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North along the Atlantic Coast, Morocco

November 29th, 2023

We left the small city of Tarfaya in the far south of Morocco after our walk on the beach and headed back north.  We’d seen this campground on our way south but it was on the wrong side of the road – it’s slowly being covered in sand!  Maybe hasn’t been used since COVID?

We found a spot near the highway where we could walk out on the dunes in the Sahara – so many of them, especially the big ones, are far from the highway and there is little in the way of access roads that we’d want to take Minou down to reach them (one of the times we miss Tigger). We pulled over, crossed the highway and went for a stroll up and down some of the dunes so we could actually honestly say “we’ve been in the dunes in the Sahara Desert”.  We loved it.

We even saw camel foot prints!

Just in case the timing was better, we made a stop back at the National Park to see if we could see any flamingoes closer up.  No such luck; the tide was still low and all we saw were herons and egrets:

It was getting close to noon by the time we neared the Devil’s Hole again so we stopped to make brekkie and check out the place again.  Since the tide was low the “hole” did not fill up as much.

As we drove north, Fran was on the correct side of the vehicle and we saw the taller dunes in he distance.

We have noticed while we’ve been in this country, there are many, many places where you see dirt (or stones) piled up; whether it be where they are looking for water, digging canals, clearing fields, (rock piles then) planning irrigation or whatever, we have decided that Moroccans are people who love to make piles!

We decided we’d only go as far north as before the highway turns inland.  There is a small town there called El Ouatia on the Tan Plage (not to be confused with the city of Tan Tan).  There is a campground there that is both on iOverlander and park4night that is by the beach and near the town.

Roundabout on the way into town:

Camping Atlantique offers all the necessary services and has beach access.  What more could we ask for?  We got parked and of course, had to go check out the beach.

While there is beach access at the back of the campground compound:

it leads you to a dirty section of sand, a sandy road and then you cross more sand with a fair bit of garbage before reaching the actual beach.  Once you get there, it’s pretty nice; the water was not warm mind you but it’s clean and the beach is wide.

Fran wanted to go back and get a thing or two done first, change into shorts and then walk so Doug carried on and then she went for her walk down the beach and back.

Now that we are on the west side of Morocco, the sun comes up around 8:30 am and sets around 6:30 pm – the mornings are very dark as we do not sleep till the sun comes up.

One day at low tide, Fran walked from the beach by our campground over to the other beach by the port where there were hundreds of birds on shoreline:

More beach photos on our walks:

lot and lots of snails

We ended up staying here three nights.  The Wi-Fi was good and Fran got caught up on her back up and the website photos and posts.  The first night we went into town and had a cheap roasted chicken dinner complete with salad, fries and bread.  The next two nights we cooked for ourselves, we did walks each day and all the usual daily routine stuff.

Sidebar:  Since we came back to Minou in October, there’s been a weird chirping sound when driving; it’s not consistent and at first we weren’t even sure where it was coming from; sometimes it sounded like in the middle of the dash, sometimes in the passenger corner and sometimes even from behind us!  Doug ruled out many things (the dashcam, a lane detection sensor, the GPS, the rear camera and more) and finally he found some loose wiring and a switch that seemed to turn it off and today our drive was chirp free!  Seems like it was loose wire to some gas detecting system.

By Friday, we were running out of food and this town has no grocery store and the selection at the small mini marts and green grocers, leave much to be desired, so we left.  It was foggy as we left and the rain that was supposed to have happened yesterday, finally came today so the sand was flooded:

We drove inland to the larger city of Guelmim where there is a large grocery store called Marjane and managed to find just about everything we needed, even popcorn (which we’ve not seen in this country before despite looking every time we went into a store).  We found broccoli and mushrooms (also both rare) but the lettuce selection sucked.  We got some fresh spinach instead of a few small heads of leaf lettuce (it must not be a common thing here).

We then drove back to the coast through the foothills of the Atlas mountains at an altitude of up to 500 m / 1640’ to the surfing town of Sidi Ifni (FYI “Sidi” means something like saint) that also has a huge campground right beside the beach (but no private beach access).  We got parked on the concrete section in the back with a sort of view of the ocean.  The walls of the compound are high but there are sporadic “windows with bars” that you can see through so we do get a view of sorts and are close enough to hear the surf.

We both went for walks checking out the beach and the town; it’s pretty good  – much  better than the last town and there are a good number of restaurants and there are lots of campers both with and without surfers.

Camping Sidi Ifni also offers all the amenities as well including power and hot showers.  There are two other large campgrounds here but they both had terrible reviews so we think we’ve picked the right one.  The fellow that runs the place speaks French of course, but some English as well.

