Imperial cities (Meknes & Rabat, Morocco)

We hadn´t initially planned on going to Meknes, but as I mentioned in the last post, three days were too long for Fez. The second class train tickets were 22 dirham one-way and the ride took about 45 minutes. To our surprise, the trains were rather modern and even theoretically had air-con. Practically, you didn´t feel much of it, but the value for money was still good.

Walking from Meknes Al Amir train station into the medina took about 30 minutes.

The famous Bab Mansour can´t be missed.

Horse-drawn carriages are a much-loved way to explore the city.

(Water dispensers for the less fortunate can be found in all big cities.)

Once again, we wandered around and stumbled upon a tourist information center. As those are very rare in Morocco, we were very happy about this discovery. Unfortunately, the employee recommended the worst sightseeing route possible. First, we walked along what felt like kilometres of fortification wall without anything to see but security guards. That´s what had been promoted as “the Royal Palace”. Then, we got to the former supply chambers and a waters bassin. Better than the walls, but not as impressive as it had sounded.

(The Royal Palace…What the public gets to see, that is.)

(Heri es-Souani with water bassin)

After the water bassin, our “sightseeing tour” led us further along the walls and back to the medina. Here, the big gap between rich and poor manifested itself at every corner.

Before heading home, we walked through the medina for a bit. I´m sorry to say that Fez has a lot more to offer in this respect. It felt neither authentic nor dynamic. The bottom line is that, in my opinion, Meknes isn´t a must see except if you´ve got too much time.

Taking a train from Fez to Rabat took 2,5 hours and was hot but otherwise unproblematic. It´s not possible to reserve seats in second class, so, unlike us, most tourists book first class. We always travelled second class and never had problems sitting together, probably because it wasn´t peak season. However, getting into the train as early as possible does make sense! Try to get a seat as far away from the toilets as possible…they stink. Especially when it gets hotter and hotter outside.

Fez and Meknes had given us an impression of what to expect from Morocco. At least that´s what we thought. We were pleasantly surprised when we got to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. It´s got more of a Western feel to it and people seem more open towards female travelers and tourists in general. As we wanted to go for a swim in the Atlantic ocean, this was greatly appreciated by us. Our accommodation, Hotel Dar Rehab, served us the best breakfast in Morocco. It usually includes mint tea, bread, a kind of pancake, pastry, honey and jam. Despite my love for sweet breakfasts, the fresh orange juice and eggs were cherished. The host did everything to make us feel at home!

Plage de Rabat is Rabat´s main beach and popular among locals. There were very few tourists, because it isn´t the typical place for beach vacations in Morocco. Waves make it hard and rather dangerous to swim, but the water was free of trash and fine for cooling down. Of course, we experienced the first rain in Morocco on our only “beach day”. Strangely enough, most cemeteries are at the coast, that´s why there´s one right behind the beach as well.

Grocery shopping is a lot easier in Rabat than in Fez, because there are actual supermarkets (eg. Carrefour) around the old town.

One of my favourite sights (free of charge) was the Kasbah of the Udayas. It´s a small city within a fortress at the ocean and resembles Greek villages due to the blue and white walls.

(Kasbah-Terrace overlooking the neighboring town “Salé”)

(Jardin Andalous in the Kasbah of the Udayas)

THE landmark in Rabat is the Hassan Tower. Originally, it should become the largest mosque in the world, but it was never completed. Behind it, you can visit the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and his sons. It can be entered without any controls or tickets.

(Mausoleum of Mohammed V)

Chellah is a Roman ruin town outside the medina. Admission is 70 dirham for an adult. Our interest in walking through ruins in the rain was limited, so we went back to the city.

The weirdest experience in Rabat was our visit of the Royal Palace. Don´t ask me why, but upon walking through the gate to enter the complex, we were asked to stop for a passport control. Beside us, noone was asked to do so. As we were sitting in a waiting room, I honestly felt like they thought we wanted to go inside the palace. We didn´t want to get into trouble, so we stayed calm until they gave us back our documents and showed us which way the palace was. The staff was very polite, still, we were slightly confused. Actually, the process of getting to the Palace was a lot more exciting than the building itself. Not a must-see if you don´t desperately want a picture of you with the Royal Palace.

(The Royal Palace in Rabat)

Without knowing it, we had now visited three of the four Moroccan imperial cities: Fez, Meknes and Rabat. One more to go!

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