On Friday morning we had the opportunity to move our classroom to the streets of Rabat as we took in some of the capital cities most notorious sites! We met with our vibrant and ever so knowledgeable tour guide (Fatima) at Hassan Tower, which is guarded 24/7 by members of the Royal Guard on horseback. Built during the 12th century, with the intention of being the 2nd tallest minaret in the Islamic world, it only ever reached half of it’s proposed height and now stands at 44 meters tall. The tower is just one part of the larger project which includes a mosque as well as a Mausoleum holding the tombs of King Mohammed V (Current Kings grandfather), King Hassan II (Current King’s Father) and Prince Moulay Abdulla (Current King’s Uncle). The tower which still stands 8 centuries later and survived an earthquake which destroyed much of the area around it, was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.
After stopping at a few more of Rabat’s most celebrated areas we ended our tour where it all began, Chellah. I say where it all began because this is the where the oldest ruins of Rabat are located. This Medieval fortified site is full of history and ruins of the many civilizations who called it home throughout various times in history. The first to settle here were the Phoenicians, the sloping landscapes and ease of access to the river banks made it a safe and convenient place for traders. In the 4th century the Romans took control, today we are still able to see the ruins which show the main avenue into the city center as well as the public bath house. The end of our tour included a trip to a pool of water which is home to a family of eels. Legend has it that if a woman is struggling to get pregnant she can go to the eels and feed them a hard boiled egg and her fertility prayers will be answered. Although many laugh off the legend now, there are still men and women who believe and visit the eels in hopes of fulfilling their wishes.
Lunch was filled with Schwarma and fresh juices from a favorite Syrian restaurant before heading to the beach to meet with the students from the CIEE Global Navigator Langauge program. They had tea time together while they practiced their Darija (Moroccan Arabic) skills and enjoyed the end of a long day with some free time at the beach!