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Loitering around Rabat

MOROCCO | Monday, 16 December 2013 | Views [1475]

Main gate of Kasbah

Main gate of Kasbah

I’m heading up to Rabat on the train today. The trains to Rabat are quite regular at two hours apart. So I figured I’d sleep early the night before aiming for 0855 morning train. I do get up early enough to both get some breakfast at the Riad and catch the train. Unfortunately, there was some kind of plumbing problem the night before. The water didn’t drain properly in the shower or toilet. So now the bathroom floor has pools of water. Then there’s a mild odor, which some might describe as sewage smell. I can’t leave the bathroom like this, what will my hosts think. It's not easy trying to suction water from the shower drain using only your feet. It’s also fortunate that the Riad provided two towels, else it would have been difficult to clean up the pools of water using the other towel, still soaked from last night’s clean up. After all this and determined to get breakfast (and my monies worth), I’m not going to get my 0855 and will have to aim for 1055 instead.

Standing in front of the ticket machine, I’ll mulling over a first or second class ticket. The train ride from Marrakech to Rabat will be 4-5 hours. I’ve read that second class can get overcrowded to the point of having to stand in the aisle. The thought of standing for 5 hours didn’t appeal. So I opt for the first class designated seating. As it turned out busy probably meant Ramadan or some other holiday and first class was full and second class only half full. Cacooned in first class, othing much happens.

Rabat Ville station was only 10 minute walk to my hotel, but the 3G I bought didn’t half come in handy when I stepped out of the station and confidently head in the wrong direction. The hotel is right opposite a theatre. With it’s art deco styling, I make a mental note to check it out on google maps.

It’s well into late afternoon now and as per my first day in Marrakech, there’s nothing for it but to spend my first day in Rabat by heading into the medina. This medina would surely win an award for Medina most likely to serve only locals. I had my dinner here, very cheap and not one shopkeeper tried to sell to me. The place is laid out in a very regular fashion, almost grid like. If you’re from Glasgow, then it's full of stalls selling anything you might find at the Barras. If you’re not Scottish, it’s stalls selling pirated everything, cheap clothes, shoes and general household goods. The medina is so small, that I managed to walk end to end in about 10 minted and ended up on one of the northern exits where I had a little wander in the As-Shouhada cemetery, 

As there wasn’t much else to see, I head back into the medina, then the hotel.

The next day, I set off early because I decided to walk to all the sites of interest instead of taking a taxi. The first stop is the Chellah, on the outskirts of Rabat, about 20 minutes walk from the hotel. Chellah is the ancient Roman complex of Mauretania Tigitana which was abandoned in the 12th century in favour of the nearby town of Sale. The Almohad dynasty then used the ghost town as a necropolis. Then the successor state of Merinids built the Chellah back up again adding a mosque, a religious school and royal tombs just to spite the Almohads. This is without doubt the best thing in Rabat. Beautifully preserved and restored ruins. It’s pretty much like walking around any good Roman ruins, but much more compact.

Entrance to the Chellah:

The mosque at Chellah:

Then a 15 minute walk from there to see the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. The road from the Chellah to the mausoleum is virtually a freeway. Someone on a mobility scooter took the word freeway a little too seriously. 

Easy rider


The mausoleum is worth the walk. From the guards on their horses watching over the entrance to the mosque and mausoleum.


No touts or gudes hanging around the mausoleum, but there some henna girls. One of whom approached me, grabbed my hand and attempted to draw henna on my hand. Man-handled by this henna girl and it took a bit of effort to extricate myself. These girls are strong. Nor are they particularly ashamed when trying to extract money from other tourists. I saw one henna girl try to put herself into the picture a man posing in front of the mosque. Poor guy had to do a bit of grappling to force her out. 

The mausaleum itself has an understated design serving to highlight the serene nature of the resting place. It’s cool white marble exterior unadorned, the simplicity disguising the much more ornate interior.

Mausoleum of Muhammed V

Mohammed V in the centre

The Hassan Tower is in the same location. It’s unfortunate that at this time, the tower was sealed off with barriers. So it wasn’t possible to get close. Along with the medinas, this is how I’ve always pictured Morocco. Picture perfect:


From here, it's another 15 minute walk to Kasbah of the Udayas. Almost a village within a city. Built at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river, it was largely abandoned soon after., but people still live there. With no traffic inside the Kasbah, it’s a nice place for a walk around the labyrinth of small streets and alleyways. Every wall is painted white and blue, perhaps to match the adjacent sea. Despite the same colour scheme being applied to every wall, every house is pretty and unique in some way.

And because all the museums are closed on a Mondays, the Kasbah and adjacent Andalusian Gardens were the last stops of the day. So the evening was spent wandering around the new town area. A soulless homogeny of local versions of Starbucks, KFC, patisseries for a city with a sideline in Medinas. It’s streets an array of moderns shops, selling modern things in imitation of Anytown. Rabat is a very modern town and the medina is a medieval anachronism trapped in a time warp siege. The medina doe have it’s own sense of geo-psychology, being the epicentre for social gatherings. It's my second evening in the medina and again, peoples are still gravitating towards it. Families with children in tow. Some obviously wealthily, showing their noses are tuned low enough to mix it with he plebs. Or just to remind others that a disparity exists. Rich and poor, arguably an insensitive juxtaposition.

Tags: backpacking, morocco, rabat


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