When most of the people had already gone through, I came to the gate, where ticket checker punched a hole in the ticket and I came to the platform by an escalator. First class wagon was the first one behind the engine. In order to get inside the train, I had to climb three steps with a heavy bag. I put my one foot on the step, swung the bag on one side and after putting it on the floor I pushed it forward. Then I climbed up like a newly crowned king to his throne. When I entered the compartment, I searched for the space to store my bag. There wasn't enough space but I saw a suit in a package so I moved the suit on one side so I could make the space. Then an old man stood up, looked at me and put his suite at the same place where it was earlier. I could say with a guarantee that he didnít like one bit that I had moved his suit but I needed space for my bag too. I stood there and looked around for my options but there werenít many. Old man turned to me and said, ďYou can hold your bag between your legs, it is to hold itĒ. He pointed to the floor. I looked on the opposite side but it was full too. I didnít want to get in argument with this man. So I decided to keep the bag between the feet and Aneta accepted this duty gleefully.
When I sat down in my seat, the old guy asked me in Arabic?
Where are you going?
I understood destination and where in Arabic.
So I replied Ana La Atkalam Al-Arabia. (I don't speak Arabic).
No problem, I speak English.
Where are you from?
I am from Ireland.
Are you Irish by birth?
No, I am not. I was born in Pakistan then I moved to Ireland.
Very good. So you are a Muslim then?
Yes, I am.
He seemed to be interested in conversation but I didn't forget his suit upstairs and my big bag between the legs. He continued the conversation.
I was in England in 70s; the English are very kind hearted and posh people.
Sorry, I never lived in England. I could not tell you much about the English.
Oh, are Irish not same as the English?
Yes and no.
What do you mean by yes and no?
Yes, they are similar to the English because they speak same language, they have same weather and same designs of the buildings. They are very different from the English because they won freedom from them in 1922. They have their own language, Gaelic and younger generation speaks more of it. They are a proud nation and they love their Guinness more than English folks across the Irish Sea.
Ahan, he jumped with joy, I wondered what happened to him?
So Irish love drinking?
Yes, they do.
What do they talk about when they are drinking?
They talk about everything while in pub. Same like other people, discussing from social chit chat to sports, politics and weather (the most important of all).
I see, are Irish funny people?
Yes, they have good sense of humour but it depends who they are talking to?
I am sorry, I didnít tell you my name, I am Rasheed.
You can call me Abbas.
Then he became little sad. You know, England isnít the same country anymore?
You havenít visited England since 70s, how could you say that?
I read in the newspaper and watch on TV. They are not classy anymore and they are losing their style. Is Ireland losing its style as well?
Sorry Rasheed, you need to tell me, how do you define style?
Style means, open to everyone, joyous people, educated and well-mannered people, but the English are becoming racist now, are they? Are Irish racist as well?
That was a big shell shot from a massive cannon. I wasn't expecting that kind of question. I told him that if Irish were that much racist why they would grant me citizenship. At the same time I must tell you that good and bad people were everywhere in the World.
He nodded in a way that he understood me. So Irish are different then?
I said with laughter, yes they are. Then he became happy again, like a child who just found his candy which he had lost under the couch.
Before Rasheed would go on to discuss Globalisation, Immigration, drugs and Global warming.
I decided to change the topic.
You know, Rasheed. You didnít ask me why I came to Morocco?
Oh yes, I forgot. Why did you?
I am interested in Moroccan culture and history.
Well, history is sitting in front of you.
You mean, yourself, I asked?
Yes, myself, I am from Andulucian descent. My great grandparents were forced out from Spain after the Christian conquest. But, hey, that was long time ago, it doesn't matter now.
So people are good about thrown out of their land, I was rather surprised with his explanation.
You know, Abbas, people are more worried about their on-going issues in their life and their country than what happened few centuries ago.
May be Rasheed was right, I may never know.
