Salé and Rabat

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IMG_1228   Finally, and after failing to find a spot to camp on the coast, I cycled into the city of Salé. The city is situated on the Northern bank of the Bou Regreg river opposite Rabat. Although overshadowed now by the capital, Salé is the oldest city on the Atlantic coast. Its Phoenician origins date back to the 7th Century and was a prized city under the great Moroccan Sultans. It shares many of the same characteristics as Fes or Meknes including a finely decorated Medersa. The city enjoyed further wealth and success during the 16th Century as a home for the successful Sallee Rovers pirates. The  occupying French force made Rabat the administrative capital of Morocco in 1913 and Salé became a residential suburb. Despite its proximity to Rabat, Salé has retained its timeless atmosphere and traditional way of life. I was keen to find a place to stay and spend a day or so getting to know this historically important city. The Medina is tightly packed with tiny passageways. With some difficulty I steered my bike through the busy markets and searched for a hostel or Riad. Salé does not figure in too many travellers itineraries over and above a day visit. I searched for the only Riad listed in my guidebooks. I spent a lot of time looking for it in the maze of passageways as the light began to fail. Eventually I found ‘La Repose’, knocked on the door, and was led to a comfortable lounge by a maid.  I was presented with a glass of water and told to wait for ‘madam’. The hotel, which consists of a converted Medina house, looked quite spectacular with an exotic interior. A French family sat eating a dinner nearby. I quickly realised that this place was a boutique ‘Moroccan experience’ hotel of some luxury. Having just cycled around 80 miles I felt and must have looked pretty rough. My dusty bike stood, totally out of place, inside the grand front door. I  knew instinctively this wasn’t going to work out. I felt like a large turd on someones favourite lace tablecloth. ‘Madame’ appeared in traditional Moroccan attire including hijab and sat down.. It turned out that she was, in fact English and very well spoken. She told me that there was no rooms available and could not suggest anything. And that was that. I complemented her on the hotel and pushed my bike back out into Salé’s Medina.. IMG_0969 It seems I had exhausted all possibilities of finding somewhere to stay in Salé. The next port of call would be Rabat. There are oodles of places detailed in the guidebooks for Rabat. I found my way over along the cycleway over Pont Hassan II bridge and found Avenue Hassan II which runs next to the Almohad wall of the Medina. Many hotels are grouped close to the Bab Bouba gate. I began my search for somewhere to sleep all over again. It was turning into one helluvah day. In fact it was a Saturday. The weekends are busy in Rabat.  I began working my way down the list of recommended hotels in both the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet. They were full. I was sent to other hotels by these hotels. They were full. I did find one at the lowest end of the scale but looked only marginally better than sleeping on the streets. My last option was to find the Riad Dar Aida where I had stayed on arrival at the beginning of my trip. I had already pre-booked a room there for my final night in Rabat. At around 11pm I was welcomed into the Riad by Majid who manages the place. He had a room for me! Brilliant. I stayed there for the rest of my stay in Rabat and although a little pricey it was a very welcome ‘splurge’ that provided both comfort and good amenities. And good wifi too. Time to recover, refresh and relax. Arriving back two days earlier than anticipated meant that I was able to enjoy a ‘mini’ holiday before returning back to the UK. IMG_1215 I would guess that my arrival in Rabat truly represented the end of my cycling tour of Morocco. All that was left was to dispose of unwanted gear, buy an oversize ‘chinese’ laundry bag for the flight and cycle to Rabat-Salé airport. The hotel manager told me that the ‘patron’ or owner does not welcome guests with bicycles or pets. However he would store my bike for the duration of my stay. This had the unfortunate consequence of leaving me on foot for my stay in Rabat and limited my usual range of exploration. I walked and walked and became a regular tourist. IMG_0992   I returned to the Kasbah des Ouidaias and the Baba Ouidaia gate, where I had originally taken shelter from the rain on arrival in Morocco.  The fortified citadel contains a monastery and its 11th Century mosque is the oldest in the city. There is a viewing platform and beach access from the walls closest to the sea but several young men blocked the road and said that it was for residents only. I gathered later that it is public access and should have ignored these mischievous people but at the time I turned back. IMG_0995  I made my way along the quay by the Bou Regreg. Rowing boats ferry passengers to Salé on the opposite shore.  Once past a sailing ship converted for use as a restaurant I walked up hill towards the Hassan mosque and Mohammed V mausoleum.  IMG_1002 IMG_0997 IMG_1005 The Hassan mosque was an  overambitious project that was begun in the late 12th Century by the Almohad Sultan Yacoub el Mansour. Its construction slowed even further after his death but then was partially destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1755. Its minaret still dominates Rabat’s skyline. Behind lies the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V whose body was interred there following his death in 1961.The park next to the Minaret is a popular place for skateboarding. IMG_1009 IMG_1013 IMG_1035 IMG_1038 After dinner I took a walk through the Sidi Al Khattab (Martyrs’ cemetery) that extends from the Medina down towards Rabat’s 1920s built lighthouse. The headstones all face Mecca. I sat on the rocks by the sea watching the sunset.  On the road back I saw a lad throwing quite a large rock which hit a parked bus. A man jumped off the bus and ran towards him. People scattered as he too threw a large rock and which narrowly missed the first mans head. There then followed a chase as this second man turned and ran uphill.  A large gang of men ran after him. It seems they had been playing football and had some issue with the man on the bus. I did not fancy his chances against the mob after his blood. It seemed like a serious business given that if any of the rocks thrown had struck home they would have caused injury or death.. IMG_1053IMG_1057IMG_1064 IMG_1054 IMG_1074

8 responses »

      • Hi Paul,

        Ok, will give them a call. Maybe they know someone here in Rabat or, they travel here? Do they speak English.

