Oct 24, 2012: Rabat, Morocco As before, Eric will narrate our experiences in Rabat with Sam's comments interjected in italics.
Following the exciting train ride, we were finally in Rabat. We got to the main station area and sat down to cool off. After relaxing and enjoying a cappuccino, we decided to find a cab to take us to our location for the night, which was staying with a couple from couchsurfing. I don't know if I have explained couch surfing yet or not, but it is an online community where you communicate with others regarding travel plans, and even see if you can arrange for free accommodations. Members are usually fellow travelers who can host others as they come through their town if they have a spare couch or guest bedroom.
You can use couchsurfing for when you are traveling, or you can host people at your home as
well. Sam and I had some people stay with us in Watertown, and used couchsurfing when we traveled in Canada. All of our experiences were great, so we decided to use it for our one night in Rabat.
The process to get into a cab ended up being a painful one. There were several cabs lined up in a row outside of the train station, but there didn’t seem to be anyone who wanted to drive us. I don’t know if they were on a coffee break or what was going on, but we were without a cab. We dragged ourselves to the other side of the station, and started to deal with some cab drivers trying to hustle us. We turned down their ridiculous offers of 75-80 dirham for a ride that would be maybe 5 minutes. By this time we were used to thinking in Dirhams and had a pretty good idea of what things should cost. We immediately ignore any offer that starts off as outrageous because we figure there is no use trying to talk it down to normal. After
turning down those offers we went up and down the main street trying to get a cab, which was a huge ordeal since everyone else on the street seemed to be trying to get a cab. Finally, we went back to the station and were able to get a cab for a normal price.
Our cab dropped us off where we would be staying for the evening, which was very unique. Our hosts were staying in an old area of town that was right on the oceanfront. It is a former citidal which is now a picturesque walled town called “Kasbah Les Oudaias” (remember we’re still dealing with French here in Morocco).
It looked like we were
entering a tourist destination temple or mosque, before it opened up into a little town. We had read in our Lonely Planet that people would try to stop you and say the area is closed. Lonely Planet spoke the truth as several locals were trying to slow us down by telling us the area was closed. We just kept on going by them, which a couple of them did not appreciate. The little town area was nice, with a few markets, and a lot of little kids outside playing soccer. The alleys and lanes were barely wide enough for cars (and there weren’t many in there in fact), with charming blue and white painted walls.
We walked up to our couch surfing hosts door, rang the doorbell, but no one was home. We decided to walk a little further to an open area of the town which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. It was nice and gave a great vantage point of the sea as well as Rabat. We had thought this before, but we were able to see that Rabat had a very European look to it. It seemed as if we had left Morocco and gone to a European city.
Sam napped up here for a few minutes, while I just sat and stared out at the ocean. It was very relaxing and nice to take a few minutes to chill out. A funny thing happened while we were there. Several people took pictures in this area, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. Most of them were normal pictures, but while Sam napped this one guy asked me to take some pictures of him. Not a big deal so I said I would do it. This guy ended up thinking we were doing a model photo shoot or something, because I ended up taking like 10 pictures. Some of them were with his shirt unbuttoned, some of them sitting with like his leg up. It was completely nuts and I was laughing the entire time. This guy had a straight face the entire time, I am not sure what he was thinking.
Sam awoke from her slumber then went back to our couchsurfing hosts house to see if they were there. The woman was there, who let us in to put our stuff down. The place was completely unique as it did not have a roof over the middle part of their apartment in the common area. It was oddly shaped, there was a cat there, and it certainly was not the cleanest place I have ever walked into. Once we were there, we dropped our stuff down, then went out to explore Rabat with the limited time we had there.
We walked past a few beggars then caught a cab to head to Chellah. This was about a 10 minute cab ride, but allowed us to check out even more of the coast of Rabat. We arrived at our destination and walked through the ruins. Like a lot of ruins, these featured different empires overtaking the area, tearing down/adding ruins, and making it their own. There were very cool to see and we also got to see all the birds that guarded the area. I don’t remember exactly what kind of birds they were, but they were everywhere. They were storks
. They also perched high up on the towers, ready to swoop down at their prey.
After leaving the ruins, we started walking towards the city center, passing the main government building on the way. This was very impressive, but unfortunately it was too late in the day for us to check it out. We walked past there and back to the train station, as we had forgotten to get our train tickets for the next morning earlier in the day. We got two tickets for bright and early the next morning then consulted Lonely Planet for some food recommendations. One of the main food recommendations was an Italian restaurant, which sounded fantastic at the time. Our stomachs were a little tired of Moroccan food, so Italian food sounded perfect. Unfortunately, when we went to the restaurant they were closed until 7:30. We did not want to be out too long, as we told our hosts we would be back around 8-8:30 to
hang out with them.
We stopped at a bar right in the city center area to grab a beer, which was nothing to write home about. The service was pretty terrible, even for ordering, and paying for a beer. It has a very French snobby atmosphere about it. The bar was outside though which was nice, and right off of what seemed like the main area of town, a long palm lined road called Avenue Mohammad V, where people were strolling around at night, so it was a nice rest to people watch.
From there we started to walk back towards our place, when we grabbed a couple of bottles of wine to share with our hosts. With couchsurfing we feel it is important to give something to your hosts, as you are staying there for free. Some people may cook food, bring wine, a gift from their native country, etc. Alcohol always seems to do the trick, so that is our standard move. On our stroll back we stopped for some pizza, which ended up being pizza with a Moroccan twist. The pepperoni wasn’t a normal pepperoni pizza, it tasted much different. It was okay, but I certainly wouldn’t eat it again. After our meal, we jumped in a cab, and headed back to our place.
Once we were there we opened up a bottle of wine, as our female host was the only one there. Shortly through our first glass, our male host showed up as well. They were an Italian couple, who had moved to Rabat several months back. They both worked for a Peace Corps type of organization, and their jobs had taken them to Rabat at this time. Rabat is much more tame than some of their other locations which included the Congo and Tunisia, both of which they experienced during those countries’ revolutions. They gave us some insight into Italy, along with other locations, some more wine, and Italian food. We didn’t hang out with them too long, as we had to wake up early the next morning for our train. We brushed our teeth and then went to sleep. Overall Rabat Experience
(scale 1 to 10): 8
It was nice to finally be in a city where we were ignored as opposed to being harassed as walking dollar signs. The city has a cool European feel to it and we would have liked to stay longer.
Check out our full Rabat picture album