He told me that I must visit Torre Hassan, a brother of Giralda Tower in Seville. Then the guy sitting on the opposite side joined the conversation in broken English. From time to time Rasheed would translate for him. He was a professor in the University of Malaga. I thought initially that he was a Spaniard but he was a Moroccan.
Then we talked about drugs related issues in Morocco. Rasheed told me that drugs used to be a big problem but it was becoming less and less now. I asked him that why Moroccan were not allowed to enter through main entrance of the train station in Tangier? Rasheed told me that they needed to buy ticket and it was very busy day at the station thatís why guards were telling people to use side entrance. So it was more of a crowd control measurement.
I asked Rasheed that how come he spoke very good English? He told me that he used to work in control tower of an airport. He was retired now and living in Tangier but from time to time he would visit Rabat. Then we discussed education system in Morocco. He told me that most Moroccans didnít go to the college. School was compulsory after that many would go to handicraft school to learn different skills and some would try luck to go to Europe.
Now train was passing beside the ocean, which was on my left hand side and it was little bit green shrubs and small trees, but on right hand side, it was totally opposite in contrast. It was brown grass with little or no greenery.
Train arrived at the Rabat station at 6:40pm. It was late by one hour and 25 minutes. Rasheed told me that trains were always on time because it was Eid and they had added more wagons to the train to accommodate the busy period. He also mentioned that I should buy ticket in advance for my next destination to avoid disappointment.
After coming to the arrival hall, he bought his return ticket and I bought for my next destination, Meknes. He asked me where was I staying? I told him that it was a Riad in the medina. He said that I should cancel my booking and should stay with him in a hotel which was only few meters away from there and he could get me a cheaper rate. I told him that regardless of the rate, I was going to be charged for no-show because it was too late to cancel the booking. We came out at the front of the train station. Rasheed approached one of the taxi drivers and asked him about the riad. The driver didnít understand the address. Then he went to another driver, he had same problem. Rasheed suggested me that I should come to his hotel and he would sort it out for me. I became little suspicious, either he was too nice or he was up to something no good. I thanked him for his company and decided to sort it out by myself.
The address in Rabat Medina
Then I approached a police woman about the address. She told me that it wasn't far away from here thatís' why driver didn't want to go there and I should be there in ten minutes. She told me that I needed to go straight up the road then I could ask anyone for this particular street. It sounded easy enough but it was going to be a challenge.
As I was walking to the medina, I asked a guy who was sitting on car bonnet and listening to music. He took his ear plugs out and looked at the booking paper which I gave to him. He told me that he knew the place and he could bring me there. I asked him how much do I have to pay him? He gave me standard answer, ďWhatever makes me happyĒ. After encountering a guide in Tangier with the same statement, I wasn't going to make same mistake again. He told me that I needed to go straight and then turn right. I crossed the tram track asked a police man at the front of a main door. He wasnít sure about the location he asked two more people but they were not sure either. He told me that at the end of the bazaar I needed to take left. The bazaar was packed with people and vendors. It was impossible to walk, let alone carrying a big suitcase. It was becoming a fight to move even an inch forward. Sometimes I had to stop and wait till I would get a suitable gap to move forward. People were coming from left and right and they were pushing each other from all sides. It was chaotic. I came to a little square. I had enough of the crowd; I wanted someone to ring the hotel so I could be guided in right direction. While I was looking around, trying to find someone who could speak English. A guy came over to me and asked me in English if I was OK? I explained him that I wanted to go to that particular address. He told me to follow him and he would leave me close to that place. He had two ladies and a child in tow. So there we were, behind him like a small caravan among the desert of people. After taking few turns, he stopped and told me to keep going straight and then I needed to turn left. While I was pushing forwards in that crowded bazaar. I felt that some was trying to open my smaller bag which was on my shoulder. I looked back there were two youth behind me. I thought, it was my imagination but again I felt someone was trying to hold the bag because it felt bag little lighter. I had my camera and lens kit inside. That was the last thing I wanted to be stolen. So I moved on one side of the bazaar and let the guys pass. They gave me a strange look and walked on.
