Saturday, April 30th ~ Rabat, Morocco
Rabat, the Moroccan capital was ranked at second place by CNN in its “Top Travel Destinations of 2013. It is an Atlantic Ocean port city located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River.
After breakfast, we loaded onto our pristine motor coach for a tour of the capital. I’m a very happy camper as the windows were spotlessly clean which makes shooting pictures along the way so much nicer. It was a Chamber of Commerce type of day – bright blue skies with a few puffy white clouds and temperature in the 70’s.
A few minutes were spent driving to pass through the gates and into the old section of town. Bab Rouah, or the city’s “Gate of the Winds,” so-called because it’s been battered by Atlantic winds since its construction in 1197.
Much of the city had been destroyed by a major earthquake and rebuilt, so the old city is in many cases newer than the new city. We still see a variety of architecture, but the arches are a prominent feature.
First main stop was at the beautifully tiled entrance to the Royal Palace. We were inside the compound, but did not enter the palace itself as it is still used by the king for official business.
The ruins and necropolis of Chellah, an ancient Roman outpost is dated from pre-Christian times. It was granted World Heritage Status in 2012.
There is an interesting assortment of cats in large quantities roaming the grounds. On a path to the side of the ruins is a pond where large eels reside.
Women come to pay homage to the eels and ask for their intercession with some deity, throwing coins into the water. To keep the eels happy, they are fed the white part of hard-boiled eggs. The yolk is fed to patiently awaiting cats. It seems to work well for all concerned.
“The eels living in this pool at the Chellah Necropolis near Rabat function as a fertility symbol. Visitors (women) buy and feed them eggs in the hope of getting pregnant. Eels and eggs, the sexual connotation is strong!” ~ Trekearth.com
And just in case the fertility thing works, the next item seems to be a perfect match…
Besides the ruins themselves, another eye-catching items were the huge storks and their enormous nests perched over head.
We visit Hassan Tower, part of an unfinished mosque started by a 12th-century caliph. It too is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Hassan Tower or Tour Hassan (Arabic: صومعة حسان) is the minaret of an incomplete mosque in Rabat, Morocco. Begun in 1195, the tower was intended to be the largest minaret in the world along with the mosque, also intended to be the world’s largest. In 1199, Sultan Yacub al-Mansour died and construction on the mosque stopped. The tower reached 44 m (140 ft), about half of its intended 86 m (260 ft) height.” ~ Wikipedia
This is what I had expected we would see…
But sadly for us, the monument is currently swathed in scaffolding as they have started a massive cleaning project.
On the same property is the Mohamed V Mausoleum, the burial-place of the former king and two other members of the royal family, including his son King Hassan II.
But it was the interior that was truly stunning.
Along the drive to our next stop we pass the river where boats ferry passengers across the narrow expanse.
At the incredibly preserved Kasbah of the Udayas, we explore the fortress and wander down blue and white-washed streets.
And a final short walk brings us to the Atlantic Ocean where the waves are broken up before easing into tidal pools along the shoreline.
Overnight: Rabat – Villa Mandarine
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for an enjoyable and easy introduction to Morocco. The pace was kept moderate to allow the multiple jet-lagged bodies to keep up as we checked out a few sites, picked up some tidbits of information, and ate a very satisfying lunch on the banks of the river before returning to our hotel mid afternoon for a rest. Some of the group were planning on returning to the city for the evening and others decided a quiet evening and dinner at the hotel sounded best. We were in the second camp.