An almost 2-hour-public train ride from Aeroport Mohammed V in Casablanca, that departed at 9:55AM via first-class-coach at 115 Moroccan Dirhams took me to Gare Rabat-Ville station. Next thing I knew – I found myself waiting for a blue petit-taxi-cab outside the 50-year-old terminal and checked in at my riad in a breeze.
Since I only have a day to spend in Morocco’s capital city prior heading to Chefchaouen and Fes, I decided to pre-arrange a 3-hour-afternoon-tour with the manager of the riad via e-mails about a month before my trip. I thought it’s wise to maximize my limited visit with a local tour guide who’s highly recommended by the hotel. Apparently, I gave my 100% trust to the hotel manager of that luxury riad in Rabat.
CONSIDER THIS A REMINDER WHEN TRAVELING AND DEALING WITH STRANGERS
The below itineraries were suggested by the multi-lingual male tour guide provided to me, along with a grand taxi or a vintage Mercedes sedan and a driver. The tour went fine and uneventful. I repeat, nothing unpleasant happened to me thankfully. However, after posting my photo with the tour guide on my Instagram account (@iamdocgelo) three weeks after the trip, one of the travelers I religiously follow on Instagram sent me direct messages that he and his friends were highway-robbed by the same tour guide during their 10-day-stay in Morocco (The reason why I personally decided to take down the said photo with that tour guide; I don’t want to imply I’m recommending him as well). They needed to call the Philippine Embassy and ask aid from the Ambassador. Although I am sorry for what happened to them, I took everything positively as someone who shares the same passion in traveling became concerned and indirectly reminded me to be more vigilant and careful in dealing with strangers when traveling. Let it be a reminder to you as well. Don’t get me wrong – Morocco is safe even for solo-travelers like me; and the incident mentioned could happen anywhere to anyone, so let us all be extra-careful and prioritize safety at all times.
Three hours were enough to visit 5 of the most interesting places in Rabat. Here’s the list of where I went.
(1) Mausoleum of Mohammed V
After passing through countless foreign consulates and embassies along the road, we shortly arrived in one of Morocco’s most important and historic touristy places, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and Hassan Tower.
The weather was so perfect in October. The cool breeze from Bou Regreg River complemented the gorgeous blue sky that afternoon. I went off the grand taxi cab alone as I was instructed by the tour guide to go inside the mausoleum and roam around the Hassan tower complex, take as many pictures as I want and meet him after half an hour for his brief explanation of the place. Absolutely, not problem. I liked it that way.
Although I haven’t been to India yet, but it’s on my list, the first glimpse at the mausoleum made me think of Taj Mahal in Agra. Not only they’re both shrines for the tombs, but the immaculate and intricately designed structure made me perceived as such.
There were Royal guards on white and brown horses at the gates that looked like straight out of Arabian Nights or Prince of Persia movie. I was told that those guards and horses go on shifts every one and half hour (or was it two?) as standing still under the sun, despite the cool almost-winter-weather could be so tiring and dehydrating too. Even horses are subjected to fatigue, hunger and dehydration, you know! 🙂
What makes the mausoleum significant? It is where King Mohammed V -the father of modern and independent Morocco is laid to rest. His tomb in flawless white marble can be seen and photographed by visitors from the balcony. Next to the King’s tomb are tombs of Hassan II, his son and the father of the present king of Morocco, Mohammed VI. Royal guards in handsome uniforms were stationed not only before the doors, but at the four corners of the mausoleum as well.
The supposed to be world’s tallest minaret of a mosque was left undone after its founder, Sultan Yacoub Al Mansour died in 1199. Made of red sandstone, the Hassan Tower within the mausoleum complex was left incomplete with its height of 44 meters; they initially planned it to be 86 meters tall however, construction was ceased.
Outside the mausoleum complex, I met one of Morocco’s traditional watermen in ful vivid attire!
The castle of the Udayas, or Kasbah of the Oudayas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located along Bou Regreg river -the body of water in Rabat that joins the Atlantic Ocean. Needless to say, the castle sets a romantic and relaxing ambiance after it was deserted following Sultan Yacoub Al Mansour’s death.
The café that serves that unforgettable and soothing Moroccan mint tea, coffee and sweet local pastries is one of the big reasons why one must not miss visiting Kasbah of the Oudayas.
(3) Old Medina of Rabat
Teeming with handwoven colorful carpets made of sheep, camel hair, and silk, plus leather goods handcrafted by Moroccan artisans make the Old Medina of Rabat worth visiting. It’s a short walking distance from Kasbah of the Oudayas.
(4) Kasbah Chellah
My afternoon tour of Rabat actually started at Castle of Chellah. After paying 10 Moroccan dirhams as admission fee, my eyes were treated to lush nature, made of olive and orange trees. There’s a garden inside with cemented walkway that leads to the ancient Roman necropolis. Right across the Roman necropolis are the ruins of an Arabic mosque, hammam or Moroccan bath and massage house and an Islamic school that was popular in the entire country.
(5) Downtown Rabat
The buildings along the main boulevard in Rabat are reminiscent of French, Spanish and Portugese influences that blended well through the years with Moroccan history and African heritage. A stroll along the main road was so apt during sunset. A local beer could be enjoyed from an old French restaurant right across the Parlement du Maroc or the Parliament of Morocco. Other than the public train that runs from Northern Morocco to Marrakech, a city tram can be found in Rabat to its neighboring town of Sale.
CAMEL MEAT, ANYONE?
My local tour guide suggested for us to dine at Tajine Wa Tanjia, an obviously upscale local restaurant in Rabat. After checking the menu, prices seemed affordable and reasonable so I gave my nod. When I asked for the house specialty, I received an instant reply of Camel Tanjia. Say, what? Camel? Caa-ca-camel?
Tajine or tagine and tanjia are Moroccan clay pots where meat such as lamb, chicken, and yes, camel are being made to tender-perfection.
I succumbed to my tour guide’s suggestion, and surprisingly, I found camel meat fork-tender and as tasteful as beef. There were no unpleasant after-taste as my taste buds tasted nice marinade of lemon and other preferred spices. I paired that camel tanjia with a bottle of red wine and Moroccan rice of course. What a way to end my first day in Morocco.