I didn't post much about my time in Rabat previously, probably because that was where I became sick and spent much of my time there in bed. But after reviewing videotapes and photographs this weekend, I was reminded of the city's beauty.
Rabat is the capital of Morocco and perhaps the most Westernized of all its major cities. It has wide, clean streets lined with palm trees. Imagine if a suburb of Los Angeles became Islamic and you get the idea of what Rabat is like.
There is a strong police presence in Rabat due to the fact that the king's palace is here as well as the parliment. The fact that Morocco has a king is not commented on or discussed. It never came up once in my break-the-ice discussions with Moroccans. "So what is the country like?" However, his picture seems to be everywhere. Handsome, silent, he watches over every shop I went into. I don't know whether this is by his choice or the shopkeepers.
After checking into my hotel I ambled to the coastline. I had a strong need to see the ocean, which was a deep azure, crashing with powerful waves but relaxing to watch. I noticed that there was more pieces of tiles on the shoreline than seashells. Across the road from the shore was an Islamic graveyard. All the graves face towards Mecca. The graves' cement base and headstones made them look like little beds, which, in a way, they were. From a distance the graves looked like writing, the individual lives now creating a message on the hillside.
As I headed back to my hotel, I saw a large mob outside the parliment building chanting something in Arabic. They were facing down a line of soldiers who looked quite young. Their uniforms didn't seem to fit - too big- but the large guns they carried suited them just fine. It was obviously a demonstration of some sort, but since I can't speak Arabic, they could have been demanding free dance lessons for all I know. With the words "Wrong place, wrong time" zipping through my head, I decided to head down a sidestreet. I heard a noise and saw the crowd starting to disburse...towards me. The kept turning and looking back at the soldiers, moving with the same ordered chaos as cattle. I picked up my pace, wondering if I had just vacationed to some growing insurrection. I could still hear the protest when I got back to my room. Tired, I laid in bed, waiting for and fearing what I thought would be the inevitable sound of gunshots. But I fell asleep while waiting, and when I woke up, it was like the demonstration had never happened.
Later that night another crowd gathered, and chanted, outside the same building. But I noticed people walking up and down the street ignoring the demonstration, so I figured this wa as much a fixture as the palm trees and fountains.