I stood in front of a perfume shop. I asked the owner that if he could call the Riad for me and I was willing to pay him for the call. The guy told me to come inside the shop. He took the number from me and called the property and confirmed the address. He told me to follow him because he was going to bring me there.
After taking few turns, he brought me to a door and told me that was the riad I was looking for. I thanked him and asked him about the payment. He told me that he didn't need any money. He told me that his name was Ibrar and if I had time I could visit his shop in the bazaar.
I pressed the doorbell. A European girl came out to greet us with very heavy French accent. She told us that Dar was being painted, we could stay in the room but there was a strong smell of the paint. She offered me an alternative room at their sister property which was close by. She told us to wait a minute. She locked the door and told us to follow her. She was French and she came to assist with the renovation of the Dar Aida. She also mentioned that new Riad would be closer to the main street. She was very apologetic for the hassle we had been through. She wanted to show us the room in Dar Alia. It was the biggest room, she told me and I decided to take it.
After check in I took a quick shower and came down at the reception desk. The girl I was talking earlier was there, she gave me password for the main door and map of the area and she warned us not to pay too much money to the taxi drivers because they would tell us that meter was broken and they would charge us crazy amount of money.
An Evening in Rabat
After coming out of the main door, I turned right on Rue des Consuls. In front of me was Kasbah. I started to realise that we had crossed the whole medina from one end to another. It would have been much easier if we could have come from this side. Locals couldn't figure out the address, let alone a tourist.
I was waiting for a taxi on Avenue Al-Masra. A petit taxi pulled in front of me. I asked about the price, the guy said something in Arabic. While I was trying to communicate with him, a guy approached the taxi driver and said something in Arabic. It seemed it wasn't a happy exchange because driver's face dropped and then the guy came over to me and told me that I should pay him only 15DH. It seemed he was an undercover police man. When I was inside the taxi the driver asked me in English.
You speak Arabic (do you speak Arabic)?
I am from Ireland but I was born in Pakistan. After hearing Pakistan, he became little excited.
Then we continued talking in Arabic and English (he had problem with English and my problem was the Arabic), whenever I needed Arabic word I would use app. on my phone to translate. He told me that he had lived in Saudi Arabia and he had worked with many people from Pakistan. The last job he had in Saudi Arabia was as a foreman in a factory. He told me that he had one daughter and he was contented in his life but according to him, the Moroccan people were becoming desperate for money and they didnít believe in themselves but they were becoming more crook and losing their values.
He dropped me at Bab Ruah; I must say that he was such a nice driver. I gave him 20DH and he reached to his pocket to get the change. I told him not to worry about it. He thanked me and sped off in darkness of the night.
This great attraction is also known as the "Gate of the Winds" as it is constantly being battered by coastal winds. When I reached closer to the door, a cold breeze was blowing through the door.
The gate, one of five that are located in Rabat that once served as entrances to the city, is the most majestic and well preserved of all the gates. It was constructed in the year 1197 by Yaacoub Al Mansour Al Mouahidi and is a major historical attraction in Rabat.
Bab Rouah in Rabat is an extremely intimidating structure as it looms over the visitors who approach its entrance. For a structure of such immense size it has been decorated in a remarkable amount of detail with wonderfully intricate designs. Even the doors to Bab Rouah have been delicately decorated with floral arabesques, elaborate embellishments and large detailed shells.
Then I walked from there to the Bab Soufara near Royal Palace. Police told me not to take the photos then I asked if I could take the photo of the door? He told me that that it was fine. While I was standing beside the door, a car came from one side and hit the taxi. The police man on security duty came over and started to chat with them, I left them there to sort themselves out.
Now I started to think that I needed to stay another night in Rabat. Because I had lost nearly two hours to the train being late and on top of that I had lost over one hour while I was trying to find dar. So I decided to go back to the dar so I could take the ticket and change the date.