The beach here is quite nice and Fran walked it at least once every day.  There is also a raised boardwalk if you don’t want to walk in the sand.

View of the town on the cliff from far end of the beach:

There are red cliffs at the far end:

To get into the village, you have to walk up a set of curving stairs that offer a nice from the top:

Like at Tan Plage, there are lots of snails in the water at low tide:

This is probably the one town in Morocco where we’ve seen the most variety of license plates; we always see French, sometimes German, Spanish and Belgium but here we’ve see Netherlands, Slovakia, Czechia, UK, Portugal and Italian as well – seems surfers come from everywhere!

On the weekend the town has a market both days and Fran walked over on Sunday to see about getting more lettuce and again could only find the small heads like the supermarket and they were super dirty but they’ll do!  She also got a kilo of fresh dates for 40DH!  They are so yummy and super moist!

On Monday, we decided since we like it here and the beach is very nice, we’ll stay another couple of nights.  We have over a week to get to Casablanca and not many places to stop enroute.  We figure if we can stay till we need a grocery store again, that will work out well as the city of Agadir has several and it’s on the way north.

Fran discovered there was a self-serve laundry in town so she took care of that on Monday as well; we’d asked the owner here about getting the vehicle washed (it’s quite dirty from the rain a few days ago and we’re sure it’s got salt on it now too with the all the beach time we’ve had) but through a miscommunication, he thought we wanted work done not a washing and the fellow he brought over said to take it into town to the garage.  Fran saw that place when she went to the market, so we know where it is.  However, we figured, we have to wash it before storing it in a couple of weeks so let’s just wait; Fran washed the parts we touch the most and Doug cleaned the solar panels (which really needed it) so we should be good.

Tuesday morning we awoke to mostly cloudy skies with some wind; we went for walks mid-morning and it was rather blustery but the surfers were out big time in the higher waves.

It was a pretty chill day and a little cool but little wind and we did sit up on the rooftop terrace to read for a while.

It clouded over during the evening and was cloudy Wednesday morning.  After exercise, showers, dishes, dumping and filling we left Sidi Ifni to begin the drive north to Casablanca.  The past four nights cost us around $30 to camp.

Click here for a gallery of more photos from the time above.

Our first stop today was to see the arch(es) at Legzira beach only 12 km / 7 mi up the coast.  We considered overnighting there to but after see how many stray dogs there were, we knew it would be a noisy night.  We parked at the lower lot and took a walk down to see the remaining arch (one collapsed in 2016 which we believe we saw the remnants of) less than a klick down the beach.  There is a small town here and plenty of small restaurant and hotels along the beach.  It’s a little sad looking but the beach is quite nice.

The sun was really trying to come out and did poke itself out of the clouds at times.

At the end of the rock section that contains the arch you can see another little arch forming near the end:

We walked through the arch to see it from the other side and that’s when we saw the rubble of the destroyed arch.

On the other side of the arch:

Here we saw the remains of the fallen arch:

What this arch looked like prior to 2016:

It wasn’t very busy here but on the walk back we could see that they were setting up umbrellas and chairs in the hopes of day visitors.

We pushed on northward towards Mirleft (supposed to be another surfer town) and pulled off the highway for lunch around noon and then on the north side of town found a place to wild camp on iOverlander on the cliffs overlooking the ocean and we were hidden from the highway.  There were several fishermen fishing off the rocks at low tide and here we felt that the police would not see us and come and tell us to leave.  There are were of course, no services except a 4G cell signal – all we really need tonight.  By the time we got here, the sun was mostly out and it was a pleasant 24C / 77F with only a slight breeze.  We enjoyed sitting outside reading with a view.

this type of cactus was all around the cliff tops

Our Maroc Telecom plans expire tomorrow at noon so the plan is tas we are heading into the city of Agadir tomorrow to grocery shop anyway, we’re pretty sure we can find a place to get a new plan.

Around 9:30 that night there was some lights flashing outside the dining room window and a knock on the window.  There were two men dressed in Berber attire saying there were military and they wanted to see our ID.  So we asked for their’s as they didn’t look like soldiers.  They spoke little English and we explained we spoke little French (Fran understood more than we let on) so kept saying let us see proof you are official; they said something like their badges were back down the road somewhere and finally Doug just showed them photos of our passports that he had on his phone they showed us ID on their phones.  One fellow began explaining it was not allowed to camp here but we feigned ignorance of understanding and they finally see, “good night”.   We had a quiet night after that.  Others had stayed here before us so maybe we were the first ones that encountered this?  Who knows.   Since we were chased away in Chefchaouen, saw no camping signs far in the south and read posts of others, it seems wild camping in Morocco is becoming more difficult.

