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We get back to Morocco

March 1st, 2024

We arrived safe and sound in Morocco from Dubai and after short line at immigration, had a long a$$ wait for our luggage.  For some reason they were using two baggage carousels at the Casablanca airport so we each monitored one.  Finally one bag showed up on the one Doug was watching, which gave us hope that all four made it from Uganda.  A little while later a second one showed up and we waited a good long while for the final two that came out on the carousel Fran was watching.  We’d been on an Airbus 300 on this flight which has two floors, so lots of people and lots of bags as checked bags were.

Anyway, we are thankful that all our bags made it and we went through customs and then went to get cell phone coverage.  Fran still had her Maroc Telecom SIM (Doug’s was in his phone that got left behind in Canada) so we bought him a new one, got cash and walked over to the long term parking and found Minou safe and sound where we left her.

We piled all the bags inside, Doug turned on the propane, Fran organized inside to allow us to drive and Doug tried the engine – nope, that silly little solar panel we’d left on the windshield did not keep the battery charged.  No worries, we have the quick charger – well, leaving that sit for 2.5 months, it didn’t have much juice it in either so the airport attendant brought over a vehicle and gave us a boost for 200 dirhams (about $20).

Then we had to go pay our parking fee for 2.5 months – 2858 dirhams – about $282 so not cheap but we felt it had been worth it for a secure lot in Africa.

We drove about 60 km / 40 mi north of the airport  and up the coast from Casablanca to the coastal city of Mohammedia where there are three campgrounds.  We picked the highest rated one from park4night and got in just after five o’clock, stopping for a couple of groceries.

Enroute to the campground we noticed that the price of diesel seems to have dropped since we were here.  In November/December of last year, the price was 14.65 DH a litre and today we saw it under 13 so that was nice.

At Camping Mimosas, you get power, access to dumping and filling as well as hot showers, Wi-Fi and a washing machine.  We wanted a campground for a couple of nights to get things sorted and get the fridge running at optimal temperature – that takes a lot of propane if you go that route.

Tonight we celebrated our return “home” by having cold beer and fresh hot air popcorn with butter!  It was yummy and made for a simple dinner.  We will unpack tomorrow.  We were tired around 9pm and happy to have made it that late as we were three hours behind Dubai and two behind Uganda.

Saturday morning we both woke up having slept quite well.  Fran slept until just before the first call to prayer at 6:30 and Doug awoke shortly after.  We both felt pretty good considering the last 36 hours of air travel.

We spent half the morning unpacking and organizing the cupboards again.  Doug arranged for Minou to get washed right there in the campground while he went to look for a barber and…..

Fran tried to get a load of laundry done but despite making two “reservations” for the machines, it seems people in the campground just nab the machine the second it’s empty and it was after one pm before she got it.  We really did not have many dirty clothes but wanted our sneakers washed and the floor mats in Minou; we did a few clothes that we wanted soon but the mats and shoes took up most of the space. Some people’s children……The sign at the machine says pay 50DH for the use of the machine but it stupidly does not say reserve the machine with the front desk.

The weather here is mostly sunny with highs in the low 20’s C / low 70’sF but dips down nicely at night for sleeping.  We will be making our way northward and we will go slowly before we enter Europe, in the hopes that spring comes early to Spain and Portugal.

The campground is close to the shore but the beach is not great – mostly rocky and lots of cliffs.

Sunday morning we awoke to rain that lasted a couple of hours; Doug delayed his long run and at that point we decided to stay another night here.  We want to slow our roll a bit before entering the EU so our 90 days will start a little later and hopefully, it will be a little warmer as we head north again.

We walked to the local vegetable market in the late morning and then while Doug returned to Minou with our shopping, Fran walked a bit further to the small Carrefour supermarket to pick up the non-produce items we’d need for at least the next couple of days. On the way back, Doug returned to meet her and help with the two bags and we stopped at a bakery for baguettes.  That afternoon Doug worked on our 2023 tax return as he’d received all the necessary documents.  Tonight we were back to our usual dinner meal of a hearty salad and fresh bread.

