Rabat, Capital of Morocco – Kasbahs and Bullet Trains

27 03 2020
Rabat, Rabat Morocco

Rod and Penny at the Rabat Kasbah

We awoke early at the Hotel Al Walid in Casablanca. The plan was to go by rail to Rabat, walk around the city, and then continue by rail to Meknes. After breakfast and then fiddling with various ATMs to withdraw Moroccan Dirhams, we walked across the square, managing our luggage as best we could, and caught a train at the Casa Voyageurs Station, originally built in 1923.

The station underwent a recent $47 million renovation for Morocco’s high speed train (more on that below). It is totally up to date. Boarding the train, however, was another matter altogether. Once it arrived, there was a crush of passengers with luggage hastily getting on. The train was European style with cabins and an aisle on one side. Our guide, Mohamed, went into action shepherding us to the right spots and getting luggage on board.

The ride was about two hours to Rabat. The station is situated at an ideal location for checking out the city on foot. It was late morning, and the marine cloud layer had yet to burn away. Mohamed led us to a restaurant across from the station where we would store our bags and have lunch after our walk. We were given maps and an idea of a route. It’d take us past government offices, through a medina and on to a Kasbah with views of the Atlantic.

 

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I found the city center to be attractive and clean, with a French architectural flair. There is no shortage of BMW and Mercedes vehicles. The architecture, red flags with stars and palm lined streets had me remembering such sights in Saigon and Hanoi, both of which were French colonial cities, which now have those red flags (But the Moroccan star is green, and the Vietnamese star is yellow)!

We passed through the Medina and reached the seaside Kasbah des Oudaias. It was built in the 12th Century by the Almohad Dynasty. Along the way, we were approached by a couple of unsolicited “tour guides” offering unsolicited information and then asking for a few dirhams. Once through the Kasbah gate, Betty and I allowed one of these Faux Guides to lead us through a residential part of the kasbah (if you are wondering, I paid him 20 Dirham, and he turned around and told the next people we paid him 100). Like in the medinas, it consisted of narrow lanes with centuries-old doors behind which were apartments. Some of the doors had ornamental handles with spiritual significance, and many had the year built above, some of which said 1330. Imagine that, living in an apartment built in 1330?! There was also a lot of blue, which he said it was thought kept mosquitoes away. It ended at a 1/4 acre sized rooftop “patio” overlooking the Atlantic, the river nearby and centuries-old battlements. The weather was clearing and turning nice!

Once outside, we checked out the garden of the Kasbah. It was very attractive, well cared for, and even had a small cafe with a view of the coast.

We headed back to the cafe where our luggage was stored, sat down, and had a hearty lunch.

Then, it was back on the train to Meknes. Ours was a regular speed Moroccan train. It took us about 3 hours to get to Meknes.

The train has European style arrangements. An aisle down one side, with compartments on the other.

 

The compartments in our First Class rail car had comfortable seats with head rests. Luggage was stored above the seats.

 

Well, I needed to pay a visit to the WC! And well, open the toilet and let it fly!

At the Rabat train station, I couldn’t help but gawk at the 21st Century Moroccan TGV as it pulled up.

The Al Boraq

It is called the Al-Boraq, and can travel 200 mph. It operates on a 201 – mile line between Tangier and Casablanca. To be extended to Marrakesh and points south. It opened in November 2018. Tickets can be had for less than $50. It could cover the distance between New York and Washington, DC in about 90 minutes. Kind of amazing! Well, another time I guess.

The train ride to Meknes moves inland, passing olive, orange and date groves, orchards, vineyards, grazing sheep and cows, and fields of barley. Meknes is the religious capital of Morocco, and we’ll see some of it the following day.

 

 

 


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One response

27 03 2020
Penny Roberts

Yay for the feature!

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