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Rabat is well worth a visit
10 October 2006 17:48
A nice article for Rbaties used to hear often that ther city is not tourist-friendly :-)


Morocco's underrated capital Rabat is well worth a visit.

Wherever you go in Rabat the scent of mandarin blossom seems to hang in the air, especially in the Andalusian Gardens near the kasbah.

In this enchanting area, laid out by the French in colonial times, the trees are heavy with orange fruits. Only a few steps away is the Medina.

The old quarter of Rabat may be a little less picturesque than its equivalent in Fez or Marrakech but it does have its own unique flair. It gives visitors an insight into how people live in the Moroccan capital on the Atlantic Ocean. Yet only a handful of tourists venture into these narrow streets.

When exploring this North African country, most visitors plan just a brief stopover in Rabat, unaware that this city of 1.6 million people has more to offer than the celebrated Hassan Tower.

The watchtower built by sultan Yacoub al-Mansour at the close of the 12th century is Rabat's major landmark. It was designed as North Africa's tallest spire pointing 80 metres into the sky but was never completed. The stump stands at just 44 metres, yet is still regarded as the archetypal Moroccan minaret.

Along with the remains of the mosque, it stands close to the mausoleum of Mohammed V, a rather grand and pompous historical ensemble typical of this country.

At the entrance, there are two mounted soldiers dressed in baggy breeches and capes, struggling to keep their white horses under control. The poor creatures are forced to stand still for hours on end and are only allowed to take an occasional break.

Suddenly a jangling sound can be heard. It's a water seller beckoning the thirsty. He is dressed in red-patterned cloak to which are attached a collection of metal dishes. Such colourful characters know only too well that that tourists like to photograph them.

'Dirham! Dirham!,' one of the hawkers shouts ­ in other words, if anyone wants to take his picture, he or she must pay to do so.

Rabat is one of the four imperial cities along with Marrakech, Fez and Meknes. They have been home to the sultans and kings of Morocco down the centuries, with the result that these settlements have developed into genuine metropolises while retaining much of their antique charm.

Quite apart from its tourist attractions though, the centre of Morocco's capital exudes a serene, almost sublime atmosphere.

This contrasts with the atmosphere in Sale, Rabat's sister city and dormitory community on the opposite shore of the river Bou Regreg. It feels different too along the wide avenues of the Ville Nouvelle or new town, in the tortuous-narrow alleyways in the Medina or among surfers riding the waves at the city's Atlantic beach.

Another attraction is the richly-decorated Oudaya Gate at the entrance to the kasbah of the same name. It dates back to the 12th century Almohad rulers. Incidentally, Rabat and Sale merged to form the republic of Bou Regreg in 1627, a community run by Barbary pirates.

An evening visit to the Dinarjat restaurant in the Medina is another must. The reputation of this venue as a major meeting point for gourmets has even extended as far as Casablanca, 80 kilometres southwards. Guests are picked up by a staff member at the entrance to the kasbah before being guided by lantern-light through the labyrinth of narrow streets to the entrance of the eatery.

Behind the door of the city's old palace lies a whole Moroccan world to be discovered, with traditional live music and elegantly dressed waiters under tall archways and intricately-carved ceilings. Last but not least, there is tajine - the name of both a tasty stew and the covered clay pot used to bake it.

This earthenware with characteristic conical lid is also used to prepare Moroccan couscous with a fiery local sauce or a host of other dishes and casseroles using fish, chicken, lamb or other meats and a wide variety of vegetables. There are plenty of other delectable Moroccan dishes on the menu of this establishment too.

© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/10/2006 05:49 by alximo.
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