For more photos of this part, click here

We leave our spot before 9 and drove along the coast some before heading inland to the main road to get to Agadir.  We are back in traffic after really experiencing none since Marrakech.

Recently, Doug  has been noticing that maybe Minou is leaking transmission fluid.  So since we are going to a big city, and since he’s pretty sure that the transmission fluid has likely never been changed (we got the vehicle at 80 km (50k mi) and it recommends getting it done every 50-60,000 miles) we should just get it changed and have them look for a leak.  We also have a left signal light that is rather dim that he’d like looked at.  We found a highly recommended mechanic on iOverlander (who actually speaks good English too!) and went to his shop.  It’s very professional looking and Aziz took us right away.  About an hour later, we were all done with both items taken care of for about $44 USD.

While that was being done, Fran walked over to  Maroc Telecom to get more data for us as it expires today.  She wanted 20GB for each of us that would last 30 days so we have data when we returned in January but ended up getting 30GB – it was hard to explain what she wanted but the 200DH prices sounded right for 20GB.

Next stop was groceries at the Carrefour (and we found a guy outside selling 4 kinds of berries at a good price) and we thought since it was in a mall we treat ourselves to a lunch in a food court.  Well there was no food court but we found a place to eat before shopping on the outside of the mall.

Now as usual when in a big city, camping is difficult, but Fran found a pay parking lot off the beach where others had stayed (many of the free places noted that the police chase you away) and we made our way there.  There was plenty of room (unlike at the mall) and we got parked and were told 50DH for the night and there is security all night long.  There are no services but a cell signal but if we are not going to get chased away by the police, it’s worth five bucks!

After parking, we went for a stroll on the “corniche” -what they call the beach promenade here.  The beach is long and quite lovely and calm.  Agadir is on a cove and there are plenty of hotels, restaurants and such along the beach but it’s not overrun with high rises and such.  It has a holiday town feel and there were plenty of umbrellas for rent on the beach despite the not summer weather.  It was quite pleasant.

We walked down the boardwalk to the McDonald’s to get a ice cold diet coke with ice (nothing beats McDonald’s for that!) and met an Irishman on vacation named Gordon, whom we invited to join us at a table while he at his late lunch.  By three, it was starting to get rather breezy and cooler, so we said our goodbyes and returned to Minou.

Today we passed uneventfully through three checkpoints.

For more photos click here

After a not very good night’s sleep being parked in a large city, we left after tea time.  We hoped to make it a good distance today to Essaouira – a port city with a medina.   Today the sun is out with no clouds which has not been the case the past three days so that’s wonderful for today’s long coastal drive.

Enroute we stopped at Taghazout, yet another surfing town to take a peek:

Just before you reach the town, there is a really long stretch of beach that the public cannot access – there are four huge resorts taking up the full length of the beach.  We noticed in Taghazout, that many surfers are actually over in that part of the ocean as the surfing there is supposed to be some of the best.  They must get there on foot from the town which is really a short beach walk.

And then a bit further down the road we stopped at a pullout for pics.

As we continued north along the coast it was a nice drive.

Fran saw on her map there were dunes and cliffs just off the highway so we pulled off.  It’s apparently an ibis nesting zone in the spring but people have wild camped nearby.  We took a short walk and saw some cool cliffs and could see the dune across the ravine:

On this drive we are in the growing area of the argon trees.

Argon is a tree endemic to the semi-desert Sous valley of southwestern Morocco.  Argon trees grow to 8–10 m (26–33 ft) high and live up to approximately 200 years. They are thorny, with gnarled trunks and wide spreading crown.

The leaves are small, 2–4 cm (0.79–1.57 in) long, and oval with a rounded apex. The flowers are small, with five pale yellow-green petals; flowering in April. The fruit is 2–4 cm (0.79–1.57 in) long and 1.5–3 cm (0.59–1.18 in) broad, with a thick, bitter peel surrounding a sweet-smelling but unpleasantly flavored layer of pulpy pericarp. This surrounds the very hard nut, which contains one (occasionally two or three) small, oil-rich seeds. The fruit takes over a year to mature, ripening in June to July of the following year.

The argon tree used to grow throughout North Africa, but today it only grows in southwestern Morocco. Argon is perfectly adapted to the region’s harsh environment, with the ability to survive extreme heat (over 50 °C), drought and poor soil. Although numbers are dwindling, argon is the second most abundant tree in Moroccan forests, with over twenty million trees living in the region and playing a vital role in the food chain and environment. The tree’s roots grow deep into the ground in search of water, which helps bind soil and prevents erosion. Much of the region has resisted the advance of the Sahara desert due to the argon tree, and it therefore plays an irreplaceable part in the ecological balance of the region.

