Published: March 21st 2011March 21st 2011
We are the Rabats...
We took the train from Tanger to Rabat. It was a bit over 4 hours, and arrived the customary 30 minutes late. Trains are frequent, convenient, cheap and often air conditioned in Morocco. Definitely the best way to travel here. The ticket cost 95DH, around 9 Euro. When you consider that the slow, noisy, scumbag-filled train to Dublin from Sligo costs 40 Euro and takes 3 hours, perspective is gained. We passed mainly through agricultural land between the towns, and discovered that Morocco is amazingly lush. This holds true to the last mile before the desert in the south and east where you go from red soil with deep green plants to almost plain sand in the space of about 2-3km. That was still a long way from Rabat though - way out past Marrakech. Rabat's agricultural hinterland was hilly and pleasant, though I imagine the stifling heat in the summer would dull your interest.
Rabat is smaller than Tanger, especially the medina, but as it is a capital there are plenty of things to see. The souks are also smaller, more serene affairs, with hardly anyone trying to grab your attention or sell you
drugs. Rabat is a little more pricey than Tanger too, though we found an amazing place called Café du la Liberacion, which did massive local trade and sold huge portions of cous cous for around 40DH. We also stayed in a hostel for about 6 euro per night, with breakfast included. Amazingly cheap, though it was quite basic - bring your own toilet roll sort of thing. Hot water though, which was nice. The hostel filled up at night, and there were a few interesting people to talk to. Might have been nice to have a little wine, but the Muslim run hostel allowed no drink, smoking or "fraternising". There was a large group of French people, who were completely anti-social, so that killed the vibe anyway. On the first day, mainly we explored the medina, such as it was, and hung out in the sun outside the city walls. A nice, lush, green space, it is a popular place for students to sit and talk. Most interesting on the first day was the Kasbah. Unlike the Tanger Kasbah, it was an intact, walled fortress. Inside, it was a maze of winding little streets, painted with the whitewash and blue
Accidentally in Sepia
so popular in Islamic neighbourhoods. The back of the Kasbah overlooked the ocean, and there was a little café selling mint teas and delicious almond pastries.
On the second day, we went a little further afield and tried to find the British Council building. They usually have some interesting local info and history in English, but unfortunately the office we found was not the main one, and didn't have anyone who understood English. Hmm. However, it was a very nice area - up where all of Rabat's embassies and government buildings are. From here, it was a short walk to Chella, an ancient Roman city later turned into a mausoleum by the local Islamic leaders. It was a fascinating place, but again there was no information available - not even in French. That is a motif in Morocco; there are no plaques or brochures around. The weather was roasting, so after an hour exploring the ruins, we headed back into town for some lunch. In the Café du la Liberacion, we saw a fellow backpacker, and discussed what his nationality might be. I thought American, Tony though English. Both wrong - he was Irish, and lives 10 minutes from
my house. We went to the same school at different times, and know many of the same people. Freaky stuff. We palled around with Mossy Egan for a while, and then teamed up with some Germans to go and get some nice stuff for sandwiches, etc. We sat and chatted for ages, and hit the bed after the sun went down (gets cold pretty quick).
In the morning, it appeared that our shoes had been stolen. This pissed us off mightily - especially me, as I had lost my flip flops some time ago. When we came out of the room, someone had piled everyones shoes up outside the door. Our first thought was that it was a prank, then we thought maybe a Muslim thing. Either way I was pissed; somebody snuck around the room, interfering with personal posessions, and left them out to get filled with ants. After emptying my shoes of life, we returned to the kasbah for Mossy to have a look around. It may sound a little monotonous, but after this we all went back to wander the medina and souks again. Every time you go in you find something new, or see something
strange. The old parts of town are definitely the biggest attractions in Moroccan cities, and while you can go and see the sights and places of interest, the medina is free to enter, cheap to stay in, and livlier than a sack of cats who know all about rivers. That said, the only thing we really missed was the mausoleum, where the previous king's body is interred. A little morbid, perhaps; plus he was a bit of a douchebag apparently, so not bothered that we missed it.
Rabat was beautiful and relaxed. The city walls were majestic, though in need of restoration in places. We found an Islamic graveyard that you could walk around. It was peaceful and spectacular; every grave was adorned with blue and green tilework, and all the graves faced east. It overlooked the coast in a very pretty spot. Rabat was filled with little overlooks along the old walls, and your views of the ocean a breathtaking. It was so easy to chill out here that Rabat could be seen as a good way to unwind from either Tanger or Marrakech. It is definitely doable in three days though, after which it could become a
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