Monday, 24 March 2014

23rd March

Hassan Tower
Yesterday at the car park, we had arranged to meet a guy at our Riad who would act as a tour guide and show us the highlights of Rabat.  Our agreed time came and went, and like all our arrangements with unofficial tour guides turned out to be a dud.  Undaunted, we set off armed with our guide book and local map as all the attractions are close together and easily walkable (as long as the weather isn’t hot).

We started off at the Hassan tower, which is the incomplete minaret of a mosque that was going to be the largest in the world when it was started in the 1195.  However, Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour died in 1199, so all construction work was halted.  The tower is about 140 feet tall – about half of its intended height.  The rest of the mosque is also incomplete with just the remains of about 200 columns and a few walls.

Mausoleum of Mohammed V
The tombs.....
Also on the complex is the mausoleum of Mohammed V, who returned from exile in 1955 and was recognised as Sultan after active opposition to the French Protectorate.  In February 1956, he successfully negotiated with France for the independence of Morocco and in 1957 took the title of king.  Commissioned by King Hassan 11 in 1962, it was completed in 1971.  It is a magnificent white building crowned with green tiles (green being the colour of Islam), the mausoleum is lavishly decorated and adorned with a wealth of traditional artwork.  Together with its namesake, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V is also the final resting place of King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah his two sons.

A mounted royal guard
Outside the complex at the 2 gateways, stand mounted horses complete with guards in their traditional red winter uniform and very grand they look too.  Similarly attired guards stand at each of the 4 doors of the mausoleum and are both tolerant and bored of being snapped with various tourists.  More buildings are to the left of the mausoleum looking towards Hassan tower, but I’ve no idea what their function is – the doors were closed, but we could see some magnificent fountains in them – sadly not switched on when we were there.

The Chellah ramparts
We then walked to the Chellah, which is a necropolis and Roman and medieval ruins all encircled by large crenulated ramparts.  The Roman city was an important port and we could clearly see the remains of the triumphal arch and forum.  In the 14th century, the site was used by the Merined sultans and you can see the remains of a mosque including the lavishly tiled minaret complete with stork nest as well as various tombs.
A lot of the structures were badly damaged in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.  Today, the site is really a tourist venue and now has some rather nice gardens which were heavy with the scent of orange blossom when we were there.  There are also an extraordinary large numbers of stork nests in the vicinity – I have never before seen so many and so close together.
Minaret and various stork nests

Roman remains
After the chellah we walked on to the gardens of the Royal Palace which our guidebook told us were unmissable.  These were a disappointment and it was mainly municipal type of planting with avenues of trees and lawns including some very nice coral trees.  We didn’t hang around long and walked back to the hotel via the new town and a light bite to eat.

We got back about 2.30pm all feeling a little tired.  Hanna retired to her room and Chris and I read our books on the sun terrace for a while and then went back into the medina to buy some Moroccan style lamp shades and sconces.  We then continued reading, but got a bit cold outside so moved down into the courtyard of the Riad.  Hanna is still not interested in food so Chris and I went out for a bite to eat in a restaurant by the river before coming back to the Riad and having some wine in our room. 

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