Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Rabat: Sea & History

Wed, 20/8/14

Sun, sea and beach

Our breakfast today was prepared by Amine and we had breakfast at the rooftop. Breakfast was nice as usual. Perked up with breakfast, we made our way towards the Kasbah des Oudayas as yesterday, but went further up until the end of the road where it meets the North Atlantic Ocean. Families were having fun picnicking and swimming, enjoying the summer holidays at Rabat beach. We also saw some surfers bringing their surfboards, probably to the Oudaya surf club nearby.

 road to North Atlantic Ocean
North Atlantic ocean
Rabat beach
Kasbah des Oudayas by the beach

surfers making their way

After soaking in the sun, we proceeded to Hassan Tower, about 2.3 km away. Woah, we didn't realize it was that far as we walked along the beach, then by the Bou Regreg river, crossed the Avenue Al Marsa until we see the the tower.

We were greeted by guards on horses at the entrance gate of the Hassan tower. Entrance is free. According to Wikipedia, Hassan Tower is the minaret of an incomplete mosque. Construction begun in 1195,but in 1199, Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour died and construction on the mosque stopped. The tower reached 44 m (140 ft), about half of its intended 86 m (260 ft) height. The rest of the mosque was also left incomplete, with only the beginnings of several walls and 200 columns being constructed. Instead of stairs, the tower is ascended by ramps. The minaret's ramps would have allowed the muezzin to ride a horse to the top of the tower to issue the call to prayer. Wow. The tower used a similar design plan for Hassan's sister tower, the Giralda in Seville, Spain and modelled on the minaret of Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech. It does look similar.

guards on horses
Hassan Tower and the columns
the columns
another angle of the minaret tower (ignore the models)

door to mausoleum

Hassan Tower also houses the Mausoleum of Mohammed V which contains the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons, late King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah.

inside the mausoleum

From Hassan Tower, we walked back to the main road and hailed a petite taxi to go to Chellah which is about 3km away. The taxi used a meter and we were charged MAD 12 (RM 4.50) . We didn't have small change so we asked the driver to wait for a while and we went to purchase the entrance ticket to Chellah (MAD 10 or RM 3.70) per person. The taxi driver was understanding and waited for us. We were fortunate to get honest taxi drivers in Rabat.

kasbah wall otw to Chellah


By the time we reached Chellah it was already mid day and the sun was scorching hot. We trudged on nevertheless. There were a few groups of school students who were doing a field trip to the Chellah at the same time and they were really amused to see us, so they asked to take pictures with us. Of course we relented.

Some excerpt on the rich history of Chellah from Wikipedia:
Chellah existed since pre-Islamic times and contains complex of ancient Roman Mauretania Tingitana and medieval ruins. The Roman town was known as Sala Colonia, referred to as Sala by Ptolemy. It contains ruins of a principal Roman way, a forum and a triumphal arch. One of the two main Roman roads in Morocco reached the Atlantic through Iulia Constantia Zilil (Asilah), Lixus (Larache) and Chellah.

The site was abandoned in 1154 AD in favour of nearby Salé. The Almohad dynasty used the ghost town as a necropolis (large ancient cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments). In the mid-14th century, a Merinid sultan, Abu l-Hasan, built monuments and the main gate, dated to 1339. These later Merinid additions included a mosque, a zawiya (Islamic religious school), and royal tombs, including that of Abu l-Hasan.

Chellah ruins: a minaret tower
Chellah ruins
ruins of a mosque
white storks (ciconia ciconia) nest on top of the minaret tower

Roman ruins at the Forum

There were not many tourists at Chellah at the time so we couldn't find a taxi to go back to the medina. We decided to walk a bit to the main road and get a taxi from there. Alas, there wasn't any vacant taxis passing by too! So we walked all the 5 km back to the medina in the scorching hot sun. What a feat!

On the way back, we passed by a viewpoint of the bank of the Bou Regreg river which was quite a spectacle.

Bou Regreg river delta

Hungry, we decided to settle with whichever food stall that we encounter first at the medina - and it was the row of stalls selling  fish fillets. The stall operator did not speak English so we couldn't explain that we wanted to see the menu. Since we were hungry, we just sat there and waited for whatever dish that they were going to serve. It turned out to be fish fried in flour with salsa dip and bread which costs MAD 128 (RM 47). Very expensive in our opinion, for street food. But perhaps seafood is more expensive here than chicken and meat.  It looked nice, but it didn't taste as good as it looked. Again, I reckon it is better to stick with Moroccan dish. Nevertheless, the experience of trying it out was just as important.

fish on display
fried fish with bread and salsa dip

We then made our way back to Riad Marhaba to take our bags and shift to Dar Yanis which is just 600m away. Pictures of Dar Yanis are in the previous post of Rabat here.

After the long walk under the hot sun, we sought refuge at our riad and rested until sundown. We only ventured out to the medina for dinner and some groceries shopping. We had a tasty chawarma for dinner which costs MAD 13 (RM5) at the Hamza Food stall on Avenue Mohammed V section of the medina. We saw an obese cat grooming himself nearby, possibly already full after eating all the kebab and meat leftovers. It was a really big cat! We then made our way back to riad and retire for the day.

Nice chawarma :)
Garfield resting

Dar Yanis entrance... good nite!



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