I took taxi in front of a giant building, which was going to be a museum. The driver spoke no English. I couldnít explain him the address of the riad. I showed him the map which I had. He looked at the map and nodded his head and taxi moved on a relatively quiet road. After driving for five minutes, we were stopped by a police man. I thought he was going to check something, but, everything was in order. The policeman needed a lift, so he jumped inside. We passes Bab Al-Had Square and majestic Bab Al-Had was there.
Then police man got off. He looked at me, he knew that I wasn't happy but he said sukran (thank you) to me and the driver. After coming to the dar, there was no sign of the French girl. While I was there, I met a guy who was who told me that she had gone out and she would be back in ten minutes or so. I decided to wait for her, I waited for 20 minutes. I came to the reception but she wasn't there. I didnít want to go to train station and find it to be closed and on top of that I was feeling very hungry. The last meal I had was burger at the McDonald in Tangier.
Finding a Restaurant
I came out on Consuls Street once more. There was a tourist police office. I asked them about the direction to the nearest restaurant. He answered my question with a question.
Where are you from?
No, it's Ireland.
Russia? I wondered where the Russia had come from?
No, it's Ireland; it is a country beside England.
Oh Holland. I started to wonder why he needed my nationality to give me direction to a restaurant.
No, it is Ire Land.
You Rusi (Russian)?
I said yes, because all I wanted was direction to a restaurant.
One of the guys came out with a big warlike talkie in his hand. He stood in the middle of the street and told me that I needed to go straight up and then turn right to the Restaurant. He pointed to the sign of Zaryab Restaurant. I followed the sign and turned right. There were few guys playing soccer in the middle of the street. When I passed beside them, they didnít stop. Their intensity was the same. I reached at the front door of the restaurant. I could smell the aroma in the air but the main door was closed. I looked around, there was a guy coming from opposite side. He told me with the hand signal and that restaurant was closed already.
I walked back to the main road and waited for the taxi. After waiting for nearly ten minutes, we decided to walk but occasionally looking back, in case there was a taxi coming but it never happened.
Although, two taxies passed but they were occupied. I came across a sea food restaurant. I had always enjoyed the sea food but there was a problem. The breeze was blowing from the opposite direction and it was bringing very strong stench. It was like I was standing beside a pile of dead fish. I kept walking straight; I would occasionally look back if there was a taxi coming. It looked like my luck was against me today. After reaching on top of the medina wall. We turned right and came across a small bazaar and there was a restaurant.
I ordered food, which arrived very quickly. Then all of sudden I heard shouting on my right hand side. There was a woman, who was hysterical. She was slapping a guy on the face. There was another guy who was trying to protect him. The second guy tried to drag him away but she grabbed the first one by his shirt and kept hitting him. She was shouting and more people gathered. One of passers tried to hold her but she was like a wounded lioness. The both guys ran away and she broke down in tears. It seemed that the guy who was beaten up had touched the girl and she attacked him.
While I was eating my dinner. I saw two girls coming from opposite side. One of them had small bag in her and, she stopped and picked up a plastic bag. There was a bun inside. She took the bun out and put in her bag. She walked on as it was normal for her to do that. When I came back to the dar, it was already 10pm. It had been a long day by any standard.
Next Morning, I woke up at 6am, as it was always my habit to write diary in the Morning. So this Morning was no different. I came down for breakfast at 7:45am. The breakfast was delicious but I really enjoyed home made fresh juice of strawberries.