        I live in Rabat. I bought KTM road bike. But the back tire keeps going flat. They have these little shops that repairs motorbikes and bikes all over the place but, their expertise is limited. Morocco is tough place to get things done. Also it would be nice to find someone that speaks English.

        You have an impressive bike and a neat set up. I would like to take some longer bike rides to another town but, as yet haven’t ventured far. Afraid of getting a flat.

        Do you speak French? That helps here. Hope your trip went well. I don’t know why you had trouble with a hotel. Seems to they are ubiquitous. In Rabat. Not in Sale.

        rich

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      • I arrived in Salé late in the day having stretched myself to get there. It’s a long story but really wanted to stay close to the medina there before returning to Rabat.
        Being a public holiday and the weekend, hotels in Rabat were all full. The situation became a little desperate having inquired at hotel after hotel after hotel…. I was ‘saved’ by returning to my booked riad in Rabat’s medina. Although a few days early they were able to accommodate me.
        My schoolboy French is okay and have found useful in Morocco.

        Btw. I did find a little bike repair workshop in the medina in Rabat. It doesn’t look much. I provide a photo in my blog post on ‘Cycling in Morocco’. Maybe worthwhile finding..
        Otherwise local motorcycle workshops do bicycles too. It’s not ideal for modern bikes but an option in an emergency. For more regular work its probably more practical to make use of the internet and YouTube in particular to undertake your own repairs etc.
        Good luck and enjoy the new bike.

      • I called them. They gave me some advice and referred me to someone in Casa. They even spoke English! There exist a myriad of these motorbike shops that double as bicycle repair. But…… they just want to fix the flat and go on to something else. I need to diagnose the reoccurring flat problem.

        Do you put sealant in tubes when you are changing a tube?

        I have this anti-hole band or tape and, a good tube. But I keep getting a flat on the back tire. And the tire is a marathon + no flat!!

        Biking has to be the best exercise in the world. I really enjoy it and I feel a lot better afterwards. But generally all I do is bike 5 m to the golf club , play golf and, ride back home. 10 mi total. So I need to do more once I get this problem resolved.

        It would be great to outfit the bike with some of the stuff you have. Impressive. For a long trip. Also I thought of riding to a neighboring town and returning via train. Take off the wheels and take it on the train. I don’t know if they would even allow it but I see people with these monster bags. Did you ever take your bike on the train?

        >

      • Glad they were able to help.
        Check your tyre carefully. It may be that a persistent shard of metal or thorn is causing the flat.
        I don’t use sealant. But, and like tubeless options, it has its fans.
        I have had occasion to take my bike on trains. Coaches too. Necessity sometimes dictates. Its part of the course for many touring cyclists with fixed itineraries. However I prefer to cycle wherever possible and am by and large ‘self supported’.
        Enjoy your rides. Morocco is an attractive country for cycling. The High Atlas is wonderful and suggest the supported rides offered by the touring companies in Marrakesh. They are tailor made to riders of all ages and levels and a terrific introduction to the joys of overland cycling.

      • Coaches meaning buses? You must be from England…

        Ok, I took it to the shop with the new schwable tube and a anti-hole band. No sealant. Do you use the band?

        They changed the tube. Said the former tube was not installed properly and, also the wrong type of tube. So I am learning – the hard way. I am 70 yo and haven’t had a bike for 30 years. But I love it. Its a lot to learn too. I still don’t think I could change a tube. I even have trouble disconnecting the brakes. Guess you have disk brakes?

        I have the marathon + tires. So they should not go flat. But this one tire has been an issue. Will see what happens. Hopefully the problem is resolved. They checked the tire and everything .

        They have these white Mercedes “grande taxes” here. I suppose I could put the bike into the trunk. Locals use these taxes for intercity travel.

        I agree about the prof tours idea but, at my age I may not keep up. I think you chose a great hobby. The technology these days has improved. Better brakes and gears and not as heavy. These bikes are modern miracles.

        Did you bike in Morocco alone? I must say I have never had any trouble with finding accommodations. they are always friendly. And glad to have your business. I was surprised they objected to your bike.

        My concern would be cars & trucks! There are few bike lanes as they may have in Europe. They should have them. But they don’t. People drive here a little reckless. How do you deal with that? I would love to bike soon to another town but I admit the prospect of dodging trucks or these grande taxes leaves me less than sanguine. I can think of better ways to die. How do you view it? Is there anything you do to improve your life expectancy riding in a country like this? You didn’t seem to address that in your descriptions. Thats the most important thing. To survive and return in one piece. We won’t win any confrontations with a truck.

        I don’t mean to be negative. But its one reason I have not as yet ventured far from home. Was wondering how to manage it?

        Nice talking with you. Come back to Morocco soon.

        >

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