town is super easy, it is a straight road from the airport to Rabat or Sale Medina. If you are picking up a rental car, it is probably easiest if you leave it at the airport until the morning though. That way you will save the hassle of looking for parking the first night. I did the complete opposite and picked up the car in the dark, then spent two hours looking for the hotel and parking.
If you are here on a business trip and have an extra day to turn it into a bleisure trip, then visit Sale Medina followed by Rabat Medina. If you can extend your trip into a long weekend I would recommend hiring a car and driving to Volubilis and nearby Meknes.
The Sale Medina
Sale Medina is an ancient part of town and is far less attractive than Rabat, which is just across the water. I booked a room in Sale because it was half price – now I know why. The streets were not as clean as Rabat and it was less inviting but the people were just as friendly.
Make sure to bring cash with you, because that’s how most businesses operate in Sale Medina. Although there are various cash points along the streets you might need the cash on the way in so be prepared.
Also, most parking garages also only accept cash so it is best to have some in advance. Again, I did not have cash so I spent an additional hour look for a cash point before I could park. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a country where people prefer cash.
Riad Dar Nawfal in Sale Medina
When I finally had enough cash and found parking, I went to look for my Riad in Sale Medina. I stayed at the Riad Dar Nawfal in the middle of the old town. It was a challenge to find it as it was in a dead end. It was the first time for me to visit an old medina with twisting and curving streets, so it was quite an experience. I was also a bit worried to get lost or mugged – all completely pointless. As it turned out later people in this part of town are very honest and helpful, so there is nothing to worry about.
The check in process was a bit difficult as nobody in the Riad spoke English and I don’t speak French. Luckily I printed my forms and she found it fine and I went to drop my bag off. Unfortunately I didn’t opt to pay in advance so in the morning we couldn’t understand each other again so I overpaid. Lesson: next time I travel to places where I don’t understand the language I will pre-pay and print the receipt.
There was a shop just round the corner where bought some water and biscuits. At first the guy wouldn’t sell me the biscuits so I had to insist, but he still wouldn’t give them to me. I was becoming a bit annoyed which I think he noticed. So he pointed out the sell-by date on the packaging, which was the day before. Turns out he didn’t want to sell me out-of-date biscuits! I felt guilty for being annoyed at him!
Scenic Route R4553 to the Volubilis Roman Ruins
By this time it was almost midnight so I went to bed. The next day, Sunday morning I got up early and went for a walk back towards the car. The entire town was almost completely empty! There were only a few people here and there and one single cafe open. They sold a special corn-flour bread with a chocolate-nutella spread. It was delicious with the fresh mint tea. I had a couple of these then headed out of town to Volubilis.
I took route N1 towards Kenitra, then joined N4 towards Sidi Slimane. It was late September but the heat was still almost unbearable. Luckily there was aircon in the car. After Sidi Slimane I drove to Sidi Kacem and took R413 then R4553. The longer the numbers, the narrower the roads! R4553 is a stunning road, with amazing scenery. The road was just about wide enough for my Fiat Punto but I was all alone. The drive takes about three hours non-stop from Sale to Volubilis. I stopped off to buy some biscuits and water at a supermarket and also to stretch my legs but I still got to Volubilis just before lunch. Read my article about Volubilis here.