Monday we awoke to sunny skies but it was cool.  We feel we have adjusted to the two hour time difference from Uganda (three from Dubai but we only spent 8 hours there!). We crossed our fingers that Minou would start having been sitting for 3 days after having a dead battery and she did.  We topped up the water, dumped the tanks and began the drive northward.  Our first stop was outside the capital city of Rabat.  There is not much of interest to us in the city itself but there is an archeological site that dates back to the time of the Phoenicians and Romans that looked interesting.

Enroute we saw this very nice bridge which is some kind of monument as well:

We did notice how clean the city of Rabat is and again, like in the north on the east side of the country, it’s very well-manicured and maintained.

After crossing the bridge we began to hit major congestion and at the next roundabout there was an opportunity to get over to the toll highway so we did that and that moved very well.

We arrived at Chellah and parked only to learn after walking up to its entrance at the walls, that it was closed and had been for four years as they continue excavations.  Bummer.

We took a walk down the side of the fortress and from here had quite a view.  We could see the Mohammed VI Tower – the tallest tower on the African Continent at 250m / 820’ tall.  We got a better shot as we drove by:

And the Grand Theatre which is shaped like the head of a cobra:

Next was a big Carrefour store to get all the items Fran didn’t get yesterday so we’d be good for a few days.  We actually found everything on the list and continued further north to a Shell Station rest stop where we spent the rest of the afternoon and night.  Enroute to there, we were stopped by one of the police at one of the many checkpoints and got a ticket for doing 70 in a 60 zone – cost $15.

The station has a big parking lot in the back behind the restaurant that has a pool and a playground.  We’d read that it cost 20DH but when Doug asked, he was told it was free.  Maybe someone will show up later when they realize we are staying the night.

We both went for walks and upon returning saw a Dutch motorhome parked in the lot too.  Later a French van and a German unimog arrived.  It was a pretty quiet night and we were not close any mosques so no calls to prayer – bonus!

More photos our first few days back in Morocco can be found here.

We left the parking lot early as we wanted to do over 150 km / 93 mi today to reach the outskirts of the coastal city of Laroche.  We chose to use the toll roads again.  There were three tolls: one for 22 DH; one for 65 DH and the last for 18 DH – a total of about $10 so not too bad – nothing like the tolls in France.  Here there was an archeological site called Lixus that dates back to the 8th century BC when it was occupied by the Phoenicians.

We arrived and there was a large bus there with a load of school children all speaking Spanish.  We noticed they were basically just running around, laughing, picking the wild flowers (which were amazing!) and generally not paying any attention at all.  They did not seem to have a guide or anyone telling them about the site so we were not sure why they were even there.

Lixus is an ancient city founded by Phoenicians (8th–7th century BC) before the city of Carthage. Its distinguishing feature is that it was continuously occupied from antiquity to the Islamic Era, and has ruins dating to the Phoenician (8th–6th centuries BC), Punic (5th–3rd centuries BC), Mauretanian (2nd century BC–AD 50), Roman (AD 50–6th century AD) and Islamic (12th–15th centuries AD) periods.

Such a far-away place was subject of myths, the garden of the Hesperides with the golden apples of and the palace of Antaeus were said to have been here. By its vestiges the archaeological site reminds us of a long phase of the ancient history of the country, it also reminds us of thousands years old legends about Okeanus the Roman ocean god, Hercules and the three golden apples, the legendary fight of Hercules and Antaeus, Theseus slaying the Minotaur, and about Hercules separating Africa from Europe. 

Phoenicians first settled in Lixus in the 8th or 7th centuries BC and the city had become part of a chain of Phoenician cities along the Atlantic coast of ancient Morocco; other major settlements further to the south are Chellah and Mogador. When Carthage’s empire fell to Rome during the Punic Wars, Lixus, Chellah, and Mogador became outposts of the province of Mauretania Tingitana.

 Lixus retained its strategic importance, especially under Juba II and his son Ptolemy. Its industrial complex was created during the reign of Juba II, and it was the largest and the most important in the entire Mediterranean. Fishing and viticulture were the city’s main economic resources, which can be inferred from the bunches of grapes and tuna which adorned their coins. The port of Lixus played an important role in Atlantic trade as the hill of Tchoummich corresponds perfectly to the conditions sought by the Phoenician sailors, whose economic activities were closely linked to the sea.

