Sunday, March 2

Morocco-Andalucia, Day Five: At Home In Rabat

I normally try to get breakfast included with my hotel room - as one who brushes their teeth after breakfast it's convenient and efficient that way. For some reason though Moroccan hotels seem to exclude breakfast (if they offer it at all). This was a good thing though since it allowed me to check out Rabat while it was waking up. It's almost surreal watching the empty streets bustle into a working day.

The day was to be spent in Rabat doing the sites. Looking at my various maps, everything seemed to be within walking distance and this turned out to be the case - whether that was due to the city or my being on my own I don't know.

First up was the Citadel of Chellah, toward the south of the city. A magnificent ruin situated just outside the city wall, Chellah had its basis in both Roman and Islamic history, and it was interesting to see the two empires side by side, albeit in ruins. On the way back to Rabat proper I stopped by the Royal Palaces. This wasn't anything too inspiring so I took a few snaps and left for my next destination.

Hassan tower defiantly stands to the east of Rabat. Incomplete but not any less intimidating because of that, the Hassan tower is a lonely structure, clearly missing the mosque it once could have belonged to. Alongside the tower, separated by the courtyard where the mosque once stood was King Mohammed V's mausoleum. Since the whole area was peaceful and quiet I dropped my anchor for a while and caught up with some reading.

For lunch, I headed toward the Old Medina. It was then that I noticed the structure of this and other Moroccan towns I had visited and read about - they almost always had an Old Medina, meticulously preserved as a tribute to the time they came from, surrounded by a "Ville Nouvelle" built up by whatever colonial power was in control at the time (probably the French). It was an obvious mark of a Moroccan city and made orientation much easier once I had realised it.

The main sight of the Old Medina was the Kasbah where I spent a big chunk of time looking over the ocean. After lunch and Zhur prayer, I headed toward the Parc du Triangle de Vue, as much of a central park as you could get in Rabat. Nice and shady it was here that I decided to while way my time waiting for my train to Fes. I didn't think that I needed any more time in Rabat, although I wanted to hang around and soak in a bit more of the atmosphere I seemed to have taken a liking to.

I wasn't alone. There was a lot of people in the park with me, just chilling out and doing nothing. In fact I had spotted this phenomenon all over Rabat - a striking difference to the people of London who always seem to be doing something or going somewhere of importance.

There was also something to be said of the couples I spotted. A lot of them appeared to be mismatched in terms of, well, hotness. This worked both ways with an equal amount of good looking guys and girls hooking up with others at least a few points below them. Either my calibration was off or people here just aren't as shallow when it comes to physical appearance. Good on them if so.

As if they had known how much I rated their rail system last night, my train to Fes was delayed by an hour. This wasn't much of a big deal really - I had set tomorrow as my main day for Fes exploration, but nevertheless I didn't want to enter the town too late, especially after all the tales I heard about being hassled for various commissions.

I arrived at the train station at around 9:30pm, and caught a cab to Bab Boujeloud getting ripped off by an unset meter on the way. This was a minor taste of things to come - by the time I had checked in I had been forcefully approached and followed many times with people offering hotels, food and tourist guides and having the gall to become offended when I ignored them. Bab Boujeloud is the tourist centre of the Old Medina so I shouldn't have been too surprised really.

Since the Old Medina was, well, old, there was little chance of getting anything comfortable. The place I eventually checked into was very basic - my room had a single window and no on-suite - no shower for me tomorrow morning then. I considered spending my second night in Fes else where, probably in the Ville Nouvelle. I planned to get as much out of Fes el Bali (the Old Medina) as possible tomorrow.

Venturing out for dinner brought more hassles - a sharp reminder of the dollar orientated Arab hospitality I had been experiencing since Jerusalem but had forgotten during my time in Marrakech, Casablanca and Rabat. As you can probably tell, I'm not too impressed by Fes so far, but perhaps the day will bring a new, more favourable, opinion?