Morocco - Tangier to Casablanca

December 27, 2003

Christmas in Tangier

Have just spent the so called festive period in Tangier, which despite Tangier's reputation, turned out to be quite pleasant, although I guess that could depend on luck, as I met someone who had a knife pulled on them the day they arrived.

I went for a walk around the bay of Tangier, which offered some magnificent views of Tangier itself, and a nice stroll along a rocky beach, and up into the forest.

Tangier Port
At the port of Tangier
Photo - Tom Moreton

There's a nice cape about 10km out, with some great views, though a lot of trash and not very nice restaurants. It seems the road out here is destined for development, as there was a lot of construction going on, and a big casino had already been built about halfway along.

This was near a little complex containing Pizzeria Oslo, Pizzeria Stockholm, and the Schengen Cafe. A somewhat European theme! I noticed that the casino was covered by armed police, and photography was prohibited in the area. I guess that is indicitive of the current climate of terrorism we live in.

Tangier Fort
Fort on the bay of Tangier
Photo - Paul Beaton

Tangier appears to have been neglected in the past, but a phase of redevelopment seems to have begun, starting with a brand new, very grand train station. Just before I left Tangier, a Japanese tourist was sitting across from me in a cafe, and she took a photo of the baguette she ordered, just before she ate it. This is something I have only ever seen Japanese people do, so I assume that what they eat in Japan, must be vastly different to the rest of the world.

December 28, 2003

Cold and Rainy Mountains

December in the Rif mountains of Morocco, and the weather is pretty cold and wet. Beautiful scenery, when it's not covered in cloud, which has been only 3 hours or so in the last two days.

Chefchaouen Centre
The centre of Chefchaouen
Photo - Paul Beaton

The hamam (public baths) next to our hostel
Photo - Robin Mardeusz

Still, finally this afternoon it stopped raining and we strolled up the mountain behind the town for some lovely views. Have spent the last couple of days drinking tea and coffee, and playing chess with Robin (U.S.A.) and John (U.K.), who I met on the bus up here.

playing chess
It rains, so I play chess...
Photo - Robin Mardeusz

Man in the street
The streets of Chefchaouen
Photo - Robin Mardeusz

Here is Chefchaouen, which is a pleasant town sprawled on a hill at the edge of the Rif mountains. The houses are painted blue and white, and the town has a fair abundance of Spanish tourists and hippies, sampling the delights of the local kif (marijuana).

Two jedi salesmen
A market stall in Chefchaouen
Photo - Robin Mardeusz

Chefchaouen Hillside
A hillside above Chefchaouen
Photo - Paul Beaton

Now it's time to leave the rain, and head further south..

January 02, 2004

New Year at the Ibis

After the mountains, I found myself in Meknes once more, with New Year fast approaching. It was a scenic bus ride of 5 hours or so, on a knackered bus, and I appreciated the nod towards legality, as all the passengers standing in the aisle, were made to crouch down and hide, as we passed the police checkpoint.

I sat in a cafe with Robin discussing the impending dawn of 2004, and we were witness to some guy stealing a bottle of whisky from some Spanish people sitting near us. They had brought it especially, and were displeased to say the least. In fact , they chased him down the street to no avail.

We decided the New Year celebration should start with camel meat, so off we went to the old medina, where you buy it from one place, and then take it round the corner to cook it. It was not bad at all, once made into little dumplings with herbs and onions.

meknes medina
Meknes medina
Photo - Tom Moreton

meknes medina exit
An exit from the medina
Photo - Tom Moreton

After the camel, and customary mint tea, we dicovered it was too late to buy any alcohol from the shops (about 10pm). This left us with the choice of going to bed early, or going to one of the posh western hotels.

The posh western hotels at the top end of the market, were determined to charge an exhorbitant amount for entry, so we were left with an outlet of that great French chain, the Ibis.

New year at the ibis
It really rocks at the Ibis!
Photo - Robin Mardeusz

We saw the New Year in, in style at the Ibis Meknes hotel bar, with a bottle of delicious, locally produced red wine. There were only 6 of us in the bar, but there was a rather kicking time in the restaurant next door, with at least 20 people dancing in a frenzy (although I did notice a lot of them were wearing chef hats....)!

January 03, 2004

A Weekend of Nature

And so it came to pass that I require a visa for Mauritania, available in Casablanca, but of course not available on Friday afternoons or the weekend. So rather than spend the weekend in Casablanca, I stopped on the way there in Kenitra, which is a pleasant little place a couple of hours north.

The first day here was a bit wet, so I hopped on the train to Rabat and spent the afternoon at the zoo. It's not too bad a zoo, and most of the animals seem to have plenty of room. This didn't seem to be the case for the Jackals, who I felt sorry for. It made me think that even dirty, sneaky Jackals need a bit of space to prowl around in.

giraffe at the zoo
My friend the giraffe at the zoo
Photo - Paul Beaton

Today I went to a place called Medhiya, which is a 20 minute bus journey out of Kenitra. It has a long, quite nice beach which is very quiet this time of year, but best of all it has a Nature Reserve in the form of a lovely lake only 3km or so away.

kenitra nature area
The nature area near Kenitra
Photo - Paul Beaton

kenitra beach
The beach near Kenitra
Photo - Paul Beaton

It was a lovely walk out there, and the place was filled with birds. They all kind of looked the same to me, but apparently birdwatchers love it there. Even though it was Saturday, it wasn't too busy with people, and the sun was out on a pleasant, warm day.

kenitra birds
The birds of Kenitra
Photo - Paul Beaton

Now, the nature is over, and tomorrow I will head for dirty, big old Casablanca.

next >> Casablanca - Sidi Ifni

The Trip to Africa The Route
Tangier - Casablanca Casablanca - Sidi Ifni Sidi Ifni - Dakhla
Nouadibhou - Atar Atar - Rosso
Rosso - Banjul Banjul - Kidira
Kidira - Bamako