Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Old Medina

A unique part of many North African cities is the medina, or old city. (Not to be confused with Medina, the city in Saudi Arabia.) The Arabic word means “city” or “town,” and this was usually all there was at the time the French arrived. Many existing cities were destroyed to make room for French settlements, but in the case of Rabat the medina was preserved and the ville nouvelle was built around it. 
I’ve now been to the Rabat medina three times, but the first two times we were moving too quickly for pictures. Here is at least a glimpse of what it looks like and what you can find. (The internet connection is slow so I'll have to put up relatively low-quality images. Sorry.)

Avenue Mohammed V at the entrance of the medina

Avenue Mohammed V is the main street through the centre-ville. It leads from Parliament and the main train station into the medina. There are many shops and vendors here but the main place for shopping is Rue Souika (literally Souk Street.)

I'm tempted just to say you can find anything here, but there are some things you tend to see a lot of: 

Shoes, both traditional...
...and Western.

Mounds of spices,
dried fruit and nuts,
and lots of women's clothing.
The mannequins are creepy. 

For some reason,  Franklin & Marshall clothing can be found all over.
There are lots of shops selling shirts with English (supposedly) on them. It usually doesn't make any sense and can be quite entertaining. My favorite is still a (men's) shirt featuring a werewolf with shiny pink eyes and, among other quasi-sentences, "You can trll merf me. You do not worry."

Some areas and shops are clearly geared toward tourists.

Some places cater more to local tastes. We also saw a shop selling
cow feet and heads, but I'll spare you the picture of that one.

And apparently Moroccan carpets are famous.
(Or, Moroccan carpet sellers are infamous.) 

Then suddenly the shops end and you once again find a street with cars on it. After you cross the street (easier said than done), you come to the walls of the Kasbah des Oudayas, the fortress on the coast.

Old and (relatively) new.

The main bab (gate or door) of the Kasbah
Apparently even the ancient stone walls are under construction.

Inside the Kasbah: narrow blue streets,
and tiny blue doors like the one here.
 Imagine living in a house like this.
The end of the Kasbah overlooks the main beach of Rabat.
The beach and medina of Salé seen from the same spot.
Plus, a nice view of the Hassan Tower and Mohammed V Mausoleum.

There are still vast areas of the medina left to explore. And then there's Salé.


  1. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I'm so glad to see the photos and what you are thinking
    Look forward to more when you can
    Hope I can visit!