The last of the Moorish kings was assassinated by the Roman emperor Caligula around 40 AD. From then on, Lixus would become part of the Roman Empire, more precisely the province of Mauretania Tingitania. By the third century, Lixus became almost fully Christian and there are even now the ruins of a Paleochristian church overlooking the archaeological area. 

Lixus became a colony under Claudius (50 AD) and it retains an amphitheater and a forum from that period. The city would retain this status until the beginning of the 5th century. With the arrival of the Romans, the city acquired new administrative, social, religious, and economic structures. During the Roman period, the city maintained its commercial vitality, thanks to fishing and salt factories. This economic development fueled an important urban and architectural evolution.

The site has four major excavations that can be seen: a palace sector, an amphitheatre and a residential sector but is best known for its fish salting tanks.

We had hope to have a guide to take us around but there didn’t seem to be any.  All the signage is in French and Arabic – even in the Museum.  At the museum, we did get an English pamphlet but it was not that informative.  We were able to decipher some of the French but we did not learn as much as we could have.

First we saw the fish salting tanks which were quite impressive.

The fish-salting and garum-manufacturing workshops complex had 23 closely-spaced vats (cetariae) and functioned from 40/60 CE to the early 6th century CE. The factory had a salting capacity of over one million litres, making it the largest garum producer in the western Mediterranean. The production of salted fish from these factories in Lixus was exported to several places in the world via the port.

Then we wandered uphill to the amphitheatre with the public bath remains beside it:

Next was the residential area with great views:

And finally the palace area:

The site of Lixus and the city of Laroche are on the Loukkos River which is the third largest river in Morocco despite being only 100 km / 60 mi long.  Its source is in the Rif Mountains and it flows out to the Atlantic in a very meandering fashion.   It contains one of the most fertile and productive agricultural lands in the country.

So we spent about an hour here.  We had decided we’d head to the small city of Assilah where there are a couple of campgrounds near on the coast which we hope will have a nice beach to hang at for a while.  As we’ve come north nearly 200 km 125 mi north of Rabat, it’s a bit cooler but still sunny.  Doug wanted to do one of his long walks the next day (he likes to do them on Wednesdays) and this fit in just fine.

We arrived at Camping Echrigui and it was pretty full (mostly French of course) and managed to get a spot and they even squeezed in a few more later but thankfully we are not all jammed in like a parking lot – everyone has some outside space.

This place offers power, hot showers, slow Wifi, a washing machine as well dumping and filling access for 90DH a night (less than $10).  We got parked and plugged in and went to find the beach access.  So the campground is located across the road from the corniche and the beach doesn’t look bad at all.

We returned to Minou as it was quite windy and we were not dressed warm enough.  We spent the afternoon chillin’ and Fran arranged to do some laundry in the morning.  We’d see the forecast was sunny for tomorrow and rain the next five days!

It was definitely cooler last night for sleeping when we awoke on Wednesday but the skies were clear and Doug set off on his walk around 7.  Fran went to the office to drop off the bag of laundry (the owner is very is very protective of his machine and wants to run it himself).

Instead of waiting around, Fran went for a walk on the beach:

And then entered the medina for a bit taking photos as it was still early in the day and not many people were around:

Many people left the campground today but it’s nowhere near empty.  For some reason they have cordoned off our side of the place and all new campers are parking in the larger section.

Turns out the “guy with the key” is the owner and he didn’t show up until nearly 1 pm – Fran considered not even doing the laundry because she wasn’t sure it would dry and the rain is expected tomorrow but she did it anyway.  She was not sure how long he’d been there but the bag of clothes was still sitting there.  He took her to the locked room, he put the laundry in and turned on the machine and told her it would be done in an hour.  Well in an hour, he was not around and she had to wait about 45 more minutes for him to return to unlock the door.  She had already set up clotheslines in the space next to us and quickly got it hung up.  After shifting it around some during the next couple of hours to keep clothes in the sun, everything was dry by five o’clock except a pair of jeans so it worked out in the end.  Even though it reached only 23C / 76F today, the sun is strong and the air is pretty dry.

