We left Casablanca at noon on our way to Rabat, the governmental capital of Morocco, to meet our Discovery Tour Group. Our driver started off well, but he became confused and took us to the airport twice via u-turns and traffic circles before we realized he didn’t remember where we were going! After a brief conversation, we were once again on our way to the Le Dewan Hotel where we ate a quick lunch of fruit and nuts before walking to the beach for fruit drinks, frappes, and great views with the wind blowing gently. We met our group for dinner at the hotel restaurant where we had an excellent salad and salmon.
We were up early for briefing and city tour with our guide, Abdel Ali. (He goes by Ali.) We learned many more interesting facts about Morocco from Ali this day and every day of our tour. For example, 65% of the people are Berber (Amazighi) which are the indigenous people. Rabat is UNESCO site and capital of Morocco. Sale, located across the river, is the twin city of Rabat, the second largest city in Morocco, and the former home of very active and successful pirates.
We stopped at the Royal Palace, which is not open to visitors, where we had a chance to snap photos and see some of the many nesting storks. We next stopped at the Bab Rouah, the city’s “Gate of the Winds” so named because of the constant buffeting by coastal winds since it was built in 1197. We were entertained at the gate by two traditional Berber performers.
Our next stop was at Chellah to see the ruins of a Roman outpost and necropolis (cemetery) that were built in the same area previously inhabited by the Phoenicians. The Romans abandoned the site in 1154 and it remained in that state until the 14th century when a Merinid sultan built a necropolis and mosque there. TheBassin aux Anguilles still exists where women once came to feed the eels to ensure fertility and easy childbirth. The remains of a madrasa, a school where the Quran is taught, the sultan’s tomb and the minaret are reminders of the ancient civilization. Today, cats and storks are the only inhabitants of these beautifully peaceful ruins and garden.
Our next stop was at Hassan Tower, part of an unfinished mosque started by a 12th-century caliph. The minaret was to be the tallest in the world; however, the death of the caliph ended the construction and the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 did substantial damage to the unfinished mosque. Across from the tower is the Mausoleum of Mohamed V which is also worth visiting. Muhammad V was the grandfather of the current king. Just a note…Morocco is the oldest friend of the United States and was the first to recognize the U.S. as a country in 1777. In 1786, Morocco and the U.S. signed a Treaty of friendship, the longest-standing unbroken treaty in US history.
Our last stop for the day was to see the Kasbah (fortified city) of the Udayas, where we explored the fortress and strolled in the French-colonial Andalusian gardens. The Kasbah, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was once the stronghold of Barbary pirate and served as an important port, The Kasbah, with its mosque, museum and gardens, overlooks the Bou Regreg (river). The neighborhood inside the Kasbah is famous for its beautiful blue and white walls.
We had time to rest and explore in the afternoon then walked around looking for possible dinner places and a wine store. We had success finding a wine store, not always an easy task in Morocco, and decided to eat lightly in the Le Dewan Hotel which had good food. (I wouldn’t recommend this hotel otherwise since our experience with the cleaning staff was not the best.)
And the next morning we were on our way to Fes (Fez) and more adventures!