Exploring Rabat, Morocco

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This morning Jules rolled over in bed, checked the clock by our night stand, and declared that we were 35 minutes late for breakfast.

The night before the owner asked us at what time we would like to eat, insinuating that 8am-9am will be best…
Not being early risers, we promised to come down for breakfast by 9am.
So we quickly put on loose clothes and ran downstairs for breakfast.

We came back to our room after a breakfast of mint tea, locally baked breads, yogurt and local butter and jam.

Today we decided to explore Rabat, which is located on the other side of the river from Sale’.
We asked the owner what was the best way to get to Rabat from Sale’ and she suggested that we walk to the river and from there, take a row boat across to Rabat.

The walk was much longer than we thought, but it was fun to see the people who came to relax by the ocean and by the river.

We first went to the fishermen’s pier, but nobody was rowing passengers… Just some skinny kids swimming and brown skinned fishermen with sun curved lines on their faces, mending nets and waterproofing their wooden boat with oil paint and plastic tarp.

The pier over to the left, had some passengers already sitting in some of the boats and we joined them.
These small raggedy wooden row boats can carry up to six people at the cost of 2 Dirham per person, the equivalent of 25 cents per passenger.

When we arrived on the other side, I took some coins from my pocket.
I had about ten Dirhams in my palm.
When the charge is so little, I often trust the vendors to just pick from my palm the correct change.
This old man just took it all.
It was OK with me… I had a good time crossing the river with him.

First we paid a visit to the beautiful mausoleum of King Mohammed the Fifth.
It had ornate marble, mosaic fountains and on the grounds stood many columns holding nothing up…

These cylindrical pillars stand looking surreal…. But they do tell the story of the past.
An ancient king had plans to build there the largest Mosque in the world, but after his death the plans were abandoned.

The day was hot and the walk to the Medina seemed longer…the Medina in Rabat is large.
It stretches for many blocks.
We bought some cactus pears from a street vendor.
He peeled them for us and the juicy sweet fruit revived our spirits.

But the real highlight of the day was the Casbah of Oudaya.
It is an old fort dating from before the year 1000, making this place more than 1011 years old.
The thick walls slope into the Atlantic Ocean and they are pasted with adobe mud in the color of terra cotta pink sunset.

Being a military strategic point, people were only allowed to live within the interior of the Casbah in the late 1900’s.

Now the narrow streets are filled with homes, painted white with the bottom half of each exterior house and street painted deep sea blue.

We strolled between the narrow lanes, enjoying the big wooden doors and the blue ocean views.
We took tea and overpriced sweet pastries in a large and popular cafe on a terrace by the water.

By the end of the day, when we felt tired and hungry, we tried to made our way to a restaurant that was highly recommended.
Getting out of the Casbah was not so easy, so we asked for directions from a lady who sat on the stairs.
She pointed to the exit and immediately jumped to her feet, grabbed my hand and in less than two minutes made a henna tattoo of an ornate flower on my wrist, despite my refusal.
I paid her anyway and we exited to try and find the restaurant.

From what we saw in Morocco up until now, there is limited signage, and rarely any visible names or numbers on the streets, so I stopped a man who had a friendly face, and asked if he knew the street that the restaurant was on.
The man was willing, but he did not recognize our street.
He suggested that I ask the policeman who was directing the traffic in the middle of an extremely busy traffic light.

It seemed strange to me to bother a policeman who was standing with a whistle in his mouth directing traffic, but I did it anyway…
The tall policeman took the whistle out of his mouth, looked at me carefully, place his hand on my shoulder and welcomed me to Morocco.

He left his post and walked us back to the side of the street that we came from.
He explained with much care how to get there…. Better yet, he decided that we would probably not be able to go straight and then turn right….. so he said he will ride his motorcycle and wait for us on the intersection where we needed to make the right turn, to make SURE that we would not miss the turn.
We walked to the intersection where he waited, thanked him and shook his hand and entered the restaurant.
We saw him make a U-Turn back to his traffic post.
What a friendly and lovely policeman.

Dinner was a delicious Tajine.
The restaurant was atmospheric with big cushions and colorful fabric separating the tables. It had big windows opened wide and overlooking the Medina’s wall.

We took the newly built, shiny electric tram back to the other side of the river, and walked the eerily quiet streets of Sale’, back to our Riad.

It was a balmy night and we were happy to finally take showers and retire to bed.

That night I dreamt I was doing an art show, and that I forgot to complete my paintings….. I had other dreams……dreams about confusion…… And about getting lost…..
I do wonder why…..

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