سنة جديدة سعيدة
Happy New Year
Dear Family & Friends from (yes I do have to mention it again) a bright, warm and sunny Morocco.
Morocco continues to enchant, intrigue and excite us. The more time we spend here, the more we fall in love with this wonderful country and her friendly generous people. Apart from a couple of days of torrential rain at the very start of our trip the weather has been just delightful. The day time temperatures climb up to 23̊ to 25̊ by about 12:00, then it stays that way through the afternoon, until about 4:30pm, when the temperature starts to drop as the sun goes down; the night time temperature is about 12̊ to 14̊ .
We have been treated to some stunning sunrises and sunsets:
|The most stunning sunrise|
When last we blogged we were in a little town called Asilah, about 60 miles south of Tanager. This is when the heavens opened and it rained continuously then for the next 2 days and nights. We decided, between the four of us, that there was not much point in being stuck in our motor homes listening to the rain lashing down on the roof, and that we might as well make tracks south in the hope of getting into some better weather; and this we did. Over the next 2 days we stuck to the toll roads, covered 400 odd miles, and made it to Casablanca and the sunshine!
Now here’s a thing about driving in Morocco, there are three rules you need to remember;
1) Rule number one......there are NO rules,
2) Rule number two......expect the unexpected, it will happen
3) Rule number three......if you are travelling with Fang take an ample supply of gas and air.
|Warning.......big hole in road|
|Palm frond means.......man hole cover missing|
Blimey O’Riley, driving on these roads is not for the faint hearted. The general rule on a roundabout is that oncoming traffic gives way to traffic on the roundabout, OK?..... that is unless someone on a donkey decides it doesn't apply to him! In that case all hell breaks loose and it’s a free for all on the roundabout.
Traffic joining the main road gives way, OK?.... that is unless it’s a taxi or bus or someone else in a hurry, in which case they just come straight out under your nose!
|Excuse me......coming through|
Pedestrian crossings are to alert you that someone might want to cross the road, OK?.....
No, they are just patterns in the road and mean nothing at all, pedestrians, chaps pushing carts, chaps with donkeys, chaps with donkeys and carts, chaps pushing broken down vehicles, chaps on mopeds with flat tyres, chaps with camels, chaps on pushbikes, chaps on scooters, chaps selling, chaps talking business, chaps arguing, ALL manoeuvre together like a dance, step out into the road and do not even know you exist!
|Driving through a normal town|
Two lane roads are for two lanes of traffic, OK?....
No, two lane roads are for as many lanes of cars, motor bikes, buses, trucks, cycles, donkey carts, tractors, taxis, trailers pulled by clapped out bicycles as can fit on them, and that’s not counting the pedestrians, chaps pushing fruit and vegetable carts and vehicles going the wrong way against the traffic..
Oh yes, If they decide it’s quicker for them to drive on the wrong side, they do! But you know something......despite this apparent chaos it works!
But one thing they don’t seem to do is speed. There are police everywhere with mobile speed cameras.....and yes I did get stopped!
A very nice policeman in a very smart uniform,(I always think our coppers look scruffy, flagged me down on a country road and gave me a good talking to about me being in a hurry.....doesn't matter what language they use.....when a copper is giving you a rollicking you always seem to know what he is saying!
He sent me on my way after he had had his say (probably too much paper work to give me a fine). In the meantime Fang is taking a picture of the vehicle in front with a camel in the back.....he probably got stopped for having the hump!
|Copper is giving me a rollicking.......Fang is taking pics of camels in trucks!|
Anyway, back to Casablanca. Although it had stopped raining it was still a bit nippy, so we decided to just spend one night there, and then perhaps catch more of Casablanca on the way back.
We did, however, make time to visit the Hassan II Mosque, one of the only two mosques in Morocco that non Muslims can visit. You have to go with a guided tour, which was good, because we learned a lot of interesting stuff:
The prayer hall can accommodate 25,000 and measures 656 ft by 328 ft;
The roof to the prayer hall opens! it is the second largest religious building in the world after the Mosque in Mecca;
The minaret is 82ft wide and 656 ft high making it the tallest in the world;
At night two laser beams shine in the direction of Mecca and reach a distance of 18.5 miles; 35,000 craftsmen worked on the building and it took only 6 years to complete!
