We stopped in Agadir on the morning of October 20. Founded by the Portuguese in the 15th century, Agadir was mostly destroyed by an earthquake in 1960 that killed thousands of people; it has since been rebuilt into a city of close to half a million. Last time we were here we took an excellent excursion to the 1000 year old walled city of Taroudant and visited the Agadir Kasbah on our return. You can see that visit here:
Today was scheduled to be a rather brief stop (7AM to 1PM) so there was no time for a long excursion like that. We planned to visit a museum and walk around the streets for a while and perhaps visit the souk (market) if there was time. But the museum turned out to be closed and then upon our arrival the local officials surprised the ship with a requirement that everyone coming ashore present a new negative Covid test. The ship distributed rapid Covid tests to everybody, which had to be displayed to the locals when leaving the ship. This was a little silly in our view since we had been warned that the tests are no good after 15 minutes and you had to wait 10 minutes to see the result, so by the time you reached shore the test results would be invalid. We were told later that an overnight trip to Marrakesh was delayed more than an hour longer because a few people’s tests were inconclusive by the time they reached the bus & they were sent back to do it over.
Anyway, with the short stop, the closed museum and the substantial delays going ashore we decided that it was not worth the trouble of taking the test & then a shuttle bus to an area where we were only going to be able to walk around the streets for a short while. So we stayed on the ship. Here is a picture of Agadir’s beautiful long crescent shaped beach front taken from the ship as we sailed away.
Casablanca & Rabat, Morocco
The next day, October 21, found us in Casablanca. Everybody knows this city from the great film of the same name but nothing in that movie was filmed here, it was all shot in Hollywood. Last time we were here we took a very long one day bus excursion to Marrakesh:
This time, after a couple of excursions we had booked fell through (remember, we have been planning this cruise for three years), we ended up on an excursion to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Founded in the 12th century, Rabat today has a metropolitan population of about 1.2 million. In the 17th century Rabat and its close neighbor Sale (sometimes called Sallee) were home ports for Barbary pirates. In 1912 France took over Morocco as a protectorate with Rabat as the capital and in 1956 Rabat became the capital of an independent Morocco.
We set out for Rabat in the morning through the very congested traffic of Casablanca. At a rest stop shortly before reaching Rabat we encountered some dogs who were so sacked out they didn’t even notice all the people around them and also a lovely pink hibiscus. As we reached Rabat we drove down streets lined with trees (some kind of ficus, we think) pruned to look like one long plant with many trunks.
Built in 1864, the official residence of the King of Morocco is a palace called Dar al-Makhzen. In addition to the palace there is a mosque, presumably for the King’s use, a large parade ground for official ceremonies, and a wall surrounding the whole complex. We parked near the mosque and walked across the parade ground, past some fountains, to the palace.
The palace itself is a very long low building with numerous guards at its entrances. The palace contains several schools and a library housing the royal collection of manuscripts, but there is no admittance for visitors so we were unable to see anything on the inside.
We drove through the wall to exit the palace. And later we drove through a large gate in what we assume is the old city wall.
We next visited the Hassan Tower. Built at the end of the 12th Century, this was intended to be the tallest minaret and the largest mosque in the western Muslim world. However when the sponsoring Caliph died in 1199 the construction stopped with the minaret only half completed and one wall of the mosque and 348 pillars to hold up the roof partly finished. And so they stay today. If completed the mosque would have measured 600 x 456 feet and the minaret probably about 260 feet tall. The existing portion of the tower is 140 feet tall. Inside the minaret are ramps instead of stairs, which would enable the Muezzin to ride a horse to the top. We entered the grounds through a gate manned by two mounted guards.
Across the complex from the tower is the Mausoleum of Mohammad V. It was completed in 1971 and contains the tombs of King Mohammad V and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. A mosque sits next to the mausoleum on a lower level so as not to detract from the view. We left the complex through the same guarded gate through which we had entered.
Rabat’s Kasbah is situated on a cliff overlooking the river Bou Regreg that runs between Rabat and Sale. Kasbah means citadel, and this one was not only on high ground but surrounded by an imposing wall. The uphill part of the Kasbah (left in the picture) was built in the 12th century and the lower part (on the right) in the 18th century. If you look closely at the picture you will see that the old part is darker in color and is made of stone while the new part is lighter and has a smooth surface.
The main entrance (top left in picture above) is a monumental gate called the Bab Oudaya, built in the 12th century. Its inner façade opens into the Street of the Mosque, down which we walked.
Mosque Street is notable for its many beautiful carved doors. Some have a knocker in the shape of a hand, which is called the “hand of Fatima,” named for Mohammed’s daughter.
At the end of the street we turned right and walked down a steep street with stairs toward the river.
We came to a level with a café where we stopped for mint tea and a cookie (just one cookie, more would have cost you). On the other side from the café was a broad view of the river with Sale on the other side. Today Sale is a commuter suburb of Rabat but back in the day it was a notorious refuge for Barbary pirates.
We left the Kasbah through a gate in the lower portion, passing a very tall bush with pink flowers trained up the side of a wall and another wall near the exit gate that was built on top of an outcropping of natural stone. Walking past the walls of the Kasbah we boarded the bus for the trip back to Casablanca. Among other things, we passed a couple of Muslim cemeteries full of graves raised above ground (apparently to keep people from inadvertently sitting or stepping on them). A number of buildings had what looked like covered lounges or laundry facilities on the roof covered by an awning. And the street lamps here are rather distinctive.
After our return to Casablanca we had hoped to visit the humongous Hassan II mosque, but it was too late to have a tour of the inside and we had seen the outside on our last visit to Casablanca. So we took the ship’s shuttle bus to United Nations Square in downtown Casablanca and walked through an underground passage beneath a busy street to the old walled Medina. Next to its wall is a smaller copy of a clock tower that had been built here some time ago by the French. As we entered the gate we were met by a vendor who told us his goods were genuine but everything we would see inside was made in China. Yeah, sure, heard that kind of come on before. Well, we don’t know whether his goods were genuine Moroccan crafts but he sure was right about all the other tchotchkes we saw for sale inside.
We walked around the Medina for a little while but saw nothing very interesting so we returned to the ship. After dinner we went up to the aft pool deck to see the Hassan II mosque all lit up. Most mosques have a piece of metal near the top of the minaret pointing toward Mecca so people will know which direction to face when they pray. Bringing this practice into the 21st Century, the Hassan II mosque has a green laser pointing into the sky toward Mecca. It was a pretty striking sight to bring an end to our visit to Casablanca.