In Morocco, argon now only cover some 8,280 km2 (3,200 sq mi) and are designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Their area has shrunk by about half during the last 100 years, due to charcoal making, grazing, increasingly intensive cultivation and the expansion of urban and rural settlements. Livestock numbers have increased substantially, with signs of overgrazing and over browsing in the argon forest. Browsing directly harms the existing, mature argon trees as goats will climb high into the branches of an argon tree to reach its fruit. Overgrazing can cause soil erosion, affects the microclimate of the forest by reducing ground cover and surface humidity and increasing temperature, and impedes the long term regeneration of the forest.

The best hope for the conservation of the trees may lie in the recent development of a thriving export market for argon oil as a high-value product. However, the wealth brought by argon oil export has also created threats to argon trees in the form of increased goat population. Locals use the newfound wealth to buy more goats and the goats stunt the growth of the argon trees by climbing up and eating their leaves and fruit.

The argon tree has played a role in the cultures of the Berber people living there for hundreds of years. Argon is a multi-purpose tree and each part of it is usable as a food or economic resource. The fruit can be eaten, oil can be extracted from the nuts and the tree’s wood can be used for fuel. The tree has therefore played a vital socio-economic role in local culture, and currently provides a significant source of food and income for around three million people, over two million of which live in rural areas. In some parts of Morocco, argon takes the place of the olive as a source of forage, oil, timber, and fuel in Berber society.

Argon fruit falls in July, when they are black and dry. Until this happens, goats are kept out of the argon forest. Rights to collect the fruit are controlled by law and village traditions. The “nuts” are gathered after fruit consumption and spat out by ruminating goats. Seeds being spat out by the goats constitute one mechanism of seed dispersal.

Argon oil is produced by several women’s co-operatives in the southwestern parts of Morocco. The most labor-intensive part of oil-extraction is removal of the soft pulp (used to feed animals) and the cracking by hand, between two stones, of the hard nut. The seeds are then removed and gently roasted. This roasting accounts for part of the oil’s distinctive, nutty flavor. The traditional technique for oil extraction is to grind the roasted seeds to paste, with a little water, in a stone rotary quern. The paste is then squeezed by hand to extract the oil. The extracted paste is still oil-rich and is used as animal feed. Oil produced this way can be stored and used for 3–6 months, and can be produced as needed from kernels, which can keep for 20 years unopened. Dry-pressing is becoming increasingly important for oil produced for sale, as this method allows for faster extraction, and the oil produced can be used for 12–18 months after extraction.

The oil contains 80% unsaturated fatty acids, is rich in essential fatty acids, and is more resistant to oxidation than olive oil. Argan oil is used for dipping bread, on couscous and salads, and for other similar uses. The unroasted oil is traditionally used as a treatment for skin diseases, and has become favoured by European cosmetics manufacturers.  Argon oil is sold in Morocco as a luxury item. Sales of the product have grown since being marketed by the cosmetics industry in the US and Europe in the early 21st century. Its price is notable compared to other oils.

At one point we came across a herd of goats actually climbing into the trees as mentioned above.

As we were driving, Fran called Jeff and Stuart (the couple from Nova Scotia we met on the ferry) to see where they had camped in Essaouira as we couldn’t find anything.  Turns out it was a place 24 km / 15 mi away and they were actually headed back there today!

We find a place to park when we reached Essaouira, made breakfast and went to check out the medina area.  We saw many gates (“babs”), the city walls, the souk area and a rampart with great ocean views.

the Bab Marrakech we entered through
Essaouira beach
side view of castle
another castle view
The clock tower in the square in the medina
at the rampart
view out the rampart

In total, we walked about 4 km by the time we got back to Minou and drove to the village of Ounagha to Camping des Oliveras.  This is a full service campground for about $12 a night – even has a pool!  Jeff and Stuart arrived about a half hour later and we got together at 5 for happy hour.  It was nice to speak English with people for a change and have real conversations!

Today was a two checkpoint day; at one the checkpoints they wanted to give Doug a ticket for passing a car on the solid white line, but he managed to “talk them down” to a lesser fine (100DH instead of 400DH).

They left the next day and we stayed one more day to have a non-driving day just chillin’.  The sun stayed out all day, it reached about 24C / 75F but it was a little breezy.  We did our usual daily routine and enjoyed sitting in the sun reading too.

We decided we should break up the remaining drive to Casablanca some so today we drove about halfway to Oualidia on the coast where there is a motorhome parking lot for 40DH a night that offers not much but toilets (which you can dump your cassette into) and water (20L a day) but it’s well situated between the town itself and the beach.