Doug got back from his marathon walk mid-afternoon and felt really good about it – and only one blister!

Although we awoke to clear skies on Thursday, the clouds did move in around noon and it was raining as forecast by 2 pm.  Doug went for his run, Fran did her yoga and then did a beach walk around 10:30.  The wind had really picked up and it was a slog back in the headwind.

We noted that many others had left the campground and Doug went to check with the office to see if we could move to slightly higher ground.  Where are camped is quite soft and we were worried about flooding.  He was told yes the middle area can get quite a puddle/pond on it and we could move wherever we wanted so after lunch we moved to the other, larger part of the campground.  The rain lasted a couple of hours and it didn’t rain much overnight.

Since the weather was supposed to turn wet again today (Friday) by midday – we both got our walks in before lunch.  Doug tried to get to a supermarket to buy some more NA beer but it wasn’t open yet; Fran went a bit later and it was open and she managed to snag the last six they had.  Ramadan starts in a few days and no alcohol will be sold during that time but we weren’t sure if that meant NA beer as well.

It rain on and off again much of the early afternoon and then it was pretty dry with plenty of sun and it dried up a lot of the puddles around us.  Since the weather was good we went for a walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner on the corniche.  Sadly no beer but the burgers and fries were surprisingly good!

The rain started on Saturday in the early morning and we awoke to no power.  Seems water must have gotten in to the plug between our short extension and the piece that goes into the RV.  It was melted and there burn black burn marks on Minou (luckily these wipe right off).  Doug went over to the office and even luckier,  they had a new RV plug with short cord for 100 DH (about $10).  Phew – we have power again so when it gets damp and cold inside we can warm up with our electric heater and not use the propane furnace.

Doug went out for a run around 9 as it was no longer raining and was supposed to be only cloudy till noon.  Fran went out for a walk too in this window but it was raining again within the hour and it rained on and off the rest of the day.   The temps do reach the high teens during the day and the low teens overnight so it’s not really cold, just damp.

Today we have both reached (Doug a few days ago) the 1500 day mark on our Duolingo app – not bad, eh?  We to 10-15 minutes of Spanish each day (morning and evening) and it keeps it fresh in our minds.

During a dry spell, Doug worked on the toilet cassette which is leaking slightly ie if you don’t close the latch just right inside, sometimes it leaks from the bowl to the cassette – not a huge deal but a little annoying.

That afternoon it cleared up nicely and we decided to go out for dinner on the corniche.

On the way back we took a selfie on the corniche:

The puddles around us are growing.  It’s supposed to stop raining midday tomorrow so we hope to get out of town and head north towards Tangier with a couple of stops.  The plan is then to do a big shopping there and catch the ferry back to Spain in a couple of days.

Tomorrow, March 10th is the beginning of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. It is a commemoration of Muhammad’s first revelation; the annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and lasts twenty-nine to thirty days, from one sighting of the crescent to the next.

Fasting from dawn to sunset is obligatory for all adult Muslims who are not acutely or chronically ill, travelling, elderly, breastfeeding, diabetic, pregnant or menstruating.  They do eat a predawn meal is referred to as suhur, and then a nightly feast that breaks the fast is called ifar.  The spiritual rewards of fasting are believed to be multiplied during Ramadan. Accordingly, during the hours of fasting, Muslims refrain not only from food and drink, but also tobacco products, sexual relations and sinful behaviour, devoting themselves instead to prayer and study of the Quran.  

 We understand during this time that alcohol cannot to be sold or served and that business hours can be shorter than normal.

We awoke to clearing skies this morning and the puddles seemed smaller so it didn’t rain much overnight.  Doug got us unplugged and we tried to start the engine. Nope – no dice so we had to use the jump starter.   It’s been hesitant since we got back and we think we might have to replace it.  After morning chores and dumping, we left the campground and headed north along the coast.  It was a beautiful drive with lots of views of the coastline and beaches.

