Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Don't Come With Me to the Casbah

The day before yesterday, Mr. Cat in Rabat & I went on what would prove to be a wild goose chase that led us through the medina and into the Kasbah des Oudaïas. The prize you ask? A postcard. Not just any postcard of course, but a particular one that I had selected to be this year's ersatz Christmas card. Not surprisingly, Christmas cards are as rare as hen's teeth and the only boxed sets I've found are UNICEF cards which cost an arm and a leg. There, now that I've successfully used two incredibly banal expressions in the same sentence, I'll move on.

In truth, I used to be a big fan of the Oudaïas - so big in fact that it earned a place on last spring's coveted 15 Things I like About Rabat list, a list that rivals any Blue List that the Lonely Planet could ever hope to produce. But my visit the other day - in conjunction with another junket this summer - has given me pause to reconsider. Why? Because it's become icky. Because people go there now. Lots of people. And not just any people but tourists. And lots of them. In buses.

The charm of the Oudaïas lay in its solitude - it's almost forgotten-ness. When Mr. CinR and I visited Rabat 6 years ago, we were the only foreigners finding repose in the Andalusian gardens of this fortressed oasis. Egocentric cretins that we are, we revelled in it. Now there are tourist shops, buses line up outside the walls, multilingual guides gambol about with coloured flags and paddles, and the gardens' 200-some cats take cover from the onslaught of pasty legs and sensible shoes. And with tourists come faux guides. Faux guides for an area significantly smaller than a football field and as uncomplicated as a the plot of a Dr. Seuss book. I can't decide if I wish them ill or success.

And with tourists come the henna whores - those syringe-wielding bints who will grab your hand and start decorating it like a Betty Crocker cake before you can say aye ,yes or no. And no isn't a word in their vocabulary. They will follow you, hound you, plead with you, and cast doleful calf eyes at you as the PPD, or copper-oxide or sal ammoniac bubbles nefariously in their syringes.


And with tourists comes urban renewal. The residences - already distinctive for Rabat with their whitewashed walls and blue doors - have experienced an unnecessary sprucing up. Geometric patterns and zigzags that weren't there a few months ago meander across the walls and window frames, perhaps it an effort to out-Chefchaouen Chefchaouen, and it feels ... dare I say ... a little Disney-esque? There is not much that is charming in Rabat, not much to recommend it to visitors (and I dare say, Moroccans), compared to Fez or Marrakech, but I wonder how long it will be before the Oudaïas will have been sold lock, stock & barrel to foreigners in search of the ideal winter home? I guess the touristification & gentrification of the Oudaïas is the price of success.

Bearing in mind the Yogi Berra-ism that, "No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded", I suspect that it will be quite some time before I return.

Did I mention that we never did find the postcard?


Blogger knarf said...

Indeed, Yogi's pearl of wisdom came to mind as I read this day's post.

As did the Seinfeldian, "People: They're the worst!"

1:41 p.m.  
Anonymous Liosliath said...

That's sad to hear.

6:19 p.m.  
Anonymous Cath said...

As soon as some place is described as "unspoiled," the despoiling clock starts ticking.

8:39 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

You said it sister.

9:08 p.m.  
Blogger Cath said...

I suppose the Casbah's been doomed since the days of Charles Boyer and 'Hedley Lamar.'

4:45 a.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

I think it was Pepe le Pew that did it...

1:17 p.m.  
Anonymous neighbor said...

I know a woman who traveled the world 70 years ago and everywhere she went, people told her, "You should have been here when it was unspoiled."

3:52 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

"Hedley, not Hedy ..."

10:06 p.m.  
Anonymous Cath said...

I knew you'd get the reference!

9:40 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Did you know that the "real" Hedy Lamar sued Mel Brooks after Blazing Saddles?

She lost...

10:17 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...


10:45 p.m.  

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