J’aime Forêt Hilton: My Love Affair With Rabat’s Best Park
When we found out we were moving to Morocco, the first thing I did was open google maps and scour the city for parks. Sure, education, public health, sanitation, safety…all certainly important. But to me, there is no greater benefit than a good public park. If a city has a good park, then you could reasonably assume that education and all those other things are priorities too.
Among many adjustments to living in Dar es Salaam was its lack of open space. Tanzania had a lot of other things to worry about, and understandably, open space did not make the cut. But now, looking forward to Rabat, squinting at google maps and switching between aerial view and street view, I tried to imagine what that nebulous wooded area was on the map. Now I know. It is a big, wonderful park.
Let me clarify. It’s a big, wonderful, and safe park.
In the blazing heat, it’s one of the few shaded outdoor spaces. There are several play grounds, ball fields, a sizable pond…
…and my personal favorite, a miniature street network to teach kids the rules of the road.
But still, it’s brilliant!
The landscaping is spot-on. It’s minimal and largely natural, but there are large swaths succulent ground covers in the shaded areas that stay green and don’t require much maintenance. Someone thought to install large berms along one side to control noise pollution from a nearby road. In the middle of the park is a sizable stand of perfectly aligned trees that generate a pleasant rhythm as you walk by.
There are roughly 50 workers at any one time sweeping up leaves and debris from the main walkway. It seems excessive, but it makes sense given that they always pause when someone walks by. It’s wonder they ever get anything done because someone is always walking by. Given these parameters, I suppose it might require that many laborers.
Forêt Hilton is well-used, but never crowded. Patrons from all walks of life come here. Even the lame slowly shuffle around the perimeter in pursuit of exercise. Now that is amazing.
The loop around the outside is just shy of 2 miles. I take two turns around this loop, plus a little more. Then, when I get to the tree marked “Meryem + Brahim,” I glance at my watch, turn around suddenly as if I just realized I am late for something, and then head back to the car. Taa daa! A perfect 4 miles.