Mon 7th & Tues 8th September
Rabat, Morocco – Mon 7th & Tues 8th September
Rabat is relatively important to the textile, food processing and construction industries, owned by major multinational corporations and some operated by sweatshop labour. Tourism and the presence of all of all foreign embassies make Rabat the second most important city in Morocco, after Casablanca. The main reason for our stop is to obtain visas for Mauritania and Mali where both embassies are conveniently located in the same street. The visa application form for Mauritania was bordering on War and Peace with so many irrelevant questions - in French! Each required 2 passport photos per application form, our original passport plus a copy. Mauritania will process and issue the same day but they close between 11am and 2pm. Mali require 24hrs but they are only open until 2pm so we had to persuade them to stay open until after 2pm to avoid an extra day in Rabat. Some of us didn’t have passport copies and some of us may not have enough passport photos if every county in West Africa has the same requirements. Once back into Rabat city centre I hunt down a copy centre and photographic shop to obtain the necessary passport copies and photos.
Our Hotel Majestic overlooks the old Medina wall on a busy street right in the heart of the city. The Muezzin loud speaker in the Medina is level with my hotel window and makes me jump out of sleep at 5am when it blasts out the day’s first call to prayer. Like Chefchaouen, Rabat comes alive by night during Ramadam with people of all ages feasting in the streets until the late hours.
When the capital city was moved to Rabat in the 12th century, construction began on what would have been the world’s largest mosque. On the death of the ruler, construction stopped but the ruins still stand along with the Hassan Tower, providing panoramic views across the city. The beautifully decorated mosaic Mausoleum of Mohammed V is also housed here.
Sale is separated from Rabat across the mouth of the river and both cities are surrounded by large cemetaries outside their city walls overlooking the sea. Relatively nice beaches can be found a short walk from the Mellah (Jewish quarter) outside the Medina walls but only a small proportion of women are on the beach and only the men and children swim in the sea. We spend a few hours escaping the city and enjoying the breeze while people watching on the shores.
Rabat’s history began with a settlement, known as Chellah, on the banks of the Bou Regreg river in the third century BC. Romans took over the Chellah and converted it to the Roman settlement of Sala Colonia until it was abandoned in 1146. These ruins are still visible behind impressive fortress walls and well worth a visit. The mosquitoes are a nuisance and a large number of well fed stray cats hang around the ruins.