We drove through the big city of Safi which is a major port of Morocco and here there is a lot of industry like phosphate processing. It was super smoggy.

the last of the Atlas mountains we’ll see – just foothills over here

The parking lot is quite large, all flat with paving stones and has a 24 hour security guy.  After parking, we took a stroll down the main street towards the beach.  The street is lined with restaurants and small hotels and the beach is very pretty.  There are rocks at one end of the crescent and it becomes part of a section that protects (but leaves access to) a lagoon.  Here the waves crash very hard and high – we must have been right at the perfect tide height.

We were mesmerized and watched for quite a while for various spots.

Doug has been attempting to get an appointment with a cardiologist in Casablanca or Rabat as he’s due for an echocardiogram but so far has been unsuccessful using online methods.  While we were watching some waves he began chatting with a guy who was there watching as well with his two daughters.

Turns out Hicham is a software engineer from Casablanc and his wife is in the health care field and she might know someone.  He called her and her father had just been to see his cardiologist last week.  He then called his father in law who sent him contact details and he said he would call on Monday (today is Sunday) and get Doug an appointment for Thursday or Friday this week – perfect!

We returned to Minou separately as Fran wanted more walking on the beach time and then spent a pretty quiet night in the RV lot – there had to be at least 30 motorhomes by dark – and, of course, the majority were French plated. Some even were towing cars or small utility trailers as they probably winter down here.

Hicham dropped by the parking lot later and Doug made balloon animals for his children.

It was a one checkpoint day.

We left Oualidia by 9 and made our way along the coast to El Jadida.  We stopped once for a tire rotation which we’d forgotten to get when we had the work done in Chefchaouen and they wanted to charge only 40dh ($) but of course, we paid extra.

This part of the country is very agricultural and very green.  There were lagoons at times along the coast and farmers fields that stretched from the sea inland.

We continued to another port city, El Jadida which was also very industrial on the south side with lots of oil refineries.

El Jadida originally known in  Portuguese as Mazagã was a fortified city, built by the Portuguese at the beginning of the 16th century and named Mazagan (Mazagão in Portuguese), was given up by the Portuguese in 1769 and incorporated into Morocco. El Jadida’s old city sea walls are one of the Seven Wonders of Portuguese Origin in the World.  The Portuguese Fortified City of Mazagan was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, on the basis of its status as an “outstanding example of the interchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures” and as an “early example of the realization of the Renaissance ideals integrated with Portuguese construction technology”. According to UNESCO, the most important buildings from the Portuguese period are the cistern and the Church of the Assumption.

The design of the Fortress of Mazagan is a response to the development of modern artillery in the Renaissance. The star form of the fortress measures c 250m by 300m.The slightly inclined, massive walls are c 8m high on average, with a thickness of 10m, enclosing a patrolling peripheral walkway 2m wide. At the present time the fortification has four bastions: the Angel Bastion in the east, St Sebastian in the north, St Antoine in the west, and the Holy Ghost Bastion in the south. The fifth, the Governor’s Bastion at the main entrance, is in ruins, having been destroyed by the Portuguese in 1769. Numerous colonial-era Portuguese cannons are still positioned on top of the bastions.

The semi-subterranean chamber has a roughly square plan measuring around 33 to 34 metres (108 to 112 ‘) per side, was constructed with five rows of five stone pillars and columns. The chamber is built in a late Gothic style known as Manueline, with a vaulted ceiling of brick masonry and stone ribs. Its original function is not clear. It may have been an armory, barracks, or granary, but it is recorded as having been converted into a cistern in 1541. It was designed by an architect named Miguel de Arruda but the construction work was delegated to João de Castilho. A round opening in the center of the chamber served to collect rainwater. The cistern is famous especially for the thin layer of water that covers the floor and creates fine and ever-changing reflections in the otherwise dark vaulted chamber. Its visual qualities are such that several movies have been filmed within the cavernous space, of which Orson Welles’ Othello is the best known internationally.

We made our way into the city and parked outside the medina.  That was an adventure as a market was taking place down the street we had to take but Doug managed to maneuver through the people, bikes, carts and stalls to get us there.

The parking attendant charged us 10Dh and said he’d keep a close eye on Minou.  He also advised that we should be aware that the cistern is currently closed (Darn).  Fran had read it was closed in 2010 for renovation but as our guide book is from 2019 we thought it would be open by now (we found out later, it closed during COVID and upon reopening many leaks were found in the ceiling in 2021 so it has not as yet been restored).

Photo from the sign outside  of the cistern:

We did see the church but it’s been converted to a theatre and we saw the old mosque which is also being restored.

We did wander the small medina and found our way to one of the corner ramparts and then took a stroll along the top of the walls with great ocean views.

