Our ship docked in Casablanca. Will had done his homework and learned that Casablanca’s claim to fame was the movie and there were better things to see in other places. So, rather than staying there, Will arranged a tour for us and 3 other couples to Rabat, the capital city, an hour’s drive north. Our guide picked us up in a new large Mercedes van with plenty of room to spread out for the ride.
Our first site in Rabat was the Chellah. This was worth the whole trip! The Chellah is a Roman ruin and Islamic burial place. It was the Roman city of Sala Colonia, a trading post from AD 40. It was finally abandoned in 1154 for a new settlement across the river. Used as a royal burial ground by the Almohads, the site was extended into a holy necropolis, or chellah, by the Merenids, in the 14th century. The ruins are overgrown with fruit trees and other plants and you can wander all over, even walking on ancient tiles. There is a colony of storks here, their nest in high trees and on top of the minaret. They swoop around and make a clacking sound to converse with each other. This place was so beautiful, our guide, Abdul, had trouble getting us to move on!
And there were very cute cats!
We then went to a small archaeological museum. We had the place to ourselves and a museum guide led us around explaining things in French. (Morocco was once a French colonial outpost too.) You could even touch the antiquities!
Lunchtime! Moroccan chicken and vegetables with couscous and Chicken Tagine.
Next was Le Tour Hassan & Mausoleum of Mohammed V (and it began to rain). Intended to be one of the tallest towers the world at 200 feet, the minaret (the Tower) of the Hassan Mosque now stands at 145 feet. Construction began in 1195 but was abandoned when the sultan died in 1199. The mosque was ruined in an earthquake in 1755. It was designed to hold 20,000 worshippers. Overlooking these remains is the modern Mausoleum, built in 1961, elaborately crafted inside with carved cedar and white onyx, gold leaf and marble.
The rain let up for our walk through the Kasbah des Oudaias. Built by the Almohads in the 12 century on the site of a 10th century fortress, this is a quaint village-like quarter just 500 feet from end to end. It is crammed with whitewashed houses with brightly painted doors and more cats! At the top of the Kasbah is an open area called Le Plateforme du Semaphore with sweeping views of the city’s beaches and coast line.
We drove back to Casablanca, through farm land dotted with little villages. Buildings have an un-kept look here. It may be, as we saw in Egypt and even Portugal, that homes inside are cared for but landlords have no reason to care for the outsides. Our route took us past quite a few shanty towns, huge jumbles of shacks scattered with satellite dishes! We drove past the Medina of Casablanca and the Place Mohammed V, busy gathering places.
Our last stop was the gigantic Hassan II Mosque, located right on the coast. Notice how little the people look! Completed in 1993, it has the tallest minaret in the world. It took 30,000 Morocco craftspeople six years to build and over 100,000 worshippers can fit inside it! We got to peek inside and as the sun set the outside lights came on. It was so windy we could hardly hold our cameras still for pictures!
These huge doors do not swing open but are raised up by motors rather like garage doors!.
A most amazing day…….
Gracia, the pictures are absolutely amazing as well as your narrative. I am enjoying your trip. Have a great Thanksgiving week leading up to your birthday on Sunday. I will be thinking of you especially on your birthday. See you hopefully over the holidays. Love, Barb
Gracia, this is spectacular! thank you so much for sharing your adventures!
Amazing photos Gracia and I love your writing. Looks like an incredible trip. We miss you – but enjoy!
I’m so enjoying your trip Gracia. Pics/comments great. My English cousins rent timeshares for holidays in Tenerife. Imagined it an unsafe and crazy place after that hijacking in 1970s(?) but can now see how enticing it is.