Day 2: Rabat

Houda’s brother came to take me around to see the sights. I’d call him an unofficial tour guide, but it turns out that is actually a problem in Morocco. Unofficial tour guides will hang out at airports and train stations and try to convince people to pay them to tour around the city, often diverting you to shops where they get a cut of the money. This was also a problem in Italy as the official tour guides had big badges to make it obvious. Even then, our tour director was probably getting a cut of the profits from one leather shop in Florence.

Regardless, I’ll refer to H’s brother as Tour Guide, of which he is neither an official or unofficial one, just kind enough to walk around the city with a complete stranger.

We started at Le Tour Hassan. It would have been the second largest mosque when it was built, but an earthquake destroyed it in 1755 leaving just the shattered pillars and a tower. I should see another tower like it in Seville.

Adjacent to Le Tour Hassan is Mausoleum of Mohammed V which houses the king’s father and grandfather. Here, I got in trouble for taking a picture of the back of a guard. I was asked to delete it. Not sure why I actually complied other than I didn’t want Americans to look bad.

Next stop was the Medina. This was probably a good Medina to start in. It was a Thursday at lunchtime, so not particularly crowded. And the shop keepers weren’t pushy. I didn’t buy anything, although I was thinking about a painting that I saw an artist working on.

After the Medina, we meant to go into a museum, but instead stumbled upon the Andalucían Gardens. Here, we found more cats wandering around. Always kittens. I don’t think they have a long life span around here. El Gato!

Through the gardens, we found a walking street into the Kasbah fed Oudaias. This is where I found the whitewashed houses with Mediterranean blue. These were built by Muslim refugees from Spain and are the original part of the city that has grown up around it.

Inside, we might have stumbled upon the Galerie d’Art Nouiga where there was an exhibit of the two faces of man. All self portraits of the artist, the Moroccans feel that everyone has two sides, the good and the bad, but also, that which faces outward and that which faces inward. The side that judges others, but always praises self.

The building the exhibit was in was the court for judging pirates and the prison was upstairs. We didn’t go up.

Back outside, there was an old cemetery overlooking the beach and ocean. I imagined that the dead would rise at midnight, walk into the ocean and then crawl back to their graves at dawn. Always seems silly to me when the dead get such great locations.

On the way to lunch, we ran into protests. The first one was a large group of people walking down the street with banners. The second was smaller and had been broken up by the police with riot gear and some ambulances were driving away.

We had lunch outside in a little cafe. The food was okay, but nothing to write home about. I had a panini. I downgraded their rating because there was no bathroom and they said they had wifi, but we couldn’t find it.

Next, we wandered back up the hill to Chellah. It is an old Roman city—Sala Colonia. It was later abandoned for Sale. We were allowed to wander around and climb all over the ruins. I’m so used to not being allowed to touch anything, that this surprised me the most. It is also the home to a flock of storks and their enormous nests. They were incredible up close.

After all the wandering, we headed back into the main part of the city for coffee. I hadn’t noticed it earlier, but all tables and chairs outside were set up to watch the sidewalk and street. They don’t even try to hide the fact that this is what they are doing. Might as well be honest about it, right?

We took a taxi to the high-end shopping district, which was not exactly what you’d think of as high-end in the US. I think part of it is just the street and sidewalk itself. Usually you expect to find sparkly sidewalks and perfectly paved streets, but these were well worn. Maybe there was more trash than I expected. Maybe the buildings weren’t as well kept. Maybe it was a combination of all of it.

We stopped in at a McDonalds there because I wanted to see for myself that people go there well dressed. They do. Some differences in the menu are that the meat is all halal and they had fried mozzarella balls. I’m sure there were other differences, but I haven’t eaten at McDonalds in years.

Dinner was at H’s mom’s place just outside Rabat. Another fabulous meal. I tried a new green vegetable that I can supposedly get in Cali, but I will have to ask for the name of it again. Sadly, H was having a tough day. We might have done too much the day before.

This morning, I think I used the wrong cup for my water. I’m not sure. And I still think I broke the shower. I’ve been a bit afraid to ask to try to shower again because I’m one of those sad people who doesn’t actually speak more than one language. If only I spoke French or Spanish or Arabic. I keep trying to say thank you in Arabic, but it takes me three minutes to remember the word, so I’ve stuck with merci instead. That has stuck over the years.

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