We could see Minou below from one of the corner bastions:

We were now hungry for lunch and we began to look for Moroccan pancakes at a few restaurants.  Doug asked at one and he took us to a small stall in the market where a woman was making them fresh.  We asked for them with honey and although they were hot and tasty, could have been tastier with more than a small drizzle of honey.

We had a spot picked out to park for the night but it was not going to be pretty (between a hospital and a prison) but with so many people a different spots referencing the police making them move from parking areas, we decided to push on.  We reached a point on the other side of the city where we saw parking beside the beach and a McDonalds.  So we parked, walked over to get an ice cold diet coke and walked the beach for a bit.

Our mapping app wanted us to take a super busy market filled road to get to the coast highway which we decided to avoid and in order to get to that highway we ended up on a country road.  It was sort of paved in that much of the sides had deteriorated so when you met another vehicle you had to get out of the middle and parts of it was quite pot holed and it reminded us of driving the PanAm in Guatemala.

There is a campground with not very good reviews about 20 km before Casablanca.  It’s the closest one and we thought we might stay there after we meet up with Christine and Mark and before we fly so we decided we should head there to spend tonight to check it out and see if it’s as bad as they say to decide if we could spent a few nights there come Friday.

We arrived at Camping International L’Oasis and were not impressed (so the reviews here were justified).  The price had gone up from 75 to 95DH  and the bathrooms were disgusting – he only opened the women’s and Doug said there’s mud everywhere and the showers are only cold.  We told him we wanted power and the place he asked to park in did not work.  He found one across the aisle and we had to use our long cord to reach it as there were trees close to it so not great for Minou.  There is supposed to be Wi-Fi but it’s very weak.  We ended up using the hotspots on our phones instead.

We spent a couple of hours online (using our hotspots) dealing with booking more flights and car rentals for January and dealing with the credit card company to make that happen.

Well at least the power worked, we could dump and fill with water but we understood why the reviews were so bad – it was also pricey for what we got for Morocco.  We were the only ones besides a few abandoned looking trailers until later when a camper truck pulled in later and left before us the next day. So we don’t want to come back here!

Doug heard back from Hicham and has an appointment on Friday morning to get his echo – so that’s awesome.  We’ve also been looking for a place to get anti malaria tablets for Uganda without success so maybe we’ll ask him.

Another two checkpoint day.

Here’s a link to more photos link

As we don’t know as yet when we have to meet Christine and Mark, we decided to hang at the campground for a while this Tuesday morning.  We both did our usual morning things, showered in Minou and then got online for a while catching up.

We drove the final 20 km in towards Casablanca after lunch to a parking lot across from the sea on the south side of the city – for 30DH a night, you can park with security and there are toilets and access to water (and you can dump) but no power.  Barring any unforeseen things, we will probably just stay here till Tuesday when we will head to the airport.

After parking, and sorting out the cost, we took a stroll over to see the ocean.  There’s a little rock island that you access via a stone bridge that looking intriguing and it looked like a place to get closer to the big waves so over we went.  Well that was quite disappointing.  It’s quite ugly, smelly and looks like it’s all just shacks (that night we saw no lights over there so we doubt there’s power).  There were a lot of beggars on the bridge so too not a pleasant walk.

We continued our walk about 500m towards the huge mall but did not go inside.  This is the Morocco Mall which is the largest in Africa! It opened in 2011.

the large pool with fountains beside the mall

We continued our walk about 500m towards the huge mall but did not go inside.

Christine reached out shortly after we got here; she’d made us a reservation at Rick’s Café but Mark was not feeling great.  She wanted to wait for a bit before they came over to us, hoping he’d feel better after a nap.  At three o’clock she walked over on her own as Mark was not feeling any better and at least we had a visit with her.  She cancelled the reservation and we’ll try for tomorrow.

After a nice long visit, Fran walked her back about halfway to their rental (she knew where we were going to park, so they found a place less than 2km away to stay before they begin their tour on Thursday).  We decided to walk back to the mall to find dinner at the food court that night.  There were plenty of choices and Fran was thinking pizza and we had a decent meal  for a food court.

For a parking lot on a pretty busy road, we slept pretty good. We awoke to a cloudy sky and reached out to see how Mark was feeling.  The plan we made yesterday was to do a walking tour of Casablanca today.

Tonight we watched the movie Casablanca and really enjoyed it.   Rick’s Cafe was created after the movie but inspired by it.  Christine had tried for tonight but the only spot they had was at 9pm and none of us like to eat that late.  So we’ll try for a night after they are gone (or maybe lunch).

That morning Fran took a pleasant walk on the beach at low tide:

After lunch, we took a taxi into the city to meet up with Christine and Mark at a free walking tour of Casablanca.  Youseff guided the four of us and two others (Louise from Montreal and Nicko from Germany) to get to know two of the main attractions of the city.

