06 December 2012

Rabat Medina

Medina walls

Medina walls

The sleep wasn’t too bad, the showers were sporadicly hot, and not worth the extra 5 cents they charged!  But this is Morocco after all.  We hit the Medina planning on finding some breakfast, and wandered through the streets.  The Medina here is most of what remains of the old city.  It stayed that way until the French came in 1912.  The original Medina was built by Andalusian refugees from Spain.  The style is very different from just outside the walls, which is similar to any other new city in the world.
There was a semblance to the plan for the day, and we headed in the direction of the Jewish Quarter.  The streets were as crowded as last night, but all different stalls.  It seems as if there is a daytime market here, and a totally different night time one.  As in most places (including Australia and Europe) we are still amazed at the amount of mobile phone shops.  They are everywhere, and where they aren’t, there is a guy setting up a small lockable box filled with even more phones.  We avoided the main touristy sections of the Medina, and came to the flee market.

We bought some books that the cat hadn't slept on.

We bought some books that the cat hadn’t slept on.

The flee market is set up in the former Jewish quarter, set up in 1808.  This is still the poorest suburb in Rabat, and still obviously so.  Amongst all the stalls set out on tarps or newspapers you can find almost anything if it doesn’t work.  There were the sides of drills being sold along with their own broken bits.  Every type of charger ever made, commodore 64’s and flat batteries.  Beside these stalls were jewellery, 50y/o magazines and individual dolls arms and legs.  It was interesting, and with how the mechanics are in Morocco, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they managed to get that old drill working again!  We managed to pick up a few old books here, but due to weight, we couldn’t get the big tomes we wanted.  Sophia wanted to buy a pen, and thought she had scored when she came across a stall exclusively selling pens.  On finding out they were 1dh each she jumped at it.  Then she was informed that the pens don’t work!  A bit crestfallen, she walked away.  Only to be given a pen by the stall owner!

The poverty in this area is obvious.  The people in down town Rabat are all well dressed, and you are more likely to see a suit than not.  Here, it is old worn clothing, that although serviceable, has seen better days.  Get off the main streets, and the slums appear.  Dilapidated houses that have half collapsed with corrugated iron roofs and a plank of wood for a door.  They still have the mandatory satellite dish though.  With all the protests that are happening with unemployment, we can understand why people are upset.  Go two streets either way and the wealth is flaunted.  We saw one man buy something.  On reaching a price he pulled out a wad of 200dh notes that was at least an inch thick.  Working it out, we think he was holding more than our budget for the entire country!  How can we get upset with Moroccans that see this everyday.  Of course tourists are rich.  They have the money to come here, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and go shopping, when I have to struggle to feed my children?


Making our way outside the Medina, we came to the river.  This has a wide boulevard and roads.  Turning towards the Kasbah and Ocean.

Famous gate. Beautiful, but not really that different from all the other gates.

Famous gate. Beautiful, but not really that different from all the other gates.

Distances are not that big here, and it was a matter of minutes before we hit the edge of the fortified walls of the Kasbah itself.  Walking up along them we came to the main gate.  This gate is famous.  What for we have no idea.  It looks like most other Kasbah gates we have seen.  Luckily we have our Rough guide to inform us.  Bab Oudaïa (the gate) is supposed to be the most beautiful in the Moorish world.  Built around 1195 by Yacoub el Moumen from the Almohad dynasty.  Although the walls already existed, and he just put the gate in place.  I don’t know anything about optical illusions or the like as mentioned in the book, but it is impressive.

These walls don't look straight.

These walls don’t look straight.

On passing through the gates we came to the expected narrow alleyways.  What was unexpected though was the way that the bottom halves of the walls were all painted blue.  It looks very Mediterranean.  Specifically Greek island.  The only difference was that the paths do not lead through peoples houses, and over their roofs.  Getting turned around a bit, finding dead ends, and making our way to the wall overlooking the mouth of the river was a bit of fun.  There was one section where they are repairing the street.  There was fresh concrete all over, except for a small patch to walk along.  Coming the other way was an eggler.  His small cart loaded with fresh eggs for Sal?.  We made it past the concrete, squeezed past the cart, whilst trying to work out how it went around the corners, then listened to the argument that broke out between him and a woman, going on about how to get the cart over the concrete.


