|MOROCCO AT LAST
31 October Friday
Foul weather, strong winds and rain. Decided to buy
one way ticket to Morocco and buy insurance once there. Queued up on
dock for ferry. All going well until announced ferry cancelled due to
weather. Took in other Brit family including two kids (12 and 15) Tim,
Dee, Carla and Nick Shaw on two year tour of West Africa, Turkey, Iran,
India, Australasia . in a Landrover and South African Safari Tent. Tim
wants you all to know that if anyone comes across a thin bloke in long
wheelbase Land Rover, just feed him and give him beer. Good luck to
them. After 4 hour wait wind dropped and caught smart ferry. Arrived
in Morrocco. Discovered intricacies of crossing Moroccan border. They
do not tell you how to do this in the guide books. Fill in form to get
passports stamped. Buy Insurance (1750 derhams not 1000) for 3 months.
Tim our friendly Brit, cost him 84 derhams for one month. Then to Vehicle
pass office with Insurance, Green form, self filled unless helped by
Moroccan “guide” , at small cost. Officer on desk, after several tots
of alcoholic liquid refused to accept my vehicle license documentation
from DVLC. Two numbers missing from chassis number !!! You obviously
cannot get the staff in Swansea. After various delves under bonnet viewing
of any other documents regarding purchase of truck and shrugging of
shoulders allowed through with stamped green form. Put documents away
changed some money. Travelled 20 metres, needed documents again. Then
into Morocco by about 8.15pm.
The dual carriageway road swamped with water, kept
losing carriageways under construction and many strange looking people
crossing road and knackered looking cars (none with a full set of lights).
Drove on until about 12 midnight through wild, hilly countryside. Arrived
on autoroute and parked just passed peage station on Laroche turnoff.
Played cards, had bacon and eggs and chess. Slept well.
1 November Saturday
Drove down autoroute to Rabat. Fascinating landscape,
people offering live chickens and chestnuts on side of road. Went to
supermarket and bought cheap tomatoes etc. (Coriander and other herbs
5p a bunch.) Bought new sim card for phone. Didn’t work. Took back and
spent most of afternoon in Phone shop until it worked. H texted UK everything
working again. Went onto Camping site at Sale. Very pleasantly met by
boy on reception. Went into medina and found bike shop. 250 derhams
ie £17.50 for full back wheel and gear cogs to replace Hs stolen wheel.
Didn’t haggle, so I could have got cheaper.
The Spice Boys
The Juice is loose
We have arrived in Ramadam. No food can pass between
their lips from sunrise to sunset. Several times a day the Mullah calls
them to prayer from the minarets of the mosques (it is actually a tape
transmitted by loudspeaker) and at sunset about 5.30pm a cannon is fired
, the Mullah calls out the all clear or “Everyone down the Chip Shop”
and people beetle off home ravenous to eat and then come out again at
about 7.30pm to go to the Souk to shop. Went into Sale medina hoping
that they have all come out again and were fascinated by the hum of
activity and shops. A typical shop or workshop is five feet wide by
about 8-10 feet deep, piled high with products. Each shop specialising
in a single product or skill from bright yellow pointed slippers, or
sieves, or fire bellows or spices or plumbing or satellite TV or fried
fish or snails etc. Bought 100 grams each of fresh ground Coriander,
Cumin, Turmeric, mixed spice for Tagine, Ginger for 16 derhams (10 to
the euro). Went into a juice bar run by a bright and cheeky Berber youth
and his bigger but shy friend and had two glasses of freshly squeezed
apple juice with orange for 3 derhams. Had a great time in medina and
beginning to feel that we are discovering that special something that
Morocco has to offer. Heather already threatening me with a visit to
one of the barber shops that look like a 1930s dentists to be shaved
with a cut throat razor. Revenge for the tooth incident ! Pork a la
crème and rice.
2 November Sunday
Took bike into be fixed. Shop not open. The area marked
Park, (on the useful map of Sale and Rabat I was given at the campsite)
opposite the bike shop looks like a battleground in Beirut but with
orange trees, buffalo horns and fish heads. Realised that my watch is
an hour out. I thought that I had arrived at 10 o’clock. It was actually
9. Handed over bike to owner of shop in full suit and white shirt. He
arrived in Peugeot 505 saloon, which would never pass an MOT test, with
rotten sills, few working lights and dints and bumps but he carefully
closed electric windows and central locking. Obviously a proud possession.
Printed out pics of spice shop and juice bar from last night to give
to kids behind the counter.
