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March 11, 2017

Today we took a day trip from Casablanca to Rabat, the capital city.  While driving the 87 km, we learned a little about Morocco.  Its population is 35 million of which 40% are Berber.  The Arab Moroccan dialect includes French and Spanish thus Arabs from the Middle East can’t understand Moroccans unless classic Arabic is used.  Morocco is more progressive than other Muslim nations.  Women can drive cars, over 70% of those studying to be a doctor are women, and Morocco even employs a woman judge.

Four different cities have once served as the capital of Morcocco…Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, and Rabat.  The current capital, Rabat, is home to 1.6 million people.  Being the political capital, Rabat didn’t seem like it would be that interesting to me, yet I was pleasantly surprised by the 12 Century city.

Our first stop of the day was at Dar al-Makhzen, the royal palace and home to the king of Morocco.  We saw it from a roped off distance, and this time we were allowed to snap photos of the Royal Guards in winter red.  Our visit was quick and we moved on to the Hassan Tower.

Hassan Tower is an unfinished minaret of a mosque whose construction was abandoned with the death of Yaqoub al Mansour in 1199. Mansour, the fourth monarch of the Almohad dynasty, planned on building the largest mosque in the world.  Instead, the minaret which only reached 44 m, half of the intended height, and partly built columns and walls are all that remains of the mosque that also suffered from strong tremors of the 1555 Lisbon earthquake.

I really enjoyed exploring the complex which also included the Mausoleum of Mohammed V located on the edge of the rectangular square opposite the Hassan Tower.  The mausoleum, completed in 1971, contains the tomb of Mohammed V in the middle and the tombs of Hassan II on the left and Prince Abdallah on the right.

After taking in the view from complex, I joined our group as we headed to the medina.  This market was bustling!  I don’t know how, we as a group, managed to stay together.  Every vendor imaginable filled the area.  Locals shopped for food and clothing items while tourists looked at the handicrafts.  We browsed over the merchandise as we passed by each stall before we eventually stopped for lunch at Dar Arbatya for traditional Moroccan cuisine.

From lunch we visited Kasbah des Oudayas for a fantastic view of the Bou Regreg river and the Atlantic.  The kasbah, or fortress, was originally constructed in the 12 Century for defensive purposes.  Inside the kasbah, narrow corridors weaved past blue and white buildings.  The area populated with homes and businesses was quite sedate as compared to other places we visited.

We strolled past decorative doors, murals, lush potted plants, and cats (the animal of choice in Muslim countries), to a place where we could order tea while overlooking the Atlantic.  Next door was a garden.  I wandered through the garden while others rested at the tea house or shopped.

In the late afternoon, we headed back toward Casablanca. We passed aged towns with crowded markets along the way.  Our tour had dinner plans at Basman where we could taste more Moroccan cuisine and watch a belly dance.  Given we had eaten a tajine for lunch and dinner for most of the last two weeks, we bowed out of the late-night dinner.  Instead, I enjoyed a quiet sushi dinner at the hotel with our Icelandic friends while some others attended a music show at the Institut Français de Casablanca which was a few blocks from our hotel.  It was a nice day!  ETB

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