Greetings From Rabat Morocco!
Getting to the hotel was an adventure, I knew it would be so it wasn’t a surprise or unwelcome, just some fun on the way. I arrived at the airport early in the morning as my flight was an early one, so I didn’t get to say goodbye the roommates in Malaga instead just leaving a Panda patch on their bags as I quietly left. When checking in for my flight they demanded I show them my exit ticket, which I had completely forgotten to buy. So with my phone I found a ticket for the right day, although a bit more expensive than I’d like, and bought it on the spot. The funny thing is the flight attendant was pretty strict with me having this ticket, and was generally quite the asshole in general, siting that if I didn’t have an exit ticket I’d have to buy a visa or the customs might kick me out, meanwhile all my interactions with the customs in Morocco were smooth and easy. They just simply read my front page, saw I was a Canadian citizen with a valid passport and stamped it accordingly without any questions. In fact the customs guard when entering Morocco just gave me a big stupid smile the whole time starring at my tattoos. He spent more time checking me out than the passport.
The flight into Morocco was short, I just hoped over from Malaga to Tangier rather than fly all the way to Rabat or Casablanca which would have cost several hundred dollars more for the ticket. From Tangier I took a taxi to the train station, which zig-zagged all through the city instead of just taking the main roads and had me thinking I was going to end up in a back dead-end alley being robbed any minute. I arrived at the train station in one piece but I really don’t think he saved any time at all in his route, quite the opposite I’d say. I then took a train to Rabat, which took about 3 hours but I was in no rush and was armed with a full powered Nintendo 3DS and laptop with downloaded movies. In total, taxi, train and snacks, I spent well under $100 CDN after conversion when it would have cost me over $200 CDN more to fly to Rabat from Malaga. This was a way more fun way, I got to more of the country as well as save a few dollars.
Once I got to Rabat the hotel was just a short 10 minute walk up to the Medina from the train station. The Medina is the marketplace, it’s a huge place full of small shops side by side and booths everywhere, the roads are tight and crammed with people. There’s one in each city and although it may be off in the corner of town it’s the heart of the city for shopping, bargain hunting and haggling. My hotel was a few blocks into the Medina so I was surrounded by the market, which meant cheap food right nearby.
Staying In The Medina
Daily I would pass shops and stands selling fruit, meat, nuts, other foods and all kinds of things. I would usually start the day off by walking down the street to the grocery store and picking up a 7L jug of water and some cheese. Passing back through the Medina I would stop off and get some fruit, which usually more fresh and either the same price or cheaper than the grocery store, some nuts, walnuts were everywhere and cheap, and some loafs of this fresh bread that was sold all through the Medina. It was a circle and kinda flat but not a pita, I don’t what it’s called but it was tasty with cheese. I didn’t trust the butchers or vendors enough to try any of the meat being cooked and sold there, fearing it might upset my stomach or I could get food poison, but it smelled very favourful when passing them. Sometimes there would be a vendor selling boiled corn and I’d pick some up as well. This was my diet for my time in Rabat, fruits, nuts, bread and cheese and copious amounts of water. All this was very cheap, I think at most I spent $15 CDN a day in food.
while walking about this daily trek, I didn’t get out to any of the sights because of some negative head space, I took some pictures of the city. There’s not a lot of photos compared to some places I’ve visited but I wasn’t in a picture taking mood. A close friend was supposed to meet me in Morocco and at the last minute everything went to hell and they didn’t make it, making me feel down. I wasn’t really feeling like going sight seeing and on adventures that were supposed to be had together. Then again maybe I was just better off relaxing anyways.
Art of Submission Morocco
I’ve been planning out Morocco since the start of planning the Odyssey. It was a complicated list of planning, I wanted to go to Russia but I needed to do visa paperwork and could only apply within six months of visiting. When I planned on going to Russia depended on when my time allowed in the European Schegan Zone, as I’m only allowed 90 days within 180 (3 months in, 3 months out) was up. When that time came up depended on if I would be going to Morocco. So basically the starting outline for the Odyssey outside of Canada was London and the UK in March, Morocco in May, and Russia for July and then I started in filling in spots and connect the dots after that.
