At 5:15am on the last day, 3 of my friends and I walked from the ship to the Gare Port Casa nearby. We waited for around 10 minutes before the train station actually opened its doors. A one way ticket to Rabat, 1 hour away by train, was 35 Dhr for a 2nd class seat, not bad at all. The train station is fairly clean and the trains are very modern and also decently comfortable and clean. We chose to sit in the upper deck to catch a better view of the countryside. The trains didn’t seem to run on time at all, but nonetheless we made it to Rabat and back both in just around 1 hour.
When we exited the train station in Rabat I could immediately feel the difference between Rabat and Casablanca. Rabat feels much cleaner and safer. With its white buildings and its main street lined with palm trees it felt like a true coastal city. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that it is the capital of the nation and is where the King lives, who knows.
Our hungry tummies drew us to a random café on one of the streets where we ate some croissants and Moroccan bread as well as some tea and coffee. We then decided to walk to the Palace. We sort of got lost along the way but we went to a ticket booth for the tram system in Rabat to ask for direction, the sales lady gave us a map which we used to navigate the easily navigable city. As we walked, we were alongside a group of young rebellious Moroccan teenagers who were being rambunctious on the streets. I honestly thought they were surrounding us to make a move and mug us, but they were just being rebellious and disturbing the other locals walking about. We did not go to the Palace, instead we came upon the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, the grandfather of the current King. It was a very nice open air park of sorts. Built alongside the ruins of an ancient mosque and prayer hall, you can tell by the line of columns that vary in height as well as ancient ruined walls and a large minaret. We walked about the park, and took pictures, and saw a tomb at the base of the Minaret but were not sure exactly who’s tomb that was. The Mausoleum is free to all, and you can walk in and surprisingly take pictures too. It was a very nice interior with a stained glass and mosaic filled dome, and mosaic walls with Arabic calligraphy, from the balcony visitors look down into the space housing the tomb. The guards of the Mausoleum and park were dressed in traditional Moroccan guard uniforms, and again surprisingly we could take pictures with them. The guards at the main gates were on horses which made them look very authentic.
Nearby the Mausoleum was one of two Medinas in Fes. We walked through the alleyways of the medina and really enjoyed the authenticity of it. There were basically no tourists and we walked amongst the locals who were going about their morning grocery shopping. We got a glimpse of the hustle and bustle of the Moroccan people. What was really different and nice about this medina was the walls of the lower levels of the houses. They were painted a nice ocean blue, complementing its coastal surrounding. The medina lead into the Souk of Rabat, where we did a little shopping as many shops were just opening up. The merchants here were much friendlier than any of the other merchants in the cities I visited. I believe it is because not many tourists go to this souk and it is also where many locals go to shop for their necessities. I came across a store selling posters and paintings, and I came upon a series of poster prints of antique airline ads, I couldn’t help but buy an Air France one that promoted North Africa, with a view from within a tent looking out at a man drinking tea along palm groves and a medina.
When we walked out of the Souk we came upon an old fortress along the river delta opening up to the Ocean. Next to the fortress was a small temporary looking fun park, with a tiny and very unsafe looking roller coaster that was not functioning. We then took a coastal route back to where we started. Along the way we entered an alleyway. We thought it was an extension of the Souk but we were quite wrong. It was simply a narrow pathway that curved up along buildings and ended in a dead end. The vendors were selling basically garbage, it seemed mostly things they picked up or were trying to get rid of. Out of date magazines, remote controls, fake jewelry, dead batteries, shoes, and many more random items. The vendors themselves looked very sketchy, some were sleeping along the narrow walkway. It was scary and random, and we quickly walked out after we reached the dead end.
As we were making our way back to the area around the train station (we were on a tight schedule because we wanted to be on time otherwise we would face dock time), we came upon a vendor selling freshly squeezed orange juice. (Dock time is where if you are late for a certain amount of time you get a certain amount of time on the ship on the last day in port, meaning if I’m 30 minutes late I have to be back on the ship 2 hours earlier than everyone else). The orange juice was really rich and sweet, but we were ripped off. While he was squeezing the juice I kept asking him for the price, and my girl friend asked too but he ignored the both of us. It wasn’t until when I finished I had a 10 Dhr coin in my hand and I asked again that he simply said “yes, 10 dirham.” My friends got orange juice in Marrakech for 4 Dhr. Nonetheless it was very tasty and refreshing juice.
We had a few minutes left in Rabat so we decided to shop along the streets next to the station. At one booth with vendors from Senegal, these teenage boys were very nice in helping us bargain for a bracelet for my friend. They were very friendly and barely spoke English, but they still helped us get the price down from the rather stubborn Senegalese vendors.
After buying our return ticket and a quick lunch in the Rabat station, we boarded our train and journeyed back to Casablanca. Where, as I have mentioned before, we spent our last hours shopping before returning to the ship. The ship, I might add, is really beginning to feel like home, because it felt really nice to be back on board after my adventures in The Kingdom of Morocco.
I would recommend Rabat for a short day trip, it is easy and cheap to get to and it is very easy to navigate, just as long as you have a map. It is clean and very safe, and it is not overly touristy either. So definitely check out Fes, Rabat, Meknes, and Volubilis if you are in Morocco for your next adventure!
All the best!