Re: Day 18: Rabat and a day of contrasts

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Mon 22 Nov 2010 08:37
Day 18: Monday 22 November 2010. The maison d'hote "Riyad Alhambra" at Temara. N33 55.`124  W006 57.609.  Distance driven 65 kms.
Last night we had found the Gambousias camp site just before dark, as nothing else was available. It was really an act of desparation.  The facilities were very, very basic and disgusting.  The site itself was a cross between an olive orchard and a cow field and it was miles out of Rabat, where we wanted to be today. Not a great success.  We rose early and followed Jessica and Andre In their Land Rover into Rabat headed for the Mauritanian embassy.  We were lucky to have them as guides, as I doubt we would have found it without them.  For others who may be looking for it in the future, the GPS co-ordinates are: N33 58.807 W006 49.915 and the street is 6 Rue Thami Lamdawar.  The Malian Embassy is a few houses down the same street.
Today was Mission Visa and we succeeded in getting our visas for both Mauritania and Mali, although it took all day. After we had put in the Mauritanian visa application and while we waited for it to be issued we visited the British Embassy to register as Brits travelling in Morocco and also to see what local information we could garner on the situation in the Western Sahara.  The security procedures were worse than Heathrow and when we eventually got in to see someone it proved to be absolutely useless and a complete waste of time. We were told that UK Embassies no longer register travellers as it is all done online.  Pity we didn't know as we wouldn't have bothered! The young (local hire?) female we saw had no local information on the Western Sahara.  Her approach was - have you looked on the FCO website? Yes, we had.  Well, we have no more information. Is the Western Sahara closed to foreigners? Does it say that it is on the website? No. In that case it isn't.  Very reassuring! Speaking as a UK tax payer, why we continue to support these people living in palatial surroundings and living in luxury, I really don't know.  I spent many years as a British businessman working overseas and quickly found that they offer no support at all to advancing British business interests abroad. Now I know they are useless for British subjects travelling overseas. Next time we won't waste our time. She couldn't even tell us where to find a good bookshop!
It was interesting meeting other overland travellers at the Embassies, French, German, Dutch, Spanish all with Land Rovers and then two trucks each carrying 20+ and going all the way to Cape Town.  No one seems particularly concerned about Western Sahara and we are now more relaxed about it being possible.
By the time we got the Mali visas it was after 4 o'clock and we had nowhere to stay, not wanting to go back to the cow field. We drove around Rabat, in thick evening traffic, looking for a cheap hotel and just succeeded in getting lost. We then drove down the coast road looking for a hotel some French travellers had recommended, but didn't find it.  By that time it was almost dark and we hadn't eaten all day.  Jenny was feeding me cold sausage in fresh bread and Emma's "survival cake", as we drove.  We finally came upon a sign for Maison d'hotes, "Riyad Alhambra", tucked away off the road in a residential area. It turned out to be a very exclusive, incredibly decorated and furnished private home, open for visitors. The host, Abadallah Alaoui, showed us round with great pride and, although it was way above our budget it was an experience we couldn't pass over. Besides, we had nowhere else to go and were too tired and hungry to look further.