Monday, July 23, 2012

Morocco (2007), part4: Al-Jadida, Rabat, Tanger



On Monday, September 24, we leave for Al-Jadida in the western part of Morocco, on the Atlantic Ocean coast. The city was founded in the beginning of the sixteenth century by the Portuguese. It remained under their rule until the second half of the eighteenth century. Long distance route coaches depart from at the main station at Bab Doukkala in Marrakech, about 20 minutes from Jemaa al-Fna. It's better to buy a ticket the day before or early in the morning. We choose the train instead (ticket: 114 dhs).


In one of the streets of the Portuguese City
The station lies in the outskirts of the town. To get to the downtown you can take a taxi.
In the center the are dozen of hotels, each of them very old, nearly destroyed, you don't have a great choice here, standard below average. No wonder, this place is visited mostly by locals, tourists seldom appear here. It's visible on the street, we arouse general interest.
Tourist Information Office (Delegation de Tourisme) is located at Ave de FAR. The staff is nice and helpful.

We choose Hotel de France right in the center. Old dilapidated building as big as a palace, but nearly empty and obscure. But it has one positive side: from the windows there are fabulous views on the sea. We take a warm shower, but in the bathroom we are accompanied by bugs. We're probably the only tourists here. On the same floor some local workers stay too. Generally, this place makes a very bad impression on us and even though we paid for two nights, we escape after spending there just one.

On the streets we pass by only two or three white people, tourists scarcely appear here. This reflects also in the behavior of local shopkeepers and restaurateurs. Before 18.30, when the day ends, there's no way to buy anything to eat or drink. So we go sightseeing.
The center of Al-Jadida is one of the finest examples of Portuguese military architecture. At the northern end of the town is the medina, called Cite Portugaise (Portuguese city), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by walls and bastions, with a few deserted churches in narrow alleys.
Worth seeing are: Portuguese Cistern and Seagate (Bab al-Bahr) – original gate leading to the harbor. You can climb and get around the fortress ramparts and bastions. At St. Sebastian Bastion there's a restored synagogue. At the entrance to the Portuguese City there is a church of the Assumption, which now houses a cultural center. It's adjacent to the Grand Mosque.

View on the harbor of Al-Jadida
Southern part of the town is called new city (ville nouvelle) where there are more elegant shops and restaurants, but that's not what we came to Morocco for. All the fun lies in tasting the local climate!


On Tuesday, September 25, in the afternoon we leave for Rabat. The capital of the country, founded in the twelfth century, is situated on the coast ot the Atlantic Ocean, it has more than 1.5 mln inhabitants. It takes approx. 3 hours to get there by bus. We arrive just after 19.00.

*The main bus station is located on the square Zerktouni, 3 kms west of downtown. You can get by bus from Bab al-Had or by petit taxi.
*Tourist information point is locatet in the Agdal quarter, at the corner of the streets Oued al-Machzen and Zellaka, they have some leaflets there.
*There are many hotels in Rabat. Even in the medina they are good, with bathrooms and hot water, not expensive.

Citadel Casbah of the Udayas
*Medina, or the old town;
*Grand Mosque – attention: entry only for Muslim;
*Citadel Casbah of the Udayas; main gate – Bab Udayas is probably the most beautiful gate in the Moorish world;
*Royal Palace from the eighteenth century – it can be visited only for one day in a year, on January 11, as it's summer we can see it only from afar, and in fact only the walls surrounding it;
*Mausoleum of Mohammed V from 1971;
*Mosque Hassan – ruins of the most ambitious Almohad building from the twelfth century, with a huge minaret (Hassan Tower), near the Mausoleum of Mohammed V;
*In the new city (ville nouvelle) the main attracton are Almohad walls and gates, Chellah Citadel (the most beautiful Moroccan ruins) and excellent Archeological Museum.

Mausoleum of Mohammed V
In Rabat, you can spend an evening in a cafe on Avenue Mohammed V or in a pleasant park Triangle de Vue, where there's also a cafe and a colorful flower market. The cheapest places are located within the medina, however those worth recommending are located at Bab Al Jadida.
We stay here until Saturday morning, September 29. At noon we board the train to... Marrakech. This city captivated us so much that we decide to go back there for a few days (train ticket: 112 dhs).


Medina in Tanger, abandoned building in the distance is former Teatro Cervantes
From Marrakech we take an air-conditioned sleeper to Tanger on the north coast (ticket: 350 dhs). We spend one night there in order to get on the ferry to Spain the next day.
Trains stop at the new station called Tanger Ville in the eastern part of town, about 3 kms from the harbor. The best way to get to the downtown is a petit taxi. The town itself is boring. Long beach, stretching for many kilometers, is dirty, like the sea. Maybe it's nicer by hotel resorts, but we are too tired to go there and we decide to stay in the old town.
There's no problem in finding a relatively cheap accommodation here and to eat well in one of the many restaurants.
In the evening we have time to relax while walking along a very long promenade, beautifully lit and full of well maintained trees and shrubs on both sides. Apart from that, there's not much to do here. In former times it was famous as a place of gambling and drugs. Now it's rather sleepy but probably as a harbor it still serves different, not necessarily honest, purposes.

Beach in Tanger
Ferries to Spain depart usually with one-hour delay. You must be present at the pier at least one hour before the official departure time to comply with all the formalities. In the terminal's „departure” checks you receive a permisson to entry the ferry and an exit form. You need to take it with your passport to the police office "visa de passeport"; here the document will be stamped and then you can approach a customs officer. The journey takes over half an hour (ticket: 320 dhs).
Traveling to Spain you need to remember about the difference in time zones. Getting off on the Spanish coast you lose two hours!

Read also:
Morocco (2007), part1: Fez
Morocco (2007), part2: Merzouga, Tinghir
Morocco (2007), part3: Marrakech


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