First was the Medina built in the 17th century; we walked through the souk part to the more residential part where we stopped at a former catholic church, a synagogue and a mosque all very close together.  Back in the day, the Christians, Jews and Muslims all lived together in harmony.  There were many Jews in Morocco and many Israelis will find they have Moroccan blood in them.

We left the Medina by the entrance which was quite fortified and when built was directly on the water but since that time, land has been reclaimed and the port of Casablanca is situated here.

We then walked through a huge mall near the harbour towards the Hassan II mosque which is a floating mosque and the largest functioning mosque in Africa and the 14th largest in the world.   Its minaret is the world’s second tallest minaret at 210m / 689’.

It began to rain just as we arrived but Youseff found us some cover to hide under but it seems the mosque surroundings all drain inland and we began to get wet feet.  When we moved away someone around the area suggest he takes us inside to an exhibition hall where a Saudi exhibit about mosques was in progress.  We spent a good 20 mins inside there before we went back out when the rain stopped.  While somewhat interesting, there was very little English – not even a great deal of French but then it was the Saudis presentation not the Moroccans.

Anyway, we missed the opportunity to peer into the mosque during prayer but we did get to take photos of the outside.  Apparently there are tours of the mosque which non-Muslims can do but only in the mornings.

As the tour ended, we asked Youseff where we could go for dinner and a beer and he suggested around the lighthouse which was 2.5 km away so we walked.  The rain had cooled things off quite a bit and it was quite damp feeling.  When we started the tour it was warm enough not to wear a jacket/vest but by the time we did this walk we were wearing both!

The tide seemed to be in and the entire walk was along the corniche so it we could walked the waves and we saw hundreds of birds flying around and at times, grabbing something from the water.

After a couple of false starts, we found a very nice restaurant with a sea view and had a very nice meal enjoying our first Moroccan beers.

The place was pretty fancy with well-dressed waiters and actually we were surprised they let us in the way we were dressed so casually.  The food was good (pricey though) and the company was great.  We always enjoy catching up with Christine and Mark!

After dinner we tried to get a cab back and after 2 attempts with high prices, the 3rd agreed to 80DH instead of 200DH.  We dropped Christine and Mark off by their hotel after saying our “farewells” and we had the cabbie drop us across from where we were staying.

Must have been the beer and heavy meal we ate last night but neither of us slept that well and Doug’s run did not go well.  We’ll take it easy today and get back on track with eating and hopefully that will help.   It was pretty windy today but the sun came out under pretty clear skies and the air seems clearer.  Fran did another walk on the beach at low tide and we both walked more later on.

Friday morning we awoke to a sunny but cold morning – like 7C / 44F! – a bit of a rude awakening. Doug had his appointment with the cardiologist today so we took advantage of this by using it to do a few things so he could drive there rather than take a taxi.  First we went to a laundromat (Fran tried hard to find a self serve one so she could do herself, and this looked like that online, but it was a full service and the price wasn’t too bad and after some miscommunication with French, she understood that the woman could have it all done (we had two bags) by 2pm so that wasn’t bad as it was already 10:30.

Next we drove to the doctor’s office; Doug was early so Fran went for a walk and after an hour, he was nearly done but sent him for a thyroid test while she finished the report.  He returned to pick it up but it wasn’t ready.  He found out though that the anti-malaria medication we want is not available in Morocco but she gave him a script for something else that we can get.

We had brekkie in Minou, and Doug went back again and was told 15 minutes more so Doug drove Fran to a large Carrefour supermarket then returned to pick it up.  We were back at the camping/parking lot around 2:45, put away groceries, put away clean clothes and made our beds up with nice clean sheets (the latter is always exhausting as neither bed is in an easy spot to make it.

Saturday was another sunny but quite cool day – it was “shower day” but it was too cold in the morning so we waited until mid afternoon.  We did our walking and went to the mall to sit at McDonald’s to use the Wi-Fi.  Not having campgrounds with free Wi-Fi is eating our data quickly – good thing we got 30GB instead of 20!

Saturday was another chilly morning but full sun; after a long lie in (delaying getting up in the cold!) we had our tea and then began the process of going through all our stuff; we want to take some things back to Canada to leave at Josh’s that we don’t need here for the final months in Europe and that maybe we’d take to Australia when we head that way (hopefully in the fall of 2024).  We also have way too many clothes as we had stuff that we had over the summer in the US but did not get back to the trailer to return after spending over three weeks at Josh’s.  We will cull a bunch and bring them to Uganda to donate.

