Sunday, September 14, 2008
3 days in Rabat
56 invitees met in Philadelphia having traveled from Hawaii, California and Oregon and many states between, from 21 yrs old to mid-60’s, and diverse in ethnicity. What a lively group. Two days of overall review and we were on the bus to JFK, with frantic weighing of luggage and re-allotting of bags and carry-ons before boarding at 7:30 pm for Morocco. Ramadan, the month of fasting, has begun, so we ate a big dinner (Royal Air Maroc, that’s the airline!), and then breakfast before it began to get light. Landed in Casablanca at 7:20 GMT (4 hours ahead of us). Flat brown landscape with few and sudden squares of green; very few roads, and scattered housing as we flew into Casablanca. Once we’d all gone thru immigration we boarded another bus for the ride to Rabat (about 1.5 hours outside Casablanca) and then you could see the housing and spread of the city. Lots of new construction of apt buildings; many older clusters of 2 & 4 storey houses connected in rows – white washed concrete, flat roofs. Suddenly cows in an open field, then more rows of square flat houses. The city itself is on the ocean, and as we proceeded north, you could see the newer, higher buildings, the mosque spires (green tile designs) frequent and dominating, not many cars or people on or along the major highway. Like a picture postcard – from the road, a clear open view to the ocean and then the environs of Rabat, the capital, began. Narrow streets, buildings 4-6 stories, no grid pattern, lots of people walking and lots of cars! Honking, shouting noisy; 5 times a day the call to prayer and at the call, every city sound stops. Flowering shrubs and vines are hanging on every street, out of arched doorways; the green in the city and in private gardens is such a contrast to the open brown spaces outside the city.
Our hotel has a terrace on top floor (6th) from which we can see over the roofs to the distant shapes of the palace. Though the king no longer resides in Rabat, the palace, the administration buildings and private quarters of staff are still used I an area surrounded by medieval style walls. In the picture, they are the stretch of buildings by the red flag just behind the spire. The spire is of the central mosque of Rabat, seen from miles around. The green tiled roofs in the middle of the picture are part of the mosque and surround the open prayer space.
Stay tuned for news from Azrou...