Kasbah les Oudaias
Our journey to Rabat started on the bow of a small boat, expertly steered by the ferryman who rowed standing, incongruously dressed amongst all the disarray in his immaculate white dish-dash.
The five minute journey across the Bou Regreg river from Salé to Rabat costs a mere five dirhams for two people. That’s an investment of just 40p to avoid an hour’s walk to the Kasbah les Oudaias over the very busy – and exceptionally hot – Pont Moulay Yousef bridge. It’s a fantastic bargain.
Off the boat, we started our exploration of Rabat at the kasbah. Originally settled by Muslim refugees from Spain, the Kasbah les Oudaias has a definite Mediterranean look – reminiscent of Greece with its whitewashed and blue-painted buildings. And it seems to attract a fair share of visitors, to the great delight of the numerous street-food vendors. Donuts at 8p? I don’t mind if I do.
After a visit to the well-maintained Andalusian Gardens and its many stray cats, we purchased one of those 8p donuts, and absentmindedly munched our way along the narrow streets to enter the open space of the Plateforme du Sémaphore, which delivers a fantastic view of the river. From here it’s clear why a pilot is needed to guide boats in to Boregreg Marina – there’s almost too much to contend with even for the locals. It’s bonkers out there.
Le Tour Hassan and Mausoleum of Mohammed V
Strolling back down the hill and through the medina, we arrived at Le Tour Hassan – the landmark that dominates the view looking from the marina to Rabat. Bar a few pillars, the tower is all that remains of an ambitious scheme to build the second largest mosque in the world. Most of it was levelled in an earthquake in 1755.
On the same site of as Le Tour Hassan stands the magnificent Mausoleum of Mohammed V where the present king’s father and grandfather are laid to rest. Each entrance to the mausoleum is guarded by a flamboyantly dressed guard, much to the delight of young families who were queuing up to have their photographs taken by their side.
The mausoleum both inside and out is simply stunning. There’s gold leaf and marble everywhere, and the craftsmanship is superb.
After all that cultural malarkey, it was back to practicalities. Train tickets needed to be bought for the journey to Fes the next morning, so we caught a tram from near the mausoleum to Salé station. This time I was able to just about string a sentence together when speaking with the ticket seller, ending up with two tickets for the right train on the right day at the right time.
Maria wanted to buy some bread on the way home, so into the souk we went to find a baker – or at least a shop selling bread. Despite the variety of goods on sale, it’s really hard to find the bread fella. We walked for a good twenty minutes before finding a small stall with loaves of bread piled high on his counter. A few dirhams passed his way and a couple of loaves passed ours, then all we needed to do was find our way back to the boat.
Google maps is a great thing if you remember to use it. We didn’t. And that over-confidence resulted in overshooting the marina by over a mile. Still, despite the loss of shoe leather, it’s a great way to see the local life.