Friday, January 27, 2017 | Morocco – Doukkala-Abda, Safi | Petra
CONFUSION IN MOROCCO
A DIFFERENT WORLD
It was the unexpected onset of winter in Spain that finally made us jumping over to the Kingdom of Morocco and the continent of Africa. The days before at the Costa de la Luz were great with warm sun and an unusual smooth Atlantic Ocean. There was no idea of getting heavy sub-zero temperatures over night. Morocco, we’re coming!
To be prepared for Morocco we read some travel literature before, of course. On the other hand we wanted to see Morocco with fresh eyes and didn’t read too much. We feel a little bit confused at the beginning.
Our first days in the Kingdom of Morocco are a bit of a challenge.
The sun is warm and the Atlantic Ocean is anomalously calm. Beautiful Costa de la Luz two days before our ferry crossing to Morocco
Magic light over the Medina of Asilah
STRANGERS IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY
The new impressions, the new habits, the new language, all the things we are not familiar with are quite a big change for us. In theory we had a certain idea of what we will get. But in reality we had no idea at the end. Exceptionally this time we are not very much enthusiastic. Everything seems strange to us.
It’s hard for me to admit but I’m having doubts about staying here for a longer time. Win believes that it’ll turn to the better as soon as we get to the more scenic parts of the country. We feel quite confused and didn’t expect it.
Once in a seminar we learned that confusion is perfect. It proves that the brain awakes and synapses start to create new links. It’s a support for personal changes – hmmmh.
But let me tell you first things first:
We take the ferry boat from Algeciras to Tanger Med packed with ticket, documents and a lot of curiosity. It takes us less than an hour to get to Morocco and as quick as we went on bord almost as quick we’re off again. Almost – but this is a different story which we’ll tell at the right time.
The customs clearance is easy and soon we’re on the empty freeway. While heading 80 kilometers south to Asilah we’re passing sheep, goats, flamingos, cows, donkeys, camels and pedestrians. Finally we arrive at the little town of Asilah with it’s enchanting Medina (old town).
We park our truck at the harbor and within minutes we get a bundle of new best friends and offers like a dubious internet card, shoe shining and sweet pastries. And some strenuous appeals for clothing, beer, alcohol or ten Dirham for a coffee. We like the pastries of the friendly baker but the internet access we prefer to buy at an official shop of Maroc Telecom.
The Medina of Asilah is full of charme and it bewitches us with it’s late afternoon sunlight. One of our many best friends from the parking area sticks to us while we’re strolling around. He explains everything we see to make sure that we’ll owe him some Dirham at the end of his guided tour we never asked for. Welcome to Morocco!
We quickly realize that we’ll need some time for acclimatization to feel the vibes of Morocco.
BRIGHT COLORFUL SOUK
In the towns of Rabat and Salé which are separated by the River Bouregreg we feel more connected to our new realitylittle by little. For sure we are aware that Rabat is the capital of the kingdom – big, vital, more than save, traditional and modern.
Here you can find exclusive shops of well known car brands and children who try to sell a package of tissues or chewing gum. At the traffic lights expensive limousines meet traditional donkey carts. Here the future high potentials take studies at the universities and there are people who never learned to read or write.
We take a tour across the city on the tram way lines 1 and 2. It’s a little bit like watching TV. We watch the people on the streets living their lifes. The stories around are part of our fantasy.
The souks of Rabat and Salé offer unforgetable impressions of Moroccan shopping. The narrow streets are stuffed with goods of all kind. Here you can get everything – food, spices, clothing, cosmetics, furniture, arts and crafts and bric-a-brac. All the stuff that tourists like and also the housewives who have to prepare proper dishes for the family. We love to watch everything and we enjoy that no one plies us with buying something.
It’s nice to see the friendly smiles when we greet the dealers with „Salaam!“ Finally we become weak and buy some fresh made cookies, crunchy and with a slight taste of anise. Yummy!
There also are areas along the souks where very poor people deal with second hand goods between waste and muddy puddles. Cats stroll around to find some food. A fitter treats a piece of metal, the carpenter cuts the wood and around the corner there is the tailor who sews a piece of fabric for his customer. Everbody is busy with no hectic pace.
We still can’t warm to the local street food and invite ourselves for dinner in a nice Morrocan restaurant where we enjoy typical dishes like Tajine (casserole) and Brochette (skewer). Our drinks are water and mint tea. Yummy, yummy!
Rabat early in the morning
EXPANDING OUR HORIZONS
We leave Rabat the next day and move on 190 kilometers south along the coast to El Jadida. We take the faster freeway due to the fact that the landscape in this area is not very exciting. Freeways in Morocco are like the freeways in Europe. The only difference might be the pedestrians who sometimes walk along or across the four lanes and sheep or donkeys that graze behind the guardrails.
We pass modern apartment buildings with grazing sheep and donkeys in front. Boys are playing football on dusty fields, encouraged by the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations that takes place right now. Next to it people are living in huts made of plastic sheets and reed. Colorful clothes are hanging on lines everywhere to get dry.
At the roadside kids or shepherds are waving to us. In the cities the drivers often honk the horn and show the like thumb. Faces with a smile tell us we’re welcome.
In the old town of El Jadida we park our truck next to the historic city wall of Cité Portugaise. It was in the 15th century when the Portuguese established here a base along the sea route to India. We amble through the burg curious to visit the Citerne Portugaise. It is an impressing reservoir which used to be an arsenal originally. Unfortunately it’s closed – perfect timing.
Today we feel that much acclimatized that we decide to have some baked sardines with onions, spicy sauce and bread from a cookshop at the souk of El Jadida. We buy fresh vegetables and bread to refill our cibosity. Acclimatization proceeds and shows success.
We start to accept the stark contrasts which we were shocked about at the beginning. We realize how biassed our ideas are. To think or even to judge with our standards is absurd. The time has come to change our familiar European perspective and expand our view. We are in a learning process.
Cité Portugaise in El Jadida
MATTER OF NEGOTIATIONS
To travel along the coastal road to Oualidia, our next stop, is at a leisurely pace and different to the freeway. Small villages with a plain café or a garage, a shop or a bus stop are sometimes placed on the left or the right of the country road. Donkeys nosh the gras at the curbside, cows stand around on the fields and sometimes somebody is sitting in the middle of nowhere watching the animals or just sitting there.
We pass fields with vegetables freshly packed for the market. Some farmer offer their products like calabash, cauliflower, carrots or onions at a stand built from reed next to the road. Business as usual.
To meet our friends of the red fire truck it seems to be just enough to have a rough idea of time and place. It doesn’t take long until the red vehicle appears right in front of us on the road. Together we arrive at Oualidia where we bump into a fisher man who just tries to sell his fish to us for an exorbitant price. Instead of this and after a small talk he shows us a nice place for the night down the beach. After Susanne, a hard liner in matters of money, enters into negotiations we get the fish for a fair price for both sides.
In general in Morocco it’s half of the battle to be able to haggle. To bargain for everything is, different to Germany, an important part of a successful and pleasant sales conversation. Just selecting and paying is only fine for everybody who wants to pay a completely utopian price. Susanne finally made our day once again.
We enjoy a wonderful evening with tasty fish, fresh vegetables and the wild waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
A wonderful place to be