Around 11 we headed back into the big city.  Our plan today was to visit a couple of sites we’d not seen on our walking tour and then try to get into Rick’s Café for lunch without a reservation.  We took a taxi into the city and started at Mohammed V Square (2/3 of it was cordoned off but we could see the Grand Theatre and a small set of fountains from outside the fence:

Then we walked across the street the large fountain:

And where lots of people were feeding pigeons.  Doug loves to do this, so he bought himself a bag and shared it with several people.

Then we walked over to the Arab League Park which is quite big and access seems quite restricted – we had to walk quite out of the way to get out!  It’s very nicely landscaped with a lovely long fountain amongst a row of palm trees:

We walked by the former Cathedral de Sacre Coeur (no longer a church after independence in 1956 and now a cultural centre).   It actually is only called a cathedral but it never had a sitting bishop.

We then made our way through a bunch of narrow streets and markets to the other side of the city to Rick’s Café.

There was a doorman and we asked if they had room and he asked “drinks or lunch”?  so that worked out nicely.

It’s much smaller than the one in the movie but it’s nicely decorated and has the waiters all snazzy with black vests and some with a red fez!  The bar is beautiful and the tables are nicely set.

We each had a drink (beer and a daiquiri) and then a very nice fish dinner (Sea bream for Doug, salmon Maltese for Fran).  They came with veggies and mashed potatoes to share.  Excellently done (although Doug did find he had a few too many bones in his).  It was pricey but worth the extra for the ambience – complete with 1940’s music.  They do have entertainment at night with a live piano player, singer and band (but the piano is a baby grand not the small upright from the movie) but that’s only from 9pm at night.

Upon returning to Minou, we grabbed our laptops and went back to the mall to charge them up and our power packs.  The short days and lack of driving means the batteries struggle to keep up.  We are very good about not letting them get below a certain level to maintain them.

We had our KEGS meeting today in the late afternoon and then spent a quiet evening in Minou.

We have to say, that we really don’t care much for Casablanca itself.  It does have three redeeming qualities:  he lovely long beach, Rick’s Café and all the palm trees – they are just everywhere which gives us a warm feeling inside.

Monday, was a pretty quiet day; other than our usual routine, we spent a fair bit of time online in the McDonald’s at the mall as it’s the ONLY place in this ginormous mall with working outlets!  When we returned at lunch time, Doug arranged to get Minou washed and after lunch we were back at the mall.  When we came back in the late afternoon, another 6 motorhomes/campers had arrived – two from the UK.  We chatted with the one closest to us; Bev and Tom are from the southeast of England and will be in Morocco till March.  We chatted with them again in the morning and we have exchanged “cards”.  They have invited us to their place when we return to their homeland.

It was back to the mall in the morning and after lunch we showered and hit the road to go to the airport where we’ll spend tonight, and leave Minou for eleven weeks.  When we come back to Morocco in early January, we will spend two nights near the airport in an apartment only going to Minou to change out our luggage from Canada to what we need for the next two months.

It’s still quite cold in the mornings, around 5C / 40F and as per the past few days due to the shortening days, our solar panels are not staying charged up (and we’re not driving to help them).  Hopefully the drive to the airport will power them back up enough for tonight (we’ve been sitting in the dark at night watching TV and not charging up things as we usually do except on our power packs).  This also means we don’t have to turn on the furnace as the blower uses power to run.  The furnace itself is of course, propane but if you want the heat to circulate, you need power.  It’s quite okay at night, but it sure would be nice in the mornings!  When we return in Morocco in March, the days will be longer and hopefully not so cold!

The daytime temps with all the sunshine do reach about 20C / 70F but the warm part of the day is short due to the sun not rising till 8:30 and setting a 6:30.

We are all checked in for our flights tomorrow and we’re ready to go!  The only issue outstanding is the delivery of our mail.  Our plan is to drive Josh’s car to Buffalo on Thursday to go pick up packages we’ve had delivered in and from the US which includes our mail.  Fran ordered it to be shipped last Friday via priority post which is supposed to be two-three day service but the tracking info shows it not arriving till Thursday and it could be as late as 9pm which doesn’t work as we have to drop Josh at work on our way to the US and pick him up after work on our way back.  So the appointments we have scheduled for Thursday, we have also scheduled for Friday (luckily there were openings) and we’ll cancel whichever is not going to work.  The tracking is updated every night so we’ll check tonight and Wednesday when we arrive in Ontario to determine which day to go.  The nice lady who receives our parcels (and stores our Honda), has offered to ship the mail the next day if we still want to come Thursday, but with all the holidays over the next two weeks, we are concerned it may not arrive before we leave Canada on the 2nd.  Again, first world problems, right – we can work around this.

Click here for many more photos from our time in Casablanca