A QUICK PINT TO WASH AWAY THE DUST, HOTEL CHELLAH LOBBY BAR, RABAT MOROCCOJul 15, 2001 (Updated May 9, 2005) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line You sometimes bump into the strangest people when you're abroad.
I must admit I like most hotel bars I've been in. There is something transient about them that is different from my regular favourite drinking establishments. In them, I'm comfortable, mostly because they are familiar. In a hotel bar, one is not there long enough to become comfortable in that sense. I guess therein lies the attraction.
The Hotel Chellah in Rabat Morocco is a rather non descript hotel. It was even described as such in my guide book. The same book does mention that it has a good grill restaurant, which it does. The book however makes no mention of the hotel's bar, which is a shame, because it is a fascinating little place for a couple of reasons.
I'd spent half the day on a bus coming across from Marrakech to Casablanca and then up the coast to Rabat. After checking into the hotel, I spent the rest of the day exploring the capital city of Morocco. I was tired, dirty, and quite thirsty.
A nap, shower and a good supper at the grill restaurant alleviated most of those problems. After supper, I drifted into the bar, off the lobby to take care of the last. Here I discovered the first reason I like this bar. They had ice cold draft beer on tap.
Moroccan beer is surprisingly good. I'd had over a week to sample the two major brands, Flag and Stork at various pit stops across the country. Up till now it had all been in bottles or cans. I was convinced that draft beer didn't exist in this country. Five minutes and one pint glass later, I realized I was wrong. There is nothing better than the first cold pint after a long day. Even the pint glasses were nice, with the Flag brand on their sides.
I jokingly asked the bartender if it was possible to buy one as a souvenier. A few minutes later a man who introduced himself as the bar manager approached me and handed it me a small paper wrapped package. Inside was a glass. I offered to pay for it, but was advised that it was gift. He did allow me to offer him one of my cigars as a gift in return.
Morocco is of course a Muslim country. The tenets of Islam proscribe alcohol, but here they are more lenient and foreigners and non Muslims are allowed to consume it. The main place for this is naturally hotel bars. It was my experience that Moroccan businessman frequented these bars at the end of their work day.
The lobby bar in the Hotel Chellah was no exception. All the stools and most of the tables were full of well dressed businessmen, having a quick one, or two, or three before going home. There was one table that was not full of Moroccans. The boisterous conversation coming from it, and drawing me near was in English.
I said there is nothing better than a cold pint after a long day, but that is only half right. What makes it better is a cold pint shared with good company. This was the second reason I liked this place, the expatriate contingent who were regulars here.
Morocco is a country trying to modernize itself in many ways. A great many foreign experts with a variety of skills have been brought in to enable this. It is also the Capital, and naturally home to large contingents of foreigners who are employed by their respective Governments. Several of these individuals mostly British, live and/or work near the Hotel Chellah, and have turned it into their local watering hole.
I was immediately welcomed into their company and spent a pleasant evening at their table. In exchange for a couple of stories of my adventures elsewhere in the country and a round of drinks, reimbursed fourfold, I became privy to both all the local gossip and gained some practical information on Rabat that wasn't in my guidebook and would come in useful later on. That is a story for a later column though.
If you find yourself traveling through Rabat, then head for Hotel Chellah Lobby Bar and a cold pint of Flag to wipe the dust of the road from your throat. At the very least you'll enjoy a nice pint. More than likely you too will have an enjoyable and entertaining evening, and maybe even come away with a souvenier.
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A Little Encounter in the Djemaa El Fna Marrakech
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A Close Shave in the Djemaa El Fna Marrakech
Hotel Atlas Marrakech
The Great Marrakech Moped Incident
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Hassan II Mosque Casablanca
Hassan Mosque Rabat
Hotel Chellah Rabat
Late Night Taxi Tour of Rabat
Soluzar Hotel Tangier
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