Rabat, Morocco, October 1, 2007

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
Trip End Jan 05, 2008

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Rabat is the current capital of Morocco and is nice in a planned, organized elegance in the way such capital cities as Washington, Ottawa, Canberra, Wellington, and Brasilia that are government centers rather than the country's dominant commercial capital usually are.  Such capital cities usually have a standard of the good life dictated more by bureaucrats and the sycophantic lobbyists that hang around them, often a more cultured bunch than the captains of industry and commerce who set the tone in bigger cities. 
Rabat is a mostly modern city but one with many layers of history, including the ruins of a Roman town named Chellah on its outskirts which later became a Muslim Meranid tomb complex, a fortified Kasbah full of whitewashed houses with blue trim on a seaside bluff, and a large walled Medina only a few centuries less ancient than those in Fez and Marrakech.  Among these sights were a number of good small museums, enough sights overall to spend a second day in the city if I had had one
I had planned to eat out and try some exotic Moroccan food that night, especially after getting word that the evening's camp dinner would consist of hot dogs and hamburgers.  Islam, however, had different plans for me.  When I entered an Internet cafe shortly before dusk the outdoor markets and central food halls at the entrance to the Medina were still a frenzy of activity.  When I emerged from the cafe half an hour later the streets were so quiet and deserted one could hear a pin drop, with not a car or pedestrian on the street as everyone was inside breaking the daily Ramadan fast.  Meanwhile, in every restaurant I entered the kitchen was closed to at least an hour while the staff recovered from the fast.  Where there was food available it was only pre-cooked Ramadan break-fast food - bean soup, bread, dates, and sweets - and the patrons were all eating in silence. 
Since there was not a taxi or a bus running at the time, I had to hoof it the three miles or so back to our campsite across the river in Sale, Rabat's sister city on the north side of the Bouregreg River, only to find that dinner was over.  I was saved from another night of starvation, though, by a group of uniformed Moroccan soldiers who were also staying in the campground.  They invited us to join them for a meal of couscous, an offer I couldn't refuse since it was my only chance of eating anything that night.  My ability to converse with the soldiers was very limited since I can't speak much French or Arabic, but that didn't seem to matter much as we sat around the table eating couscous with beef and vegetables with our hands from a communal bowl at the center of the table while watching a really bad Algerian movie. 
It was not exactly a party crowd I was with on the Dover to Dakar leg of the trip.  My mostly older fellow travelers got up before the crack of dawn, ate breakfast and broke camp well before the assigned time every morning, and wanted to eat dinner before dark in order to be in bed by 9:00 P.M.  It was almost like being back at my parents' house in the retirement village. 
Between those early risers slamming the truck door and banging pots and pans around at the dawn's first light, the especially loud and long pre-dawn prayer calls from the nearby mosque, dozens of feral cats fighting it out through the night, and a group of kif-smoking French hippies pounding on drums all night at the other side of the campground my nights at the Camping de la Plage in Sale weren't the most restful.  Speaking of French hippies, white people should not be wearing dreadlocks; it is so wrong!

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