9 October 2013

Rabat monuments, medina and casbah

As with Seville, we were only in Rabat for a day and that was a busy day with a guided tour in the morning and free time in the afternoon which included revising some of the places seen in the morning.

We started with a mausoleum close to the hotel, but we took a coach anyway. There were guards there that we could take photos of though we were warned that we could not generally take pictures of uniformed people or of royal places. This was confirmed a few days later when I tries to do so.

The early start worked well as there were many coaches there when we left and it became harder to take a picture of anything without a inappropriately colourful tourist in it.

As you would expect, the mausoleum was highly decorated though it is fair to say that a lot of places were, even in the medina (old town) that we visited later.

Next to the mausoleum were the remains of a mosque that was never completed.

I missed the story why, not that interested to be honest, but it may have been related to the many political changes that have seen Morocco's capital move a few times over the centuries.

The mostly completed minaret is the more impressive for being on its own apart from a few stubs of incomplete pillars.

From there we went to a royal palace, all the major cities have one for the king to live in when staying there. The only remarkable feature of the palace was that we were allowed to photograph it, which I did, but it is not a very grand building when seen from outside so I've not included it.

From there we were taken to the casbah (fortified area) where after a short stroll we were invited to pause for a drink, that meant mint tea. I chose to carry on exploring.

Like the old town, we came to that later, the streets were narrow and windy. Blue was the colour of choice, or regulation, and that gave a cosy uniformity to the area.

The walls around the casbah were suitably thick, tall and castellated. The casbah's other defence was the steep cliff up from the river that formed one boundary.

Then it was time for lunch and we were coached to the new town. I did not fancy much food but I did fancy some local money so I went off to find a bank and a cafe, in that order. That plan worked well and I had time for a little explore before rejoining the rest of the group. I had spotted a little park just off the main street so that is where I went.

It was lovely. Obviously sun is the main problem with being outside and so the ark had many trees to provide shade and lots of seats to take advantage of it. There were also lots of paths through the gardens giving lots of options for promenading through it. I had a group to rejoin so I took the safe option and went in and out of the park more-or-less the same way.

One nice surprise in the garden was the models of wild animals; I think that this was meant to be a leopard.

Our guide asked us if we wanted to go back to the hotel or go for a short walk and unsurprisingly we all opted for the walk.

This took us straight through the medina, which was exactly the sort of thing that I had gone to Morocco to see. I had been to medinas in Casablanca and Tunis and knew how exciting and different they could be.

These pictures tell only part of the story, they show the narrow path, the rough buildings and the people but they cannot show the bustle, movement and vitality.

This is not a place that you can walk slowly, or even moderately, without causing a jam and forcing people to squeeze past you. And then there are the carts and motorcycles to content with.

The main streets were lined with small shops selling everything from batteries to beds.

The narrow width of the streets and the presence of people in the front of the shops meant that it was difficult to take a discrete picture. Apparently it is alright to take photos of people if you ask for their permission first but that still felt too much like intrusion to me. Besides, I prefer to take photographs of things.

The walk through the media took us back to the casbah where our coach was one again waiting for us.

It was early afternoon, hot and siesta time so the coach took us back to our hotel where I used some of the rest time to head up to the roof bar, not for a drink but of the view. Rabat is at the mouth of river and our hotel was next to it.

I chose this picture both to show the general lay of the land and also to show the modern bridge and tram. I may have gone to Morocco to see mostly old things but I do not want to give the (unfair) impression that it is all decrepit and poor.

Looking the other way, towards the sea, showed a tired river struggling to fill the shallow valley it has created over millennia.

On the far bank new flats had colonised the beach while on the nearside the old town had what looks like a theatre of some sort that somebody had decided was the ideal place to dry their washing. In the quiet river in the middle a few small fishing boats patiently waited for their call to work.

Having taken a short rest I headed back in to the medina. There were several gates in the wall, mostly for pedestrians only, and I took one not too close to the small fire that was sending clouds of smoke over the wall.

My afternoon there had comforted me that the design was not that complicated and, if all else failed, I should be able to find my way to the main route through the centre and so I went for a fairly random stroll turning in to any street that looked more interesting than the one I was on. It worked and after an interesting exploration I exited through a gate that was close to the hotel.

As with the day I had in Seville two days earlier, I had packed a lot in to my one day in Rabat, had seen all the places the guide thought that I needed to see and was pleased with what I discovered in my free time.

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