Fact: for several days during my trip to Morocco, I had The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” in my head. Before heading to Morocco, that was the extent of my kasbah knowledge. Fairly early in my trip, I was delighted to discover the almost hidden world of the kasbah in Rabat’s Kasbah des Oudaias. After seeing countless kasbahs in the days that followed, I recall des Oudaias specifically and fondly for being my introduction to the miracle of mint tea, almond pastries, and village life behind the high walls.
Built in the late 12th century, the kasbah retains the architectural features of the time, including an intricate gate, the Bab Oudaia. We visited on a Sunday, when the sites around Rabat were busy with families out enjoying the day together, stopping at the kasbah on their way to, or way from, a picnic in the scrub forest.
The lush Andalusian-style garden features finely painted wooden window shades and classic zellij tiled fountain. The trees and other greenery provide welcome relief from the unrelenting sun.
The kasbah was perfect for escaping the autumn heat. Men selling pastries – cornes de gazelles or “gazelle horns” – tempt their guests with small delights. Filled with almond-y goodness, the pastries were a nice, light treat, and credit goes to the pastry-seller who did his best to cajole us into buying the whole plate.
This was the day I met mint tea – “Moroccan whisky” – and got a thorough introduction to the pouring ritual. Boiling water is poured over mint leaves and gunpowder tea in little individual pots, then, poured into a short glass and back in the pot. I heard several variations on this poem describing the necessity of the pouring ritual:
Le premier verre est aussi amer que la vie, (The first glass is as bitter as life,)
le deuxième est aussi fort que l’amour, (the second glass is as strong as love,)
le troisième est aussi doux que la mort. (the third glass is as gentle as death.)
I have yet to find someone who disagrees with me about Moroccan mint tea. It is one of the world’s greatest beverages.
The kasbah is built to capitalize on its strategic location next to the Atlantic Ocean. In modern time, it provides an amazing view on a sunny day.
On our way out of the café, we got a much closer look at the cornes de gazelles command post. Like everything in Morocco, it is features a picture of the King Mohammed VI, watching over the proceedings from the top shelf.
Invigorated by the mint tea, we took a wander through the narrow streets behind the high wall, complete with a local “tour guide” who greatly enjoyed giggling at us.
In case you might doubt whether or not people live inside the kasbah: