Rabat and Meknes

Continuing our journey around Morocco, we now headed for Rabat.

The capital is a different world, a nice, relaxing city without the mania of much of Morocco. It is divided into several sections and our first stop was at the royal palace (or one of many royal palaces we saw).

We continued on to the Mausoleum of Mohamed V and the Hassan Tower arriving early to avoid the crowds. Jim and I had been before and some of the pictures below are a mixture of old and new. It is a peaceful place, flanked by mounted guards, and is where Moroccans show respect to Mohamed V and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. The mausoleum is opulent, a masterpiece of Islamic mosaic. Red flags attached to golden poles circle a coffin on the lower floor and sentinels in white gowns, red capes, and blue headdresses watch from above.

After descending the steps of the mausoleum on to Yacoub al-Mansour esplanade we were standing in a chessboard-like grid of white marble columns, the ruins of the old mosque – the Hassan Tower. It was intended to be the world’s largest mosque, but when the Sultan died in 1199, the work stopped and the tower had only reached 140ft, about half of its intended height.

Once again, I found myself entranced by Morocco’s outstanding architecture.

Moving on we visited Chellah, a fortified necropolis of Islamic and Roman ruins dating back more than 1,000 years that were destroyed in the 18th century by an earthquake. The area has been converted into a series of gardens, which are beautiful and display a wide variety of plants and flowers. We spent time exploring some preserved ruins and gawking at nesting storks and packs of wild cats sleeping on windowsills and in doorways.

Before taking a late lunch, we headed to the waterfront where small cafes sell mint tea and sticky pastries. Then it was a gentle walk to the Kasbah, which looks more like southern Spain than Morocco.

As we strolled through the narrow cobbled streets, the air was light and cool. The high walls keeping the sun at bay and the breeze gently flowing through winding streets that are filled with glorious blue and white houses. These give the Kasbah the feel of a watercolour painting. As always happens on our travels, I felt I could live in this artistic quarter, although on hindsight I probably couldn´t afford to. We were told the blue keeps away mosquitos. I don’t know if it’s true but I was captivated by the colour scheme.

In an oasis of calm, the citadel sits proudly at the top of the Kasbah and quietly watches the people come and go. Children play, locals chatter and the loudest noise is the rhythm of the waves below.

After lunch, we headed a little out of town to Meknes to the Heri es-Souani Granaries and adjoining ancient Royal Stables that were home to 12,000 Arabian horses belonging to the ruler Moulay Ismail. These were looked after by thousands of European slaves in the 7th century. The stables are an incredible, although most are in ruins you can’t help but be amazed by the sheer size. The granary was built to store food for the horse, not only could 12,000 horses be fed, but enough grain could be stored for 20 years using construction techniques that stopped the grain from rotting. The ruins are testament to the Sultan’s love for his horses and the great lengths he went to, to ensure that they lived comfortably.

And so ended another lovely Moroccan day.

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