The Morocco Journals: Rabat

Mausoleum of Mohemmed V of Morocco

I have conquered a large part of the world as a female solo traveler, but there are some countries I’m not quite ready to explore on my own. I’m still hesitant about Brazil, Jamaica, India, and many other countries. Morocco was definitely one of those countries I did not want to visit without some assistance, so when my sorority sister decided to put together a group trip to the North African country, I figured it was my chance to go.

The tour was through Gate 1, and it was my first experience using this tour company for a travel experience. I went into it with a positive mind, but my personal opinion of Gate 1 for this Morocco trip was unfavorable. Our assigned guide and driver were phenomenal, but everything else was very basic. I understand why people love the tour company, but it did not fit my travel style. As a solo traveler, it was an adjustment to have to travel with a busload of other people, stay committed to an unimpressive itinerary, and partake in long travel days. The itinerary included visits to the cities of Rabat, Fez, Marrakech, and Casablanca, and didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for me.

Friday

I arrived in Rabat from France with three other members of the group. We left it to up to the group leader – who was the only one fluent in French – to negotiate the cost of the taxi. I was glad to have a Francophone with us for this very reason. If one thing was certain, it was that Moroccans were going to do their best to get more money out of us than we fairly should give.

On the way to our hotel, I noticed the Moroccan flag everywhere. I would later learn that Moroccan flags were everywhere throughout the country, and all I had to do was open my eyes to see at least one flying high. It was an interesting sight to see because Old Glory doesn’t get the same treatment. There may be one American flag in front of a building, but it was unusual to see it on every light post in the streets.

Although I would have preferred to stay in some of Morocco’s beautiful riads, Gate 1 contracted with very basic hotels for the tour. We met our guide, M’hamed, as soon as we arrived to the hotel, and we were treated to Moroccan mint tea as a welcome. Drinking tea would become a regular part of the trip, and I was grateful for it. M’hamed gave us our keys and told us we were one our own until our welcome meeting and dinner later that evening.

We checked into our rooms, and a group of us met up to get some lunch. I had some time alone after lunch, so I walked around the area and got a feel of the city’s energy. I bravely crossed the Rabat streets and wandered a while. There were a lot of people out and about. They weren’t necessarily doing anything, but I can’t say they were doing nothing either. I walked to the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, but decided I wasn’t in the mood for browsing art at that moment. Instead I kept walking and made a trail around a mosque that was blocked from my view by walled fortifications.

I didn’t want to exhaust myself, so I made my way back to the hotel to rest before meeting with the rest of the group. All 14 ladies from the group gathered at the top floor of the hotel that night to meet M’hamed and a few other people from Gate 1 to discuss everything about the upcoming week. Afterwards, we had a welcome dinner consisting of couscous, tajine, lamb, various soups, pastas, salads, breads.

Welcome Dinner
Welcome Dinner

I caught a gorgeous glimpse of the sunset over the city before heading to bed.

sunset views in Rabat

Saturday

We were on the tour bus at 8:30 am and off to sightseeing in Rabat. The low was 67° F and the high was 78° F, and the perfect weather made me joyous despite the feeling jet-lagged. Our first stop was the Royal Palace of Rabat. Let me admit that I wasn’t deeply interested in the historical perspective of Morocco, so I didn’t pay much attention to the information our guide provided at each of the sights. M’hamed was a historian with lots of educational facts about the country beyond the usual information most tour guides gave. I was grateful for his expertise, but I was only on the trip to shop, take cute photos, and flirt with handsome Moroccan men. Yes, I took the full opportunity to be the obnoxious tourist who only snapped photos and didn’t get a grasp of the experience.

Royal Palace of Rabat

Next, we visited Hassan Tower, a tower and mosque that went unfinished after the ruler died in the 12th century. What’s left is the unfinished tower, and the pillars of the unfinished mosque. There was also a guarded mausoleum for Mohemmed V of Morocco. The architectural details of the mausoleum was phenomenal.

pillars at Hassan Tower

Then we went to ancient ruins of Chellah. 

Stork’s nests at Chellah Necropolis
ruins of Chellah Necropolis

I can’t say a thing about the next stop on the trip, the Kasbah of the Udayas. While our guide was telling us the history of the place, a vendor started playing Drake’s In My Feelings from one of his speakers. That was the end of the history lesson for many of us – including me. It was time for the party. 

After a panoramic view of the city of Meknès, and lunch at La Grillardière, made our way to the Roman city of Volubilis. It was the middle of the day and the sun was blazing. I was not interested in the hike to see ancient ruins designed by colonizers, and the sandals I was wearing was unfit for the the hike. So while most of the group went on the hike, I bought a popsicle from a vendor and went back to the bus along with five or so others. Everyone eventually returned exhausted from the hike, and we proceeded to our final destination of the day – Fez.