During all that planning and talking to countless people I made a few contacts for Morocco, most were in Casablanca and Marrakech, which will be my next article, but I also met Simo through the BJJ Globetrotters matsurfing connection. Simo actually isn’t in Morocco anymore, he’s moved to Amsterdam but still has many contacts in Morocco and helped me out a lot. One of the people Simo connected me with was Mouhcine. Mouhcine trains in a club in Temura, which is a town right next to Rabat. I got in contact with Mouhcine and sorted out the schedule and when would be good to train and set out to meet him and the club. The original plan was to meet Mouhcine at the train station and get a drive to the club, the problem was my SIM card data plan didn’t work in Morocco and there wasn’t any wifi at the train station, so I had no way of being able to contact him once I arrived at the train station. Luckily I had the gym saved to Google Maps and that the map’s GPS works offline. The gym was just up a few blocks from the train station so I was easy enough to make it to and I made it just in time for class. The Jiu-Jitsu club, Art of Submission Morocco which is under Prof. Mehdi Khalil, is located downstairs in the gym Monster Gym which has some cool art around the place, like paintings of Arnold and other body builders, or pictures of old boxers.
It was a smaller class, there were 4 or 5 of us, and a few of them were very new to Jiu-Jitsu so we went over a lot of the fundamentals for class. everyone was happy to have me visit, I even did an interview with Mouhcine for his YouTube Channel after class (you can watch the video HERE), I don’t think they get too many visitors in Morocco so when a traveler like myself shows up they’re very happy to have you join them. During the class the new guys were open to me helping, I believe we were working guard passing, and everyone was eager to take their turn with me when it came to rolling, in fact I’m pretty sure I rolled with one or two of them more than once. It was a fun time, hardly even noticed the language barrier, although the fence wall with guys working out on the other side watching us roll was a new feeling.
After class Mouhcine took me out for some food at a nice Italian place he was friends with. The pizza I had was really good and I think the only meat I had while in Rabat haha. The guy who ran the restaurant was friendly and funny guy and Mouhcine was filming the whole time, making me real welcome and almost like a celebrity. Later I learned it’s part of the culture in Morocco to accept you in and make you feel very at home and taken care of. I definitely felt like that I whole time in Morocco and Mouhcine and his club were a great first stop!
De La Riva Rabat
Another club I was looking to visit was De La Riva Rabat, or I think it’s a De La Riva club, apparently the clubs have changed affiliations and instructors a few times so names have changed. On Google Maps this place comes up at De La Riva Rabat, but their website link sends them to Mehdi Khalil’s AOS Morocco Facebook page, which leads me to believe Prof. Khalil runs both clubs. Whatever the name they were a very friendly group in that held classes inside a gym, with their own matted room, I think it was originally a judo or wrestling room. The head instructor was away for a seminar so there were only a few students for class and they were all lower ranks, I think all white belts, maybe one blue belt, so they asked me to teach them a technique or two since I was the highest ranking student there. This was an odd feeling. I feel weird when I show up and I’m the highest ranked student next to the teacher, but to suddenly be the guy in charge at a club I’m visiting is something to me, in my limited teaching experience, is very new. So I went back to the basics and showed them a simple guard break I’ve been working on and using with good success.
It’s a really simple seated guard break that I’ve put together from little tips I’ve picked up from traveling around. I actually found a video with a guard break that is very similar but I have a few added things that I think make it better. There’s no standing or doing anything flashy but it works very well, I was going to post the video I found but as it happens I was recorded teaching the technique again at another club so I’ll just post that instead. Here’s the Video from Marrakech Fight Club, which I will post again for that article too.
During rolling time I had my hands full, these guys were full of energy, but I used my time to just keep to working on the very technique I just showed them. What’s funny is they seemed to want to use more energy to get a triangle or maybe a sweep as I used the technique on them, like they were trying to shut down what I taught them, which actually just helped the technique more. It’s not perfect but I’m having fun with it. To top it off I had some of the guys say they used it while rolling and it was working great for them, that’s the best compliment you can get!
I was supposed to visit a third club, Hicham from Casablanca (there are two Hicham’s in Casablanca this is the ‘other Hicham’ as the Hicham who’s a black belt and runs Equipe Elite says) was going to set me up with a friend that trains there but I ended up having a headache and taking a nap and totally missed it. So after good start to my visit to Morocco I was off to Casablanca to meet the two Hichams and train and get some (too much) sun for my birthday! But that’s another story..
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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