Views over the river.

The corner of the Kasbah is a nice flat area.  You can walk up to the walls and look out at the ocean, or Sale on the other side of the river.  There are large levies at the entrance to the river.  It is a good view, but considering the fantastic, striking views further south along the Moroccan coast, nothing that special.  However you do get to see the fortifications of Sale, and where the ocean used to go up to the old walls.  Most of this looks like it is long silted up, or reclaimed, and now has green over it.  There are small boats dotting the other side of the river, but not much fishing seems to be happening.  We turned our attention elsewhere, and wandered back down along the river.  Finding a quiet little park inside one of the lower gates of the Kasbah, we took a moment to recharge and soak in the tranquillity.  Walking along the grassy land by the water,  we came to a cafe.  Thinking we could find breakfast and have a good view we stopped in.  Having not managed to find anything now, we were a bit hungry, and it was lunch time.  However we would have to wait a bit longer.  The prices were astronomical.  I wouldn’t even pay them in Europe!  Going back up to the city proper, we found a small place where we could get a cold Kebab, and then headed over to the Mausoleum.

Father with his two sons.

Father with his two sons.

The Mausoleum of Mohammed V.  It was started in 1961 when the King died, and took about 6 years to build the mausoleum and mosque.  Hassan II and his brother are also buried here to be close to their father.  It is a culturally important place for Moroccans, and we were unsure if we were allowed in.  Walking up to the tower, we found a large fence and the gates were locked, so we wandered around to see if we could see anything!  Another entrance had two perfectly attired Royal Guards sitting on their matching horses.  Looking immaculate, but also ready to spring into effective action if needed.  We were allowed in, so it wasn’t a problem.  On entering from this side the first thing you see are all the columns sticking up out of the pavement.  There is a large tower off to the right, and the mausoleum on your left.  We walked up to it to get a better view.  It is beautifully carved and very impressive on the outside.  There was another guard stationed here.  No horse though.  Asking if we could go in, he waved that it was not a problem.  Walking inside, I almost had to pick my jaw up off the ground.  It is spectacular.  The domed roof was stain glass, and around it was fantastic carvings.  The walls were all mosaics and wooden railing was there to prevent you walking over the edge as you were too busy looking up (OK, so Belgians falling off things can be handy sometimes).  The centre of the room wasn’t there.  The floor below is where the tomb of King Mohammed V lies in rest.  The other two are above and on either side.  The building on that floor is even more intricate and decorated.  Brilliant chandeliers lighting the entire place.  There were also rooms leading off in different directions from there.

I have a uni-brow and am not afraid to use it!

I have a uni-brow and am not afraid to use it!

Walking around, we left through a different door to go back outside.  A guard is stationed at each entrance.  Looking impressive, but somewhat bored.  We asked if we could take some photos of him.  I am not sure if his reaction was mirth or not, but we were allowed to.  The first photo he was trying not to laugh, and the second he put on a serious face, making us try not to laugh.  The rifle is in the old Moroccan style and has very intricate inlays of mother-of-pearl.  I am sure that it would work as well as it looked though.  As he was on the back door, we do not think he had much to entertain him.  At the front, every tourist stops to take a photo, at the back it is nice and peaceful.  We think he also appreciated that we had asked to take the photos in the first place.

The half finished Hassan Tower

The half finished Hassan Tower

Back to the pillared square.  This is the remains of the Hassan Mosque.  Built by the Almohad a long time ago (1195).  It was never finished, and stopped construction when the Golden Sultan died in 1199 (He was the one that made his money ransoming off Spanish nobility after the 3 Kings war)  Built to celebrate the victory over the Spanish.  If completed, it would have been the second biggest Mosque in the Islamic world.  Used until 1755 when there was a massive earthquake that destroyed the central pillars.  The tower remained though. At the moment it is still 50m high.  It is still a good looking tower, and there are small differences on each side.  They are doing some renovations on it, and have resurrected most of the pillars to give a sense of scale.  The other interesting thing is that the minaret is on the centre of the wall, rather than a corner.

It was all a lot more interesting than we had expected, and considered it a day well done.



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