Monday, 5 January 2015

Globetrotting: Rabat, Morocco

Ahoy there!
Apologies for the long absence. No I haven't forgotten about blogging (ok so maybe I did)
Anyway, I'm back! And it only seems appropriate to reminiscent about sun drenched family holidays (sigh) while we enter the thick of the winter here in the UK.

In September of this year (ehem last year), I was fortunate enough to visit the capital of Morocco- Rabat for a a family holiday. Yes, I know you're thinking the same. Rabat, what's Rabat? Rabbits? NOO, Rabat! Isn't Marrakesh the capital? I'm afraid not. Not to worry, let's take a minutes to blame our geography teachers and tourist brochures for misleading us into thinking that the souk filled, vibrant city of Marrakesh was actually the capital. Shameful.

So, once I got over the initial shock of my terrible geography, I decided to do a tad of research to know exactly where I would be holidaying! When I mean research, you know I really mean run a quick search through Google and read what Wikipedia has to say. I was pleasantly informed that Rabat is situated right on the coast overlooking the Atlantic ocean. That meant plenty of sand, sea and endless sun! We decided to hire our own house/riyad fully equipped with the necessary essentials including two kitchens, a rooftop balcony and mini water fountain for indoor paddling.

And so, we spent a week long holiday in the coastal capital, enjoying the beaches, avoiding rabid dogs and using over dramatic hand gestures to haggle with the locals. This was my second trip to Morocco, the first being a visit to Marrakesh, and although Rabat is not as lively  (no snake charmers to be found here I'm afraid) as Marrakesh, it certainly has a lot to offer with plenty of interesting activities and historical monument. The atmosphere is more laid back and relaxed, with a lot less camera-crazed tourists (except moi) lurking around. 

The great thing about spending a holiday along the coast is that you can spend the whole day everyday lounging around on the beach and be content with blue skies and yellow sands. When we weren't building sandcastles with our fabulous Rabat Hello Kitty bucket and spade set or looking for wifi, we decided to venture around the top attractions as recommended by the most reliable travelling companion known to man– TRIPADVISOR! This site is a savior to all globetrotters. We explored a few interesting historical monuments, which certainly proved a treat for taking some pretty photos. My favourite had to be the Kasbah des Oudaias, which looks like your standard medieval wall but once you go inside, you discover a whole new world equipped with the most quaint gardens aka Andalusia gardens, plenty of feral cats, an overpriced minuscule museum and beautiful Greek style whitewashed houses that wind upwards and accommodate the locals.If anything, the architecture and design are simply breathtaking! 

She didn't. She didn't! Oh yes she did....she photobombed the Kasbah

A single yellow lemon amidst the limes unripe 
Andalusia Gardens
Inside the Kasbah
Ideally, I would have liked to spend a little longer in this hidden realm. Maybe sit down with an estate agent and find out whether any vacant properties were available. I mean you've got the sun, a historical entrance, pets, gardens, fresh lemons and a coastal view. What more could one want? It seemed only sensible to at least consider settling down in the Kasbah. Before I could discuss the relative prospective with my family, we were heading promptly out of the Kasbah and into our car. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances (or in other terms foreigner's sickness) we were unable to fully explore or even consider settling down into the Kasbah. Oh well. There's always next time?
On our last full day in Rabat, I was in a bit of a frenzy and decided that I would get up at the crack of dawn to say farewell to city and squeeze in a little bit of  last minute shopping and sightseeing. On our way back from the beach, we decided to visit the Hassan Tower, a minaret of an incomplete masjid that intended to be the largest minaret in the world. Google claimed that this was one of the top tourist attractions; however, in all honestly it was a little bit of a let down. Sure the architecture was sublime, but where was the masjid? You can't have a minaret without a masjid! Apparently (according to google sab) the Hassan Tower is an international heritage site, and I assume that means it can't be built on. So unfortunately, it doesn't seem like a masjid will follow any time soon.        

Hassan Tower
Royal pony guard decked out in state-of-the-art armor and matching headdress   
In terms of cuisine, I have to say I was a wincy bit disappointed. When half of your family and you spend the best part of a week clutching your stomach in pain after every meal aka foreigner's sickness, you soon realise that you're not as Moroccan as you always imagined yourself to be. Having said that, we did have the most amazing meal in Casablanca, but overall the food was pretty much satisfactory. I think the main problem was actually locating the restaurants in the first place! Apart from a roast chicken and chips place down the road, there were not many places to eat within our locality unfortunately. Actually that's a little harsh, let me reiterate, we couldn't actually find any places to eat. Sorry Tripadvisor, but that was a major letdown. And so, since we had a whole house/riyad to ourselves, we took it upon ourselves, to self-cater and cook curries/tagines served alfresco on our rooftop balcony. 

All in all, Rabat itself is an interesting mix between old and new. Modern trams and slick city workers mingle freely with hand-held rubbish carts and maze-like souks. What particularly struck me was that even though Rabat has adopted modern day city standards, it stays true to its heritage and is not ashamed of that. A lot of old colonial style forts and walls occupy much of the city, and although they probably don't serve on a practical basis, you can't help admire the way they still protectively envelope the city as they would have done hundreds of years ago.Yes you have the typical fancy pancy restaurants and glistening glass hotels that cost more a night then a plane ticket, but that doesn't define Rabat. When I think of Rabat, I think of dusty streets, white foamy waves and majestic sandy forts.

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