After the breakfast, I came on the main road and waited for a taxi. I kept waiting and waiting, few taxies passed there but passengers were inside. I decided to walk, because Torre Hassan wasn't that far anyway. I passed beside the Medina wall, which I had seen last night. While I was waiting at the traffic light (beside tram lines), I was approached by a woman who wanted money. She was quiet persuasive. Then light turned to green and I crossed the road and never looked back. Before, I could reach Tower of Hassan, I saw a small gate on one side of the monument but sadly it was closed. I walked uphill and there was main entrance on the right hand side. I entered the complex and Tower of Hassan was on my right hand side. Two guys were sitting on horseback in front of the building. There were lots of cleaners around to clean the Mausoleum of Muhammad V. I tried to enter the Mausoleum from left hand side, but I was told that entry was only allowed from the main road, through the main door. So I went out on the main road, there were guards in front of each door. I asked the guard if it was OK to take the photos of the interior. He told me, yes.
Mohamed V Mausoleum
The Mohamed V Mausoleum is not only a perfectly preserved example of the Alaouite dynastyís architectural style, but it is the final resting place of three significant members of the royal family. The Mausoleum of Mohamed V is located in the Yacoub Al Mansour Square and stands across from the Hassan Tower. It is easily recognizable by its white walls and green-tiled roof. Here visitors and locals are able to pay their respect to these leaders and marvel at the detailed and beautifully designed mausoleum.
King Hassan II commissioned the construction of the Mausoleum of Mohamed V for his late father, Mohamed V, in the year 1962. Construction of the Mohamed V Mausoleum was completed in 1971. Sultan Mohamed V ruled over Morocco for two terms. The first was from the year 1927 to 1953 and again from 1957 to the year 1961. He is remembered and noted for his efforts in the fight for Morocco's independence. Both his sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdullah, were buried alongside him. It took the hard work of approximately four hundred men to build and complete the mausoleum that now stands as an architectural and historical masterpiece.
The interior has been finished in white marble and granite floors and walls and a beautiful granite block with a headstone indicates the final resting place of the great king. The sliding doors and ceiling have also been carved in breath taking motifs and designs. Spectacular chandeliers light up the room that is complete with red carpets on the stairs and flags. Throughout the entire mausoleum guests will see traditional artistic techniques combined with a touch of modern design. This spectacular site and popular attraction in Rabat is an architectural marvel and a monument to a great ruler.
Then there was change of guard on all doors. The new guards walked up swiftly and they took up their positions. The guard who I had spoken with earlier, when passing beside me, said something like take care in Arabic (I can only guess). I exited the tomb, where I tried to enter it earlier. The cleaning staff was still busy in their routine of sweeping and washing the floor with a water hose. Two of them were polishing brass/copper work. I was back into the courtyard of the old mosque.
The Main Courtyard
On my left hand side, there were three doors which were richly decorated. When I moved further, there were two sections of old wall. It looked like that they were part of an old boundary wall of the complex. There were lots of holes in the walls and pigeons were residing inside them. Someone had put buns inside for the birds. I would say that was their breakfast. In front of the walls were two more horse mounted guards, who were holding the Moroccan flags in their hands. I moved to the right and came close to the tower.
The access to the tower was closed, either for renovation or the security. There was a small wall separating the courtyard of the mosque. This wall had large photos of the tower and the mausoleum from different angles. The pillars of the mosque were of different height. Needless to say that they were incomplete. I saw three youths there. One of them was trying to climb a tall pillar, while others two were shouting encouragement. He managed to climb on top of the pillar and sat there triumphantly.
The Hassan Tower
The intimidating Hassan Tower is an incomplete minaret of the Hassan mosque that was intended to be the second largest mosque in the Islamic world in the 12th century after the mosque of Samara in Iraq. The construction of this architectural treasure began in 1195, during the reign of the Almohad ruler, Yacoub El Mansour, who reigned with distinction, from 1184 to 1199, and commissioned the building of several other great mosques, notably the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech ( Morocco ), and the Giralda tower (Seville - Spain).
