From the movie classic “Casablanca” to the 1938 movie which inspired it, “Algiers” which made famous the line “Come with me to the Kasbah”. Cheesy, yes. And mind you, this pick-up line still makes the rounds decades later. But naaaah….. the line was never spoken in the actual movie. And the location was not anywhere in Morocco. Disappointed?
Well, I did visit a Kasbah in Rabat. The Kasbah des Oudaias. Or Kasbah of the Udayas. The 12th century Bab Oudaia is the main gate to the Kasbah situated near the Atlantic Coast. This Almohad gate with its high fortress walls hides within a village that looks “different”, even un-Moroccan. The houses are all painted in white with bright blue parapets. The maze of streets within the Kasbah leads you around these whitewashed houses with many ornately designed or brightly painted doors. Within these walls, there is a mosque, Andalusian gardens, art galleries, a palace which has since been converted into a museum, and many corners where “henna ladies” approach visitors offering to give temporary Berber-design tattoos.
It is tempting to compare the Kasbah to the whitewashed villages of Santorini or Pueblos Blancos in Spain. All are tourist destinations, but Kasbah des Oudaias seems unmindful of visitors’ impressions of this Rabat attraction. Sure there are the enterprising henna ladies, street musicians and vendors but the Kasbah is truly a lived-in settlement with residents busy with their own lives. Some corners appear unkempt, and tourism activities seem unstructured. I am frankly not sure what to think or say. If they are promoting the Kasbah as a tourist attraction, I certainly didn’t feel the effort. Or perhaps the local authorities wanted to keep village life as simple, undisturbed, natural and errr…. unpretentious? I’m guessing. Still, it is refreshing NOT to meet annoying touts as one finds them in many popular tourist sites.
If there was time, perhaps we would have found more interesting doors, lovelier clifftop views, or enjoyed more fragrant gardens. It would have been interesting to strike a conversation with young couples who claimed spots on the grassy incline by the gate, or to watch locals with their surfboards riding the waves. Found it even odd to find a cemetery right by the coast next to a beach. Yet the locals are seemingly oblivious to such oddities. So…..will you come weeeth me to ze kasbah? 😄