We spent three days in Rabat, but I really don’t have a lot to say about it. Only the seventh-largest city in Morocco, Rabat has been the capital since 1912 when the French moved the capital here from Fez. The French had invaded and set up a “protectorate,” but since the then-capital Fez was still a bit rebellious they moved the capital to somewhere safer. When Morocco regained independence in 1956, King Mohammad V decided to leave the capital where it was.Like any middling-sized capital city – a capital not because it’s the cultural and economic center of the country, but a capital because it’s not the center – Rabat is kind of boring. We came here with a specific goal: to get a visa from the Ghanian embassy here. We wanted to go to Ghana and it’s one of those countries where you can’t get a visa on arrival. Knowing that we could be in Rabat if it made sense – and always having an interest in seeing a capital city – Mark found the embassy’s web site and emailed asking if, as Americans, we could get a visa there to visit Ghana. The answer came back short and unambiguous; “Yes, you can,” is all it said.
So we show up at the embassy when it opens, knowing that anything could go wrong. And of course it did. The woman at the front desk explained that no, they only take visa applications from Moroccan citizens; as Americans we would have to apply from the U.S. Mark showed her the email that said we could get a visa there and the woman said that no, the person who wrote that was just a secretary, she was new, and she was wrong. She didn’t quite blow us off; she agreed that she could take the application, along with our $100 application fees, and forward the documents to Accra (Ghana’s capital) to see what they would do. It would probably take about two weeks, by which time we would be long gone from Rabat and probably from Morocco.
Ergo, no go. Instead we’ll go to Marrakech as planned and then move directly to Senegal and The Gambia, spending more time there than we otherwise would. Who knows, we may even hop across the border into Guinea-Bissau just because we can. Either way, though, we’re not visiting Ghana during this pass through West Africa.
As for Rabat, meh. We found a little bit of good food. There is a great medina and beautiful Kasbah, both of which were worth wandering around in for a few hours. Definitely not worth the three-day stop we planned to get the visas.
One thing that is going to drive me crazy here in Morocco, generally I assume but it was certainly an issue in Rabat, is the smoking. There appears to be no concept of a No Smoking zone, whether in restaurants or hotels or anywhere except trains. You walk into a hotel lobby and people are smoking away; you can sit at a table in a restaurant and someone right next to you – not two feet away – will start smoking. And pretty soon everyone at their table will be smoking. I grew up in a world like that, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had to live in it again. I don’t like it, and I sure don’t like having to wash my clothes every night to get the damned smoke out.
From here it’s a quick one day stop in Casablanca, mostly just to break up the trip, and then six long days in Marrakech with Mark’s brother and sister-in-law to celebrate Thanksgiving. I know, we should have stayed in Turkey for Thanksgiving, but here we are instead.