Morocco // City Hopping by Train Part Two // Casablanca – Rabat – Fez
And so the story continues! (Click here to read the first part of our journey)
We arrived in Casablanca after taking a 3 hour train ride from Marrakech. The public transport system in Morocco is well organised and reasonably prized. If we have the option, we always prefer to ride the train instead of the bus when travelling. You don’t stop as often, there’s way less swaying, you can walk around more easily, and the train usually takes a shorter and more desolate and/or scenic route. Win win win :)
In Casablanca we first visited the impressive Hassan II Mosque. A couple of quick facts to certainly justify a visit to this spectacular piece of architecture: The Hassan II Mosque is the largest of its kind of Africa (210 meters/689 feet), and the 7th largest of the world. It is built on a huge platform over the Atlantic Ocean, the construction started in 1986 and was completed in 1993. There is space for over 100.000 worshippers, and the laser on top of the huge minaret beams straight toward Mecca.
Okay, I think that’s enough :) thank you Wikipedia!
After gasping away at the Hassan II Mosque we walked along the corniche (boardwalk) and into the medina (old city center) to discover the vibe of this city. Compared to Marrakech there’s a little less buzz going on, but there is still plenty of folklore!
We went to shake off the dust and sand of the city in the Parque de la Ligue Arabe, this modern park is known as the green lung of Casablanca. It’s an ideal oasis for a break from the midday heat. After taking a little siesta on the grass your stomach will definitely be craving for some excellent seafood of one of the many harbour restaurants.
Okay, time to hop on the train again! Next stop: Rabat, the capital of Morocco. The ride only took about 1,5 hours, so there was still plenty of sightseeing time left!
We first visited the beautiful Mausoleum of Mohammed V. This intricate piece of modern Alaouite dynasty architecture was built for the Moroccan King and his family. It was one of the highlights of our visit to Rabat. Royal guards in imposing uniforms are permanently hovering inside and out. And even though the tombs are quite spectacular, make sure you look up and marvel at the exquisite ceiling of the dome!
The next morning we got up early, passed by the local pastry shop, and took a taxi to the Necropolis of Chellah (aka the old Roman city Sala Colonia). These ancient Roman and Medieval ruins are now the background of lush and aromatic gardens. The perfect place for a quick fresh breakfast before starting our tour!
As we arrived in Chellah really early, there were no other people/tourists around, it was so tranquil! The Roman site was founded around AD 40, and abandoned around 1154. In the 14th century a necropolis was built on top of the site, along with the towers and defensive walls.
Make sure you bring your good shoes and sunscreen, because you’ll want to spend quite some time wandering this magical place! And for the music lovers: there is a jazz festival hosted here every september, sweet!
In the afternoon we were surprised yet again by Rabat when visiting the Kasbah of the Udayas. This ancient citadel of the Alhmohads is located on a hill overseeing the Atlantic sea and the mouth of the river Bou Regreg.
After entering through the impressive Moorish gate Bab Oudaia you’ll discover a world of white and blue filled with the tiniest curviest streets, cosy cafés and excellent restaurants. Make sure you walk all the way down to the panoramic viewpoint of mouth of the river and when you’re there, just imagine turning back time a couple of years to the days when pirates roamed this area. Goosebumps!
After another scenic 3 hour train ride we arrived in Fez (or Fés). As usual we hadn’t booked a hotel or hostel beforehand, so we just took a taxi to the city center. We wandered about the souks in search of a place to stay and discovered an amazing hotel in a small street behind an even smaller wooden door. Like many hotels in Morocco, it had a panoramic rooftop terrace like you wouldn’t believe – until you see the picture below :)!
But also the interior was strikingly beautiful, as if we were staying in a museum. Incredible architecture, antique artefacts and colourful weavery made for a very memorable environment!
As we didn’t have much time to visit Fes I can’t elaborate that much, but I will recommend these three musts:
– Dar Batha Museum: This stunning 19th century palace was converted in an interesting museum about Moroccan arts and crafts. The huge collection of carved wooden furniture, wrought iron, jewelry, embroideries, ceramics, carpets etc. will keep any art lover pleased for a few hours.
– Bab Boujloud: Though the monumental “blue gate” to the medina itself is worth a visit, the surrounding area is also rewardingly lively with an abundance of great restaurants. Yummmm!
– Sunset on a rooftop terrace: If there isn’t one at your accommodation, just go ask some other place if you can have a look, because you don’t wanna miss this!