Still lurking in Rabat getting visas and instead of using the scruffy campsite we decided it was a good plan to head back to our fantastic beach bush camp. This turned out to be a mistake when a phantom clapper started circling like a noisy vulture at 4.30am. This continued until 6am during which time he managed to jump into Andre’s tent and start stroking his arm before being swiftly ejected, whereby he attempted the same feat with Alan. By this point calls as to the whereabouts of the axe were being bandied around the camp. As with all these exciting things, half the group managed to sleep through it blissfully unaware…..
So of course the next night we headed back to the campsite, for a little security and washing (done by ourselves this time) was not put out, and we were not offered hot showers again. Bah Humbug. On the bright side though our 5 night stay in Rabat has been successful and we have obtained our visas for Mauretania, the next country on the list, then Mali and Ghana.
Rabat is the Capitol of the Kingdom of Morocco and although a beautiful Kasbah, twinned with Sale across the river, five days was getting to be too much for some. So they took the short train journey down to Casablanca to visit the beautiful Hassan II mosque. Finally completed in 1993 it has the highest minaret in the world standing at an impressive 689 feet with night lasers shining in the direction of Mecca. There are also the fantastic fruit and vegetable markets which some visited, whilst others raided the huge Marjane (Moroccan Supermarket Chain), filling Ruby with all the essentials (and non essentials) ready for the many kilometres that stretch before us.
From Rabat we headed to the chaos of Marrakech (a Berber word meaning The Land of God), nestled near the foot of the snow capped High Atlas Mountains. Here Ruby spent another three days parked up in a nice big secure car park. We, on the other hand stayed in the centre of town, to experience the real Marrakech which comes alive between the hours of 5-12pm. The main square, the Djemaa el Fna, fills up with night markets, open-air movies, buskers, and thousands of people. It is the largest square in Africa and also the world. It’s an assault on your senses with the smell of a hundred different yummy things cooking, the noise of all the musicians, story tellers and of course the traders on the edge of the square, all vying for your attention to make their sale. The city centre during the day is clearly dominated by motorbikes firstly, closely followed by us unsuspecting tourists who have to beware of the many snakes being thrown over your shoulders, by their “charmers”, whilst a man with a camera catches your expression of shock! The winding streets of the Medina are a site to behold with the brightly coloured stalls selling everything from herbs to curly toed princess shoes.
We all had a local experience whilst in Marrakech, from sampling the many different foods with anything from kebabs to goat heads, to trying out a Hammam. The Hammam is a Moroccan steam room bath, which resulted in 2 couples of the trip getting very familiar with each other and one “nearly nude” soaped up person, sliding across a tiled floor on her back. Others turned down beds to sleep on a roof top terrace and enjoy the views smells and noises of the city. For some their experience was a day, unsuccessfully, searching the city for somewhere that was playing the rugby. They did however find the exclusive bars of Marrakech, claiming that they had met the “ginger headed” star from the movie ‘Titanic’ as they walked down the red carpet….. Who could it have been we wonder???
We said goodbye to beds and hots showers, and returned to Ruby for a short drive to Essaouira, a complete contrast to Marrakech. A relatively small coastal city that has a slightly hippy feeling, where one can leisurely walk in the markets without fear of being taken out by motorbikes, horse or donkeys. We heard a rumour that Cat Stevens lives in Essaouira, but like Elvis, we had no sightings.
We discovered a bar that sold cheap cold beers, and indulged in large quantities of seafood. The seafood frenzy continued again later, with the cook group preparing enough seafood for 60 people. (Did they not learn with the 7 bags of pasta…?) Some members seriously questioned the decision to prepare sardines for dinner as they found themselves covered in fish juice and contemplated what their clothing was going to smell like after a week in their wash bags.
From here on, we are about to pick up the pace to make our way to the Mauritanian border by the end of the week. We will have one last stop at our beloved Marjane, and we’re all starting to look forward to the desert. We have just a few more days along the coast of Morocco before we get there though.