August is not the month one would chose to visit Morocco, but when Eitan was to be an official at the World Bridge Championships, we went. And it is hot, 46°C on our first day.
The other thing to know it is a little like being in Sinai, throw away your watch because time is slower here; registering at a hotel takes ages. But everyone is so pleasant after the initial annoyance everything is just fine. On arriving late at the Movenpick hotel in Marrakesh we wanted something to eat. Our cokes were served with delicious, not salty olives. No nuts but the waitress brought us three breadsticks which was just enough to tide us over.We flew to Morocco a few days before the Championships and visited Fez and Chefchaouen. While in Marrakech Doreen took the opportunity to visit more of Morocco's attractions, including Rabat and Casablanca..
Even though I had a first class train ticket, the journey there was quite unpleasant because of a bored little girl. And when the alarm went off in our carriage; no-one came to check. I switched off my hearing aids, stuffed tissues in my ears, put my fingers in my ears but still the noise was unbearable. The other 5 people in the compartment didn’t stir from their sleep. I went to the other first class carriage where it was quiet but when I saw no-one there, I thought they might uncouple that carriage at the next stop and returned to my seat. Thankfully by this time the alarm had been switched off.
Mustapha my guide was waiting for me at the top of lots of stairs. He hailed a taxi and we drove off, passing the Parliament – not the most impressive building in the capital Rabat - and a beautiful post office. Later on we even passed a kiosk selling stamps!
off when we could
Atlantic sea; Morocco is the only country that borders both the
Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. We entered Kasbah Oudaia.
the country of beautiful gates; admiring the Almohad gate built in
1196, we entered
the Kasbah through a more modest opening in the wall.
We stopped by a bakery that
like a taboon making pita bread back home. Mustapha impressed me by
little round pita-like bread, but it had no pocket. He proceeded to
give me a
piece and to others he met on the way.
Kasbah, also built in the 12th
Century, unlike the bustling Kasbahs in other cities, had whitewashed
occasional blue trimmings and intricate doors on either side of very
streets. It was so calm and peaceful and very beautiful. No wonder it
UNESCO heritage site. Even though there were shops lining the streets
no pressure to buy.
In the Kasbah I saw a
sign on a mosque wall
forbidding non-Moslems to enter. It was surprising as Moroccans pride
themselves on their religious tolerance. It seems that it is not
the Quran (and I’ve been inside many mosques in Israel). My guide in
Rabat Mustapha told
under the French Protectorate there had been an incident where drunken
foreigners entered the mosque. After that there was a blanket
non-Moslems entering an active mosque. The only exception in Morocco is
Hasan II mosque in Casablanca, when guided tours are held between times
of prayer but never on a Friday. It is
and even encouraged to visit non-active mosques that are heritage
We reached the overlook where the Bou Regreg River originating in the Atlas Mountains reaches the Atlantic Ocean, separating Rabat from the town of Sallee on the other side of the river.
I learnt that Salle was home to Barbary pirates, who among other things captured (white) people from England, Ireland and as far away as Iceland to sell them to Arab slave traders in North Africa. Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote was a captive in Algiers between 1575 and 1580 when he was ransomed. In Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, when his ship was captured he was taken as a prisoner to Sallee, the only Briton among his Moorish master’s slaves. Many years later, after a number of wars, combined forces of America, Sweden and Sicily and later Britain and the Dutch put an end to piracy.
Salle was later the site of Operation Torch during World War II. It was an Anglo-American invasion of Vichy controlled Morocco and Algeria, the first major amphibious assault during the war.
Walking down more picturesque streets we left the Kasbah and entered the Mellah, also surrounded by a wall and containing the old Jewish Quarter. Unlike the Kasbah, it was full of atmosphere, the streets bustling with shops, vendors and thronged by shoppers. Although very busy it was also clean and shaded.
Mustapha took me to a Foundok
which had been Jewish owned.
It still retained its character with an inn upstairs and storage rooms and shops below.
It was very reminiscent of the Khan al Umdan in Akko.
The shops displayed carpets and blankets from wool and cotton; there was a myriad of cloth merchants and lots of shops offering furnishings and curtains. There were also holes in the wall where curtains were being sewn and wood turners making intricate designs for furniture for traditional Moroccan houses; and of course shops offering Argan oil. What I found particularly interesting was a shop that made oil from all kinds of nuts including coconut, walnut, almond, sesame and some other unidentifiable seeds.
But the most fascinating hole in the wall had two men sitting opposite each other. The one man sitting on the floor with his back to the street held two large spools of red thread in his hands, continuously and smoothly changing the spools from hand to hand. On the other side a man sitting on a stool holding a length of material, with a tiny needle was joining the threads to the material, making an intricate pattern.
We met an old Berber woman
her tattoos) who as a young girl worked in the house of Jewish people
in the Mellah
She only had praise for the way they treated her.
Although almost all Jews left in the 1950’s many streets still bear Jewish names. We saw the house of David Levy, former FM in Israel in 2000. He later officially donated the house. We made our way to the Rabbi Zaouri Synagogue. I was disappointed when the caretaker with the keys was not at home. Unfortunately as we turned the corner and approached the synagogue, the soldiers who were squatting in the shade of the door hastily stood up allowing us to take an unimpeded, and less interesting, picture of the door to the synagogue, connected to Margalit’s illustrious family.
We reached the Mausoleum of
which contains the impressive tombs of Mohammed V, and his two sons,
king Hassan II and Prince Abdullah. The kings of Morocco
Allawite dynasty. (The Allawites are the major religious group in Syria)
Exiting the mausoleum we walked
huge space, meant to be the largest mosque
in the world built in the 12th Century. When Caliph al-Mansur died building was stopped.
Hundreds of columns with the unfinished Hassan tower or minaret still remain standing
Lunch time: Mustapha wisely
hailed us a
taxi and we went down to the Bou Regreg River to the Marina Palms
restaurant. An excellent choice. While we waited for our delicious
seafood to be prepared I
with interest as boys jumped off the high pier into the river below;
transferred people between the shores of Rabat and Sallee, while
chugged along in motorized boats.
Lunch time: Mustapha wisely hailed us a taxi and we went down to the Bou Regreg River to the Marina Palms restaurant. A wise choice. While we waited for our delicious seafood to be prepared I watched with interest as boys jumped off the high pier into the river below; rowboats transferred people between the shores of Rabat and Sallee, while tourists chugged along in motorized boats.
It was a delightful day and I could relax my sore feet on the 3 ½ hour train ride back to Marrakech.
Go to other pages of our visit to Morocco
Go to other pages of our visit to Morocco