الرباط = Rabat

Trip Start Aug 28, 2010
Trip End Jan 10, 2011

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, October 9, 2010

           The drive to Rabat from Asilah was around 3 hours. Rabat is the capital and second largest city of the Kingdom of Morocco. The city is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. On the facing shore of the river lies Salé, Rabat's old slum that is gradually becoming a community. Together the two cities account for a population of 1.8 million.  This is the city where we would spend the next 2 days of our trip.            

            Upon arriving, we made our way to a meeting place were we would pair up with the host families that we would be living. When Adam and I heard our names called, we were kind of nervous to meet our host family, but excited at the same time. The lady that greeted us was dressed in full-on Islamic clothing with her head and face covered and everything. Luckily for us, but not for the other groups, our host mom spoke english! Upon arriving at her house, she removed her scarfs (greatly to our suprise) and told us to put our stuff in our room, which was a traditional Islamic room with short couches lining the entire room, and then come to dinner. We sat down to dinner with the whole family. Our host mom, her husband, their two sons and their daughter, and two students who live with them who are studying in Morocco. The food in Morocco is amazing. They use so many spices and such. It was funny eating with our hand too...this took some getting used to and I spilled cous cous everywhere. After dinner and tea (mint gunpoweder which is famous is morocco and the best tea i have ever had) we headed to the streets to do some shopping. We walked into the media, or the old city, to do some shopping and exploring. 

            The sights and smells cant even be described. One would have to travel to Africa in order to understand how we felt. Spice markets filled the streets with amazing smells while traditional music was playing and people were cooking cous cous, snail, and sugar cane on the streets. The street was alive with motion. I somehow managed to sneak into a store and buy a pair of fake Diesel jean, which i might add look quite real! We continued to walk and see the city and made it all the way to the Parliament building and the modern city center. Because its a muslim country, the city goes to bed rather early (11pm). We headed back to our host families huge house and got some sleep.

            The next morning we woke up and enjoyed a great moroccan breakfast with filo dough pancakes and tea! Our host mom walked us to the meeting spot for our group, but seeing as we were early, she decided to take us on a tour of the KASBAH! The Kasbah of the Udayas was built during the reign of the Almohads. When the Almohads had captured Rabat and destroyed the kasbah of the Almoravids in the town, they began reconstructing it in AD 1150. They added a palace and a mosque and named it al-Mahdiyya, after their ancestor al-Mahdi Ibn Tumart. After the death of Yaqub al-Mansur AD 1199 the kasbah was deserted. Today however, little homes are built inside and our host moms family lives there. The kasbah was lined with blue and white paint, one would think they were in Greece if they didnt know any better.

            After the Kasbah, We met the rest of our group and took a short drive across the Bou Regreg River to Rabat's sister city, Salé.  There, we met with six Moroccan students and discussed how Americans and Moroccans view each other. It was an interesting discussion and it changed my views on the Islamic world greatly. Moroccans are also very fond of the fact that Morocco was the first country to recognize America's independence from Britain after the Declaration of Independence was signed. After our talk, we headed the mausoleum of King Mohammed V.

            The mausoleum contains the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons, late King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The building is considered a masterpiece of modern Alaouite dynastyarchitecture, with its white silhouette, topped by a typical green tiled roof. Its construction was completed in 1971. Hassan II was buried there following his death in 1999. It was cool seeing the tombs and quite a cultural experience. The mausoleum is adjacent to the famous Hassan Tower, the minaret of an unfinished mosque.  Construction of the world's largest minaret and mosque began in 1195, but was stopped only four years later after the death of the sultan.  Both the tower and the mosque are far from finished and there are no plans to complete the construction.  Instead of stairs, the tower was supposed to be ascended by ramps.  The minaret's ramps would have allowed the muezzin to ride a horse to the top of the tower to issue the call to prayer.  All that remains at the site are the beginnings of about 200 pillars and a few walls.  

            After this, we headed to Chellah. Chellah, or Sala Colonia is a necropolis and complex of ancient Roman, Mauretanian and medieval ruins. A few different groups inhabited the land after the Romans moved out, but much of the original architecture remains.  The ruins are believed to be sacred ground since so many storks nest there. Also, there is a pool filled with eels in one corner of the land.  It is an ancient legend that if an eel eats an egg you throw into the pool, you will become pregnant soon.  Three people from my group threw eggs into the pool, myself included. The eels ate Shea's and my egg! Hopefully I dont get pregnant! 

            After the ruins, we headed back to the host families for another amazing lunch. We later meet up with the 6 guys we had the discussion with earlier in order to have a tour of the medina and walk to the beach and shop. The students showed us around the city and walked us to the beach and told us all the 'cool' things about morocco. They really only wanted to learn english cuss words though! Ha They came in really handy when we were shopping though, as the shop keepers only spoke Arabic and my Arabic is a little rusty to say the least! After shopping and touring and getting coffee for several hours, we headed to the host family for dinner.

            It was now time for the much anticipated Hammam! A hammam is the Turkish variant of a steam bath, sauna or Russian Bath, distinguished by a focus on water, as opposed to ambient steam. A person taking a Turkish bath first relaxes in a room (known as the warm room) that is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air allowing the bather to perspire freely. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room (known as the hot room) before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and receiving a massage, bathers finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation.

            I was the only guy in our group with the balls to get the massage from the guy working in the hammam, and I can see why. The massage started with the man applied olive oil and soap all over my body. Then, with a sand paper mitt, he SCRUBBBBBBBED my body until it was all red and the skin felt like it was going to fall off. He then washed my hair and scrubbed with a fine tooth comb. This part actually felt good! After that, he began to wash my body and pour really hot water all over me. Lastly, he rolled me over and began cracking my back in all kinds of different ways and cracking my neck and arms! It felt HORRIBLE at the time but after it was over, my skin was softer than ever and my body felt awesome! This had to have been the most cultural experience I had ever had. When we left the hammam, it was raining, I still remember. We walked back in the rain to our house but the entire walk back I couldn’t help but think that I was one of the luckiest people alive to be able to experience this and that getting wet was all part of the fun…I may have even purposely stepped in some puddles :P

            This ended our day in Rabat, the next day we would move on.

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