All aboard the skylark Fellow passengers on the gondola
Decided to go across to Rabat. The map says boat to
Rabat, from near the fried fish stands, sounds interesting. Fried fish
stands shut of course because of Ramadan, but fresh fish stands heaving
with a melee of people haggling and bartering over a motley selection
of sardines, ling, mullet, crabs, bream, gurnard, conger, octopus and
various unmentionable looking specimens. People are selling, gutting,
descaling, mending nets, unloading boats, pushing barrows all at the
same time and in the same very smelly and confined space, which seems
ludicrous when there is loads of room to spread out. Moroccans are people
people and like to be in amongst it. Fought our way through and on to
one of the multicoloured rowing boats about 10 ft long which crosses
from one river bank to the other from Sale to Rabat. When I say river
bank, that is what I mean. From wherever they can pull ashore with leaping
in and out of water, much shouting and waving and making passengers
move to the back of the boat so that the prow can be beached and waving
of primitive paddles made of a 3 ft plank and 6 ft pole nailed, screwed,
roped, cable tied and bonded together with any vaguely useful bit of
plastic, leather, metal or string. The rollocks (Yes I know it’s a load
of rollocks) are a loop of baling twine on the paddle and a wooden peg
protruding from the side of the boat. These boats are rowed gondola
style, standing up. I promised Heather a trip in gondola one day when
we were in Venice. I have just saved myself about £50. This gondola
trip cost us 3 derhams (21p) for the pair of us. The river and Venetian
canals are equally filthy. The banks are full of people sitting fishing,
not catching much apart from the odd bin liner and plastic bottle. Everyone
in Morocco is trying to make the odd buck, whether from digging bait
( enough nasty looking worms for 35p to let you fish for a month) or
girls with henna pens or guiding tourists round the Casbah. Heather
got hennaed on the entrance to the Casbah and for 50 derhams Nebile,
the very smooth multilingual devout Muslim, immaculately dressed in
chinos, shiny shoes and western linen monogrammed shirt escorted us,
giving us historical detail about buildings, circumcision clippers,
fingers of fatima and Muslim beliefs and significances. “Pay me what
you think I am worth after. Nothing if you prefer but I want to talk
English”. If staying longer we would have paid Nebile to take us into
the Souk and Medina to eat and learn how to barter. Have decided that
we will pay a guide in somewhere like Marrakesh to avoid being ripped
Back to camp and halfway through cooking mega curry
with new spices when we find that our West African Safari family have
turned up in camp. Invited to share a wine with them Drunk again. Curry
left until tomorrow.
3 November Monday
Picked up bike and dropped into Patisserie for baguette
for breakfast. Baguettes off until the afternoon. Ramadan again. Ramadan
is a discipline, where Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset to experience
what it is like not to have food or drink and to understand what it
is like to be poor. We are not following all Ramadan principles but
not eating between breakfast and evening meal after sunset. So for breakfast
today I bought excellent flaky pastry pasties filled with sausage and
cheese, fish paste and olives, honey and almond “samosas” and Moroccan
crumpets. Wonderful toasted with butter and honey.
Rabat from Sale Beach
Risked life and limb and boated across river again
to see Mausoleum of previous king in impressive park and building, and
into the new part of Rabat. Found supermarket and post office, with
ticket system like Asda deli counter, and bemoaned the loss of café
culture due to Ramadan. Could have murdered a mint tea I think, cos
I haven’t had one yet. Bought a couple of Moroccan music CDs,(35 derhams
(£2.30) Top of the Pops volume 4 Moroccan style and a World music festival
in Essouira a hip seaside town I am looking forward to seeing. Bought
fresh squeezed orange juice and headed into Souk. All shades of existence
are visible in the Souk from downright filthy shanty town to well healed
respectable merchants. H wanted to buy proper leather Morrocan sandals
but she has men’s feet and no time to have some made. He wanted 50 derhams
(£3.50) we would have got them for 35(£2.30).
Got back to find new tyre flat. Took back to shop.
Fabrication fault. Much bowing and scraping as new tube fitted. Fight
outside shop. Tempers can flare when hungry. (An hour before chip shop
time.) Exception taken by one devout Muslim to stoned bearded wizard.
He had to have broken Ramadan to be stoned, it had to pass his lips.
Now when I say wizard, it is because Morocco is a bit like Harry Potter
land. There are Muggles and witches and wizards all walking the streets
together. The Muggles are dressed in ordinary western clothes and the
witches and wizards are wearing backless pointed yellow slippers (babouches)
and hooded monk like cloaks which hang to the floor (djellabas). Normally
bearded faces peer eerily from within the hoods. There are also some
mugbloods wearing a strange combination of the two. For example a djellaba
wearer with Nike trainers and trousers tucked into pringle patterned
socks poking out the bottom.
Went to Internet Café, very slow but very cheap. Loads
of messages and first part of web site up. Great job done by web master
Dave, spurred on to get more to him. Decide to spend Tuesday updating
journal text to e-mail to Dave and to prepare images to post while in
Birianied curry prepared from last nights preparation.
Scrummy cakes from patisserie and Brandy.
4 November Tuesday
Went to buy water, (tap water not safe to drink) and
picked up crumpets for breakfast. Patisserie doesn’t open until 10.30
am so sat for an hour on wall watching the world. Men walking by holding
a couple of chickens by the feet hanging forlornly on their last journey.
Barrow loads of fruit heading for market, people riding all manner of
bike and motorised transport usually bashed, battered and too small
for the rider perched on it.
On computer for hours writing journal before visit
to Internet café and phone calls to sort out admin. problems back in
UK caused by typical British bureaucracy.
Run out of beer. Not sure whether easy to replace.
They do make wine and beer here but not seen it for sale yet. In supermarket
in centre of Rabat , the booze was in a separate room with no apparently
easy access. Fried Fish, Potato wedges and Salad for tea.