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ATA Flashback


Discovering Rabat
by Jerry W. Bird


One of the many pleasant surprises I was to encounter during our month-long stay in the Kingdom of Morocco, was the fact that it is easy and relatively inexpensive to travel from one great historic city to another. Check the map and see for yourself. This convenient, low cost, low stress, ease of transport will certainly please the many tour operators and travel agents who read our magazine and website. Other than the direct flight from JFK New York, the rest of the journey was entirely overland and the distances were short enough to allow time for rest stops, meals, impulse shopping and photo opportunities. The first leg of our official media tour, hosted by the Morocco National Tourist Office, was from the imperial city of Fès to capital city of Rabat, north of Casablanca. Like most of Morocco's intercity highways system, the surface on this stretch was smooth and well maintained. Before long, signs of Rabat began appearing, and on the city's outskirts our driver Mohamed Laframe offered an invitation to stop for afternoon tea at his family's new apartment. If you haven't experienced Moroccan mint tea, you are in for a special treat. The aroma is tantalizing and the drink is a great picker upper. I always ask for "sans sucre" ... otherwise I find it a little too sweet. Gleaming silver tea sets are a popular gift item in many shops.

Our final stop was at the Sofitel Diwan Hotel Rabat, a 5-star hotel in the heart of the city, adjacent to most embassies and government ministry offices. We were greeted by the Sofitel management, whom we later interviewed on tape.

That evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner in the hotel's elegant Brasserie International restaurant, with a choice of French cuisine and Moroccan favorites accompanied by a selection of quality wines from Meknes. I would like to comment on the caliber of service as provided by our waiter. His friendly attitude and attention to detail was an example of the high standards maintained in virtually every hotel, restaurant or inn we visited in the entire month period of our stay.

The next morning, well rested and eager to continue our cultural education and exploration, we began a visit of this ancient city, stopping first at the most logical place, the King's Mausoleum, which is surrounded by a large wall. Near the main entrance, a pair of color guards on white horses caught our immediate attention. The "king's men" were dressed in flame-red tunics and trousers, bright green caps and highly polished, jet black boots. Two more guards stood by the steps leading to the mausoleum and were gracious enough to pose with us. Also nearby were the traditional Moroccan buskers or "water sellers" in bright red costumes adorned (like the song) in "Baubles, Bangles and Beads." Speaking of baubles and bangles, not once did we spot any of Moroccans younger generation with pierced body parts, spiked hair or tattoos. The only skin adornment appeared on the backs of the hand, in which ornate designs were applied by attractive young ladies, several of whom wandered around the grounds waiting hopefully for tourists to arrive. On first sight, their artistry resembled regular needled-applied tattoos, but the good news is that the fancy looking application is pure decoration, wearing off and disappearing in a few days. or two.

Traveling in the Morocco National Tourist Office van, we were able to see many of the city's most outstanding tourist attractions quite conveniently with a series of short visits and photo opportunities. In the final analysis, I vowed to spend a week or longer on our next trip and will definitely visit the government archives and places of learning. Much more to come in this article about Rabat and the Great Cities of Morocco.

NOTES: About Morocco by Rail
ONCF -- l'Office National des Chemins de Fer du Maroc
Morocco National Railway Rabat
Marrakech Express: "Plus Classe" Casablanca-Marrakech service is AC-cooled, meal-inclusive and takes only 3 hours. Morocco's moden rail system supplements national services with the Al Bidaoui Airport Shuttle to Casablanca's Mohammed V Airport and Extended European Rail Plans for ONCF passengers.

E-mail Africa Travel Magazine with your own travel experiences in Morocco or any destination in Africa.

For Further information, Contact:
USA: Moroccan Tourist Office: 20 East 46th St., Suite 1201, New York, NY 10017, U.S.A. Tel.: 212-557-2520. Fax: 212-949-8148. Web Site: http://www.tourism-in-morocco.com/

CANADA: Moroccan National Tourist Office: Suite 1460, 2001 rue Université, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2A6. Tel: +1 514 842 8111/2. Fax: +1 514 842 5316.



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