It cost an estimated $8 billion, however, as no one kept the receipts from B&Q they are not sure exactly how much it cost, our guide shrugged her shoulders and said; ‘it might be double, it might be triple the $8 billion, who knows?’
But a third of the revenue was raised by ‘voluntary’ donations from the local community of Casablanca.
|The enormous prayer hall with the upstairs gallery for the female worshippers|
Now here’s a thing about parking in Morocco..... In every town and city you go to, there are Parking Guardians, who have the parking rights for stretches of roads/footpaths and car parks. We noticed that all these chaps seemed to look alike; all dressed in the same tatty yellow high viz jackets, and so we decided they were cousins, and that their name countrywide would be Bob.So you have Tangier Bob, Casablanca Bob, Marrakesh Bob......you get the idea.
So you drive down the road, or into a car park, and out of nowhere Bob appears. He will show you where to park and then direct you to park forwards or backwards or sideways and make sure you are clear of the traffic. Once parked, Bob is your guardian, which means he will look after your vehicle while you go off and do your shopping or whatever. And Bob takes this responsibility very seriously; The result is that car crime is virtually none existent in Morocco! If you decide to stay overnight, Bob’s cousin, Night Time Bob, will be your guardian through the night...
The cost for this extraordinary service? 5 dh, which equates to about 35p! As an additional service, if you would like to have your vehicle washed while you do your shopping Albert, Bob’s second cousin, will give your car/van a bath and polish on the side of the road!
|Casablanca Bob's overnight park-up|
From Casablanca we continued south to Safi. A fortified town built by the Portuguese. A wander through the souk and back streets of this old town were a delight. We spent 3 nights in a camp-site here because John managed to get a very gippy tummy, and was bed bound when he wasn't bog bound!
|A back alley in Safi|
|Shopping for my veg.....they give you one of those washing up bowls and you put all your veg in for them to weigh....one price for everything, nice and easy!|
|Fang feeding the local wildlife|
|On the road again|
All party members now fit and mobile, we set off for our next destination, Essaouira.
Essaouira (pronounced esa-wera) is our favourite town so far. It has a fantastic fishing harbour, a wonderful souk and a beautiful beach. It dates back to the 7th century, but the harbour fortifications and town were not built until the 16th century.
It’s a favourite haunt for surfers but, as yet, has managed to escape mass tourism. It’s the most wonderful place to just meander through the streets and soak in Morocco at it’s best: Fang is constantly sticking her sizeable beak into everything she comes across and asking; ‘what are you doing there?’ ‘what’s this’ or ‘what are you making/cooking’/cleaning? She had a nice surprise one day when, to her embarrassment my eternal mortification, she realised the old woman in a wheelchair she was smiling at, was actually changing her colostomy bag. She does say it’s important to immerse yourself in Morocco and embrace new experiences!!
|Two beach bunnies|
|The locals walk around in coats.....we walk around in shorts!|
|This shopkeeper was so enchanted with Fang that he made me an offer of 1,000 camels and 25 goats......trouble was the goats weren't very good milkers, so I declined!|
|Having a mint tea|
|Fang yet again not posing|
We were now heading into Christmas week and so decided that we would find a base for a few days over the festive period. We settled in a campsite just 17 km north of Agadir. Atlantic Park is a campsite run along European lines and caters for motor homers settling in for 3-4 months to see out the winter.
It has all the amenities you could need for a long stay, but this sort of site is an anathema to us .... not what we call motor homing! Anyway, settle in we did and come Christmas Day the four of us had an excellent lunch in the restaurant overlooking the beach. Christmas morning Fang and I treated ourselves to a camel ride on the beach.
|A Fang sized horse|
|The setting for our Christmas lunch|
The day after Boxing Day we were off again. John & Clare decided that they were not going any further south, so we said au revoir to our friends and continued our journey south.
At this moment in time we are parked in an idyllic campsite right on the beach front, in the centre of a national park, about 60 miles south of Agadir. We have been here for 5 days spending our nights listening to the surf and our days lazing in the sun and walking on the beach......and we don’t look like moving anytime soon!
|Our New Years entertainment|
|Our camping spot on the beach.....we might just stay here for ever!|
And so Dear Family & Friends, until we blog again, we bid you وداعا from our beach haven in Morocco.