Well, we had a whirly gig of a time getting here, but here we are. The flight from Los Angeles to Istanbul went quickly even though it clocked in at over 13 hours, and having to spend an overnight in Istanbul is not too hateful in its own right. It was a little depressing though getting right back on a plane the next morning bound for Casablanca. But at only five hours, this flight felt piddly compared to the previous one.
We were promptly met by our driver, Abdellah, who will be with us for the rest of the trip. Not only does he drive, he serves as guide, sometimes counselor, and bargainer-in-chief. From the airport in Casa (in the local parlance) we made a mad dash for the Hassan II mosque before it closed…we had two minutes to spare. I’m not normally a mosque person (I find a certain sameness to them), but this one was built to impress. It is the third largest in the world after Mecca and Medina both in Saudi Arabia. I was not disappointed. It was there that I learned that this is the only mosque in Morocco that can be visited by foreigners. I’m not complaining.
While so far today we’ve had breakfast in Istanbul, lunch somewhere over Sicily, afternoon tea in Casa, we must still make it to Rabat for dinner. This turned out to be uneventful and I’m quite impressed with the level of the infrastructure in this country. Frankly, the roads are better maintained than those in Los Angeles, and arriving at our charming Riad Kalaa in Rabat was a feast for weary eyes and seat-sore butts. Even with the knowledge that the Rabat medina (old city) was just outside, I was content just to relax here and have dinner. It was a fairly full day anyway I suppose.
This morning we also had breakfast at the Riad and were met promptly at 9:00am by Abdellah for our tour of Rabat, the administrative capital of Morocco. This first stop was to pick up our local guide, Hamid, who proved to be very knowledgeable regarding the local history which dates back to the 11th century. It was a quiet, laid back Sunday morning and we saw several things: The Royal Palace, The Chellah (an ancient Roman ruin), the Kasbah of Rabat, scenic drives along the Corniche, and river. After dropping off Hamid we set out on our journey to the ancient imperial city of Fes.
The drive, while very scenic watching the landscape change from coastal green to a more muted desert landscape, was mostly uneventful. However, we did get VERY lucky and just happened upon an event that few tourists get to witness. It’s called Fantasia which takes place in a large dusty field where hundreds of costumed horses and men form teams of about 20 riders and charge down the field at full gallop then attempt to shoot of musket guns at the same time. The more in sync the musket firing, the better the team scores. I have attempted to upload a video of one such performance here: http://youtu.be/dOjI5GhzR0s
We are now in Fes at the charming Riad Yacout. Stand by for a full report.