My 7:35 flight out arrived about 8:30 at night, thanks to the time difference between Morocco and Spain. I shared a taxi with a kid from...somewhere in the U.S. who was also staying in the medina, the old part of town. After struggling to communicate our hotels' addresses to the taxi driver, who spoke no English, he rolled down the windows to ask passersby for directions. Very confidence inspiring.
We finally parked and were led through the winding streets [too narrow for cars] until we reached my hotel. I have no idea how people who rent cars or take public transportation manage to find anything in Morocco, because they are worse than Spain about street signs. I said goodbye to the other American - I'm not sure if he ever found the place he was supposed to stay - and walked into my magical [expensive] hotel. There don't seem to be many hostels in Rabat, at least not downtown, so I sadly parted with 45 euros. But, after being on the road 3 days already, it was nice to relax in a fancy, private room.
In the morning, I was treated to my first Moroccan food. And what a treat it was! I knew about the mint tea, of course, but the breakfast we had? AMAZING. You can't go wrong with yummy flatbread and jams. I even more or less liked the orange juice. But the best part was something called m'semmen, basically fried bready deliciousness. I have already looked up recipes because it was some of the best bread I have had in my entire life.
|I don't have my own picture of breakfast because I was too busy eating. But it was this, minus the egg.|
First up was the Kasbah de Oudanyes, less than 5 minutes away. This was kind of a city within the city located right on the Atlantic coast. It started out as a fortified city, so between all the quaint houses and winding streets, there are also some cannons and really high walls. I first walked into the gardens, ignoring the guy offering a tour and telling me I was going in at the exit. It's apparently pretty common for these "tour guides" to gather at sites and tell people there's a fee or they have to take a tour.
I wandered through the small garden and then tagged along behind an actual tour group until they came to a cafe with a great panoramic view of the Atlantic. I snuck a few pictures in and then left, knowing that I was pressed for time. I ended up back where I'd come in, so I walked up to the other entrance. There's a museum there located in the old palace [or is it a mosque?], but again, I just didn't have time. I'd read on the map that I could see part of the old fortress, so I went looking for that.
I ended up retracing my steps several times, as the streets wound back into each other or simply dead-ended, but never found that darn fortress. So I walked back out of the city and went to look at some ruins just outside the walls. And then I found the fortress, jutting out from the walls - now over the beach, but a long time ago over the water. Satisfied, I took my pictures and said goodbye.
After a short walk along the coast, I made it to the Hassan Tower and Royal Masoleum complex. This tower was designed by the same architect as the Giralta Tower at the Sevilla Cathedral. There are a lot of obvious similarities in the two, except that the Hassan Tower was never finished. [I think this had something to do with the king dying in the middle of construction.]
There is a huge courtyard between the two monuments that's filled with cut-off columns. I'm not sure if this is on purpose or all that's left. There were several royal guards around the masoleum, but tourists are allowed inside. It was an impressive room, the walls decorated with typical geometric designs. The coolest part was a man [maybe a religious leader, I don't know] who was singing inside. He had a microphone so you could hear his wailing voice echoing through the whole courtyard.
I probably should have taken a taxi to the next spot, in the interest of time, but I started walking and just kept going. I passed by some kind of protest happening in the middle of the neighborhood and then headed down Franklin Roosevelt Avenue. Apparently this is close to where the U.S. Embassy is, because there was also an Abraham Lincoln Square.
And then, after passing out of the medina, I saw the walls of the Chellah.
This site has to be my favorite out of all the places I visited on my trip, and sadly it's the one where I spent the least amount of time. It began as a Roman city, complete with the forum and baths. Later it was turned into a necropolis, and now it's a park. [There was a 10 dirham entrance fee, but consdering that that's less than 1 euro, it was well worth it.]
I may have mentioned before: I am a big ruins girl. If you give me ruins [or castles, those are great too], I am a happy camper.
The Chellah has all the ruins.
So I walked in the main gate and was immediately surrounded by lovely plants. Pressing on, I first passed the artisans village [I'm guessing these were Roman artisans because I think the Muslims just used this site as a cemetery].
Then I came to the Mosque. The tower here is the most preserved part of the complex, and like church towers in Spain, is home to a stork's nest.
There's a royal tomb adjacent to the main room of the mosque, then you enter gardens again. All the flowers were in full bloom and it smelled delightful.
In the fields across from the Chellah, there were even more storks.
The next section has the Roman baths, which look remarkably good from the outside. Then there are some less distinct ruins of a temple and the forum.
It was really hard to leave, so much that I delayed and delayed until it was noon. And then I tried to find a taxi. You wouldn't think this would be so hard right next to a touristy site, but it really was. I think I walked for about 10 minutes [passing the Royal Palace, which was nice] before finally I managed to catch a driver's attention. He dropped me off outside the Kasbah and of course I managed to get lost getting back to my hotel, even with the convenient map the owner had given me.
I decided to walk to the train station, using the hotel's wifi to look up directions on my phone because clearly I am an expert at the getting lost thing. It was kind of a pain to weave my way through an open air market [similar to the touristy ones in Mexico] while carrying a stuffed backpack on my shoulders, but it was well worth it.
I bought my train ticket, using the convenient English-language button on the automatic ticket machine, and hurried to the food court for lunch. Using my basically non-existent knowledge of French [speaking Spanish does not help as much as I'd thought], I ordered one of the most delicious chicken sandwiches I have ever eaten, especially for train station fast food, ate it as quickly as possible, and then realized my train had been delayed 30 minutes.
But considering how wonderfully warm it was, I didn't mind sitting under a tree for a while, people watching. The train ride itself is a whole 'nother story, but in the interest of not making this post impossibly long, I'll be telling it later.