2136 km of Morocco in 11days: Day 1-3
Updated: Feb 7, 2020
3 symbols of life: Water at the very bottom, wheat in the middle, and salt on the top.
There is nothing like catching a cold just before a longer journey... (planning on the go). We start weak (but hopefully we end strong?). Fever, sore throat and 2 plane landings to challenge our plugged ears while connecting us to Casablanca. We land in the middle of the night and everything, surprisingly, goes smoothly. Morocco has it all - but we start with doctors and pharmacies!!! Essence of life is sometimes best enraptured in our ability to persevere. With the friendliest people we met in a while and the smoothest organisation, we are definitely motivated... Our first hotel is in the middle of the city, (not praised for its hospitality - according to hotels.com and tripadvisor.com -, but what a great surprise and treat: hot bath at night and a nice in bed breakfast (instead of the buffet we signed up for) along with a doctor's visit, prescriptions and ... plenty of (hmm) drugs. Great service too! The first wise Marocan comment: some people you cannot help if they want to be angry.... We agree.
24 hours later, tonne of pills and we seem to be back to life again ;) - we are blending into the beauty of Casablanca (apparently the least beautiful city of Morocco). We love it - if this is least beautiful, we are in bliss both at what we see and at the possibilities that await. We walk towards the medina with the white squares and traditional cafe houses sheltered under the trees ...
It becomes a cosy Saturday morning as we soak in the medina and our first steps of Morocco.... The old town, peppered by the beautiful sounds of birds and unbridled serenity of life measured in its own, particular values... It is so calm and quiet that you could hear the sounds of the trees while many move through the medina. There is no rush, no chaos. We are amazed by the complete serenity (= forget the millions of comments on the internet, which tells you otherwise). But we are told its due to the weekend. We are starting to sense a connection to something familiar, enticing and yet very different. The first time, the origin of the words "help me Obi One Kanobi" come to mind.... but leave, as we savour the beckoning smell of freshly brewed mint tea served in small silver pots.
Few hours in.... We gain strength and our recovery is almost full as we are surrounded by the energy of the bright sun, sweet oranges and an amazing sampling of Moroccan hospitality :)
Orange power especially, made to order, at almost every corner :)
Not to mention the astonishing elegance of restaurants along the coast...
Mohammedia, curious combination of name linking the two great medias together (there is got a be a brand name....).
We share our road with some of the most amazing pedestrians. Their joy and beauty inspires us to examine the connection between the people and nature. The sight is breathtaking and the pattern continues throughout our trip as we find ourselves surrounded by sheep, goats and ... goats again with curious and friendly herders proudly showing off their herd - taking joy in our rejoicing with them in the beauty of Morocco. Everywhere, on the roads, along the roads, pavements, fields and city streets we find them. Our next idea is to spend a day or two with the herders - what pure bliss that must be?!
What you've read about driving in Morocco is rather over the top. We find the drive no more stressful than in similar conditions in Italy. There is less cars though and the rhythm of the drive allows us to reach Rabat in 2 relaxed hours. We are ready again for city sight seeing.
Rabat... the capital of Morocco, a combination of European and North African influences, the city of striking and amazing modern architecture peppered between the traditional medinas where postcolonial spaces meet with modern landscapes... But we also marvel at the fancy and posh restaurants and the amount of guests that visit them.
The tea is so sweet that it's more like a sirup. We are asking for hot water refill, which is served but with a true astonishment of a Moroccan.
The energy is great. We are now aware of Morocco 2026 FIFA world cup bid - I wonder if they will be able to manage (more on that later).
Staying over night in the centre of the medina, in one of the small boutique family run hotels, earlier wealthy merchandise parlours, reached only by foot through the narrow passages of the old town.
Entry to our dining area in the once occupied by a single family villa. Exquisite beauty that dictated our familiar European Jugendstil period.
In the morning, a walk between the oldest part of the city and what was to be the biggest, never finished mosque of Hasan...
Apparently, the commissioner died and the main mosque tower was halved due to an earthquake (from 88 m to the current 42 m high).
Nestled between the two older medinas (= it is often the case that the city has an old and even an older centre) we come across the surfers paradise in Rabat. The water and air are a bit chilly but the sunny optimism of the next wave is shared by all.
Leaving Rabat towards Chefchaouen.... estimated travel time (according to Google): 2,5 h.
Driving, sometimes wishing that we could be as fast as the traditional transport beside us... Not all roads are made equal in Morocco.
Still driving.... through the mesmerising diversity of scenery.
Up and up into the mountains... Still driving.
After 5,5 h and our first fight.... We arrive. Sebastian panics and wants to drive at night to Fez. It is just shortly after the sunset at the bustling and busy blue city in the absolute middle of nowhere - thank you Paulina for pointing us to this place -, located in one of the valleys of the Northern pass. Marvelled at the colours, the thousands of tourists, worried by the lack of hotels (only one left) and enchanted by the vibrant energy around us, Sebastian finally relaxes. The sights and sounds calm him as does the amazement at the way the passage is organised through tons of small and twisted blue paths among - you know this now - hundreds of blue buildings. We book and we stay!
Great and now what (?) - somewhere in the maze of the old medina pathways is our room. After a cigarette and one more heated discussion, we leave everything in the car and begin the search... Forget the google maps when it comes to Moroccan medinas... And forget the fact that you will miraculously and randomly find the place you are looking for. After 1h of searching we asked around (with everyone extremely friendly and helpful), and we concluded: hire a guy to lead us to the place.... For him it was a few minutes walk. Sometimes hiring a professional has its merits - not a Moroccan saying but certainly it has been confirmed here.
And so we are. Just like that we arrive. Our resting spot for the night. In few minutes and seemingly just around the corner. Although not the most luxurious it will do as we are totally beat. Great!
I would almost want to say goodnight, but no... the city is calling. We are going out ;) for a bite to eat and a glass of wine... So the part with wine is not the easiest, but first we buy a
djellaba, actually two: a must have Moroccan mountain coat, fantastic for the cold temperatures at night. A search for wine leads us through a variety of handlers and self described guides who marvel at our resolution when, in their opinion there is so much better stuff to be smoked. We arrive at our place, on the outside, it would challenge a garage for its looks and atmosphere. Two bouncers, eye us, as if we need to prove that we belong. We do. Nice. We enter and see creatures of all kinds. We look at each other knowingly, this has to be a George Lukas bar (the entrance guarded by 2 Moroccans) with creatures of all types, all busy at their tables, discussing, ploying, some more animated and some more relaxed but mostly good willed and friendly. All seem to be ready of the next universal challenge.
The feeling of something strangely familiar is back... One more detail: as we enter the bar we are told that we have an hour before closing - we stayed three at least.... Much like the road trip, time again has a different feel in Morocco.
So... while enjoying the truly delicious food and the wine, we wait for Chewbacca to show. May the force be with you...
(Written by Justyna & Sebastian, to be continued...)