Today, the incomplete Hassan Tower, the vast marble floor, the left columns and the surviving walls indicate the huge dimensions of an unfinished mosque, which was intended to span over an area of 183 on 128 meters. History experts say the building of this colossal mosque, which was not compatible with the size of Rabat, then a small town, shows the Almohad leaderís ambition to make the city his new Capital, given its strategic location between the empireís then capital city, Marrakech, and the Iberian peninsula, where large parts where under Almohad rule. Soaring 44 meters into the sky, the Hassan Tower is an ultimate example of the breath taking Moroccan Almohad architecture. This rectangular edifice, which was intended to be 88-meters high, reflects the reverence, which Moroccans had for mosques since the advent of Islam. It is not a coincidence that this reverence was manifested at the end of the 20th century, when the Hassan II mosque, one of the worldís largest mosques, with the highest Minaret (210 meters), was inaugurated in 1993 in Casablanca.
Towering gracefully above the Bouregreg River, the sandstone Hassan Tower measures 16 meters from each side and is ornamented from the exterior with magnificent Islamic calligraphy. The same beautiful patterns are noticed in the Giralda Tower in Seville. From the inside, the tower is ascended by ramps instead of stairs, which mirrors the architectural genius of the minaret. They allowed using animals to carry heavy stones and building materials needed for the construction of the higher part of the tower. The same ramps would have enabled the Muezzin to ride a horse to the top in order to call to prayer.
This beautiful tower also manifests the great architectural and mathematical knowledge of the time, and the advanced building know-how of that era, when cities in Morocco and Muslim Spain where a showcase for civilized taste, culture and learning. After Mansourís death in 1199, construction of the Hassan mosque, which was almost materialized, came to a halt. In 1755, the hall of the mosque was destroyed by a violent earthquake whose epicentre was in the Portuguese city of Lisbon, which was raised to the ground. Only the unfinished Tower and some ruins survived this natural catastrophe, thanks to the solidity of its sandstones and the strong basis on which it stands. The Hassan Tower is now one of the most prestigious historical monuments in Morocco. The eight-century old tower, adorned by charming gardens around it, was listed in 1995 as a world heritage by the UNESCO.
I came out of the complex onto the main road. On opposite side were Moroccan flags in straight line the smaller flags were on left and right, in the middle was the largest of them all. Then I started walking back to the Kasbah. When I reached the tram crossing, I could see river, ocean and Kasbah walls on one side with guns mounted on its tower. It was breath taking view. Probably the best of the lot I had so far. It took me 20 minutes to reach the Kasbah.
When I was entering the Kasbah, I was approached by a guy.
Hello, I replied.
How are you?
I am fine. Thank you and how are you?
I am fine, Al Hamdu-Lila. Do you need a guide?
May be, how long it takes to do the tour of Kasbah?
About thirty minutes to one hour.
OK, and how much will you charge me for this?
Hmm, itís little bit too much, if you accept 100DH, I will take you with me.
No, 100DH is too little for me.
OK, your choice sir.
Then I entered the Kasbah through one of the entrances, it brought me to the residential part of it. The Kasbah des Oudaias was a picturesque place with houses and streets that are of a different standard to the rest of the city. All the houses are white and look like they have just been painted with bright blue parapets. The only thing I was missing was cats. Well, there they were, I remembered one of them was a kitten. She sat there and kept looking at me. May be she was saying, ďPlease take me with youĒ. She was very pretty and I took her photo.
Kasbah was a labyrinth of small streets; some of them had dead endings. This part of city was quiet and there were relatively few people walking around the maze of streets. It was getting very hot.
Located in the vicinity of Kasbah des Oudaia is the oldest mosque in the capital, namely the Kasbah Mosque. The mosque was built in the mid-eleventh century and the beautiful gateway (Bab Oudaia) which leads to the Kasbah was built in the twelfth century. The mosque was enlarged and renovated later in the eighteenth century.
I came to a small square. Bought some postcards and asked the owner about the main tower of the Kasbah. She pointed to the main door and told me to turn left. Through the main door and I turned left and it brought me where I had entered earlier. The guide was still there, probably still looking for some tourists.