Morocco - Casablanca, Rabat and Tangiers

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March 7th 2011
Published: March 7th 2011
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DAY 6 4th March 2011
Our pick up was 09.00am for the fairly long drive on the motorway to Casablanca and to our hotel in Rabat (Hotel Helnan Chellah) We left the mountains behind quite quickly and the landscape became very dry and sparse with a few settlements and villages. This soon changed to a much greener landscape with fields of orange and yellow flowers and as the land here is rich in phosphates there is also a lot of agriculture.
We arrived in Casablanca about 12.30am and had a drive through this modern city past all the huge houses and avenues until we reached Mosque Hassan ll which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. It was commissioned by King Hassan ll in 1980 and completed in 1993, can hold 25,000 worshipers inside and a further 80,000 in the courtyard outside. It has the tallest tower in the country (200 metres) and the tallest minaret in the world, 1400 men worked on it in the day and 1100 by night and the total cost exceeded £500 million raised entirely by public subscription. Quite an amazing sight and even more so, when at about 13.30pm literally thousands of people poured out of the building as prayers had finished!! We were then dropped off in the centre of Casablanca and had a walk along to a small park where someone was feeding loads of pigeons and looked at the modern ‘Tribunal de Premiere Instance’ building. Wandered around the modern shopping area before having a quick wander around the old medina area and the souks. Back to the coach at 16.00pm and onwards to Rabat.
The motorway followed the coastline up to Rabat and there was a lot of the coastline that had not been developed and the land still went down to the beaches and the Atlantic ocean. It took about two hours to reach Rabat and got to the hotel about 18.00pm. Decided to have a walk along the Mohammed V1 Avenue and down to the souk before eating dinner (luke warm again!!) at the hotel.
Went up to the roof terrace, where we had a view of the mosque and Rabat. We are wondering what the building is in front of the hotel, as it has guards with machine guns!! Will ask Halil, our guide, tomorrow!!
DAY 7 5th March 2011
An early 08.00am start and our first visit was the ‘old’ 17th century Royal Palace and old Andalucian gardens, completely enclosed by city walls. The new King, Mohammed V1 does not live here, but lives in a modest apartment in Sale so it is used as the parliament and administrative offices. It was built by Moulay Ismail who created a mercenary army out of the Saharan tribesmen. The ‘army’ still consist today of the ancestors of these ‘privileged’ people, who live in a cluster of old town houses and who look after the palace.
After this we drove to the 11th century Tower built by Yacoub El Mansour and the mausoleums of Mohammed V and Hassan ll. There are only two other such towers in existence, the other two being in Sevilla and Marrakesh but this one was unfinished as he died in 1199 before it could be completed and now appears to be used by kestrels as a nesting site!! He also had plans to build the second biggest mosque in the world here( in its time) but that plan was also abandoned upon his death. The half built mosque was destroyed by the earthquake in 1755 and the site was left in ruins until it was renovated and new columns built depicting the site of the original planned mosque.
The tomb of Mohammed V is enclosed in a hugely decorated mausoleum, with that of his son Hassan ll’s tomb in one corner and Hassan’s brother in the other. It was designed by a Vietnamese architect Vo Toan and built in 1961. The whole complex is gated and guarded by two guards on horseback at each gate and ceremonial guards around the mausoleum!
We had a drive then, past the old city walls of the medina, the modern new embassies, the Bab Oudaia gate dating from 1195, along the sea front and past a huge cemetery where all the graves are facing east towards Mecca. That was about all we had time for in Rabat and I’m sure there was plenty more to see, but time was against us as we had a ferry to catch at 16.00pm.
The drive back to Tangiers was just a repeat of our first journey in reverse! Motorway, with just a short stop for a coffee, overlooking the recent floods where cows seemed to be grazing quite happily in the flood water!!
We arrived in Tangiers in good time for some lunch and a walk along the promenade overlooking the beautiful pale golden sandy beach with turquoise water. It just seems really strange to see so many people on the beaches fully clothed in their jallabas!! After a group photo, our guide and driver dropped us off at the ferry port, where we all boarded ready to leave at 16.00. The catamaran left at about 16.30 and very soon we hit rough seas! Sick bags promptly were given out, but it was quite fun to ride the stormy waters, with waves crashing and banging and spray covering the windows!! Got some good video!!
Our coach was waiting in Tarifa for us and we got back to Fuengirola about 20.15 where a 35 minute train journey took us to the airport where we picked up our rental car. Home by 22.00 and decided to treat ourselves to a wander around the town and a couple of glasses of wine after a teetotal week!! (Luxotours )

Additional photos below
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8th March 2011
Daisy at the Mosque!

Summer very excited about this Daisy pic - kept asking for 'Daisy 'gain!'

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