Click here to see more photos of our time in Lixus and Assliah.

We crossed the river on the Mohammed V bridge :

Our first stop today was Cape Spartel, the most northwesterly point of the African continent.  There is a parking lot here and a lighthouse and a museum.  It was too early for the latter but we parked and then walked over to the large terraced area with views:

We then headed back down the road a little ways to reach Hercules’ Cave.

Enroute we passed a pull out that showed a sign showing the divide between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea so we had to stop for that photo:

We parked on the street and walked into the site.  However, we only had  200 DH note, the entry fee was 120 for us both and the ticket man said he had no change,  After letting a few people pass in front of us, he still claimed to have no change and we said, screw it, you don’t want our business and left. We did stop on the terrace here for more views:

Next was a stop to visit the city of Tangier but first we stopped at a Speedy Auto to get Minou a new battery and some wiper blades.  Then we found a large Carrefour to do a final shop in Morocco and made our way toward the city.  Here we found a replacement for our small extension cord that got fried.

We parked along the corniche in a large secure pay lot and walked into the Medina.  At the entrance we went in we saw the mural depicted above.

We had three things we wanted to check out.

First was the American Legation – this IS the only National Historic Site not on US soil.  (Note:  despite showing her National Parks Pass – we were informed it was not accepted here.)

The legation was established on May 17, 1821 following decades of cordial relations between the two countries.   Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah had issued a proclamation recognizing US independence from Great Britain on December 20, 1777, making his nation the first to do so.  The building was gifted by the sultan to the U.S. government to serve as a diplomatic post, for which it remained for the next 140 years.

After Morocco’s diplomatic capital moved to Rabat in 1956, the building served a variety of government functions, before gradually falling into neglect and disrepair. In 1976, former U.S. diplomats established the nonprofit Tangier American Legation Museum Society to restore and preserve the structure; the site has since served as a cultural center, museum, and research library, concentrating on Arabic language studies.

We walked into the Medina and made our way looking for lunch and the Legation.  We stopped at one restaurant but the waiter took so long we gave up and went straight to the Legation.

The visit here took about 30 minutes and it began to rain while we were inside but stopped shortly after we left.  We tried to find a place to eat again and then gave up – we were not interested in Moroccan food as the meals are too large.

While walking we booked our ferry for tomorrow.

Next was the tomb of Ibn Battuta – we found this plaque next to it.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Battutah (24 February 1304 – 1368/1369), commonly known as Ibn Battuta, was a Maghrebi traveller, explorer and scholar. Over a period of thirty years from 1325 to 1354, Ibn Battuta visited most of North Africa, the Middle East, East Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, the Iberian Peninsula, and West Africa. Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, titled A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, but commonly known as The Rihla.

Ibn Battuta travelled more than any other explorer in pre-modern history, totalling around 117,000 km (73,000 mi), surpassing Zheng He with about 50,000 km (31,000 mi) and Marco Polo with 24,000 km (15,000 mi). There have been doubts over the historicity of some of Ibn Battuta’s travels, particularly as they reach farther East.

The final point of interest was to see the Kasbah which we found but were not overly impressed:

We returned to Minou and drove 70 km / 45 mi via the toll road (cost 28DH) to a gas station that allows overnight parking.  It’s very closer to the border so a quick getaway tomorrow morning will get us back into the EU.

Here’s a link to more photos of our time in Tangier.

It was not the quietest night, not so much for traffic as there was not a great deal but there were a few dogs that barked for a few hours in the middle of the night.

We left at about 7:30 am for the 10:30 ferry – we will lose an hour as we cross the border back into the Spanish part of Africa at Ceuta.  We arrived at the border at 7:45; first the police check your passports; then it’s customs handing in our TIP card for Minou and then an inspection – this took about 20 minutes; a man, not in any kind of uniform either, search the vehicle using a flashlight and tapping on walls, doors and tires with the handle end of a screwdriver (so sophisticated) and then a dog does a walk through and then the first man asks Fran to lift off the couch cushions so he can see underneath.  Finally, we get “released” and at the next booth is immigration where we get stamped out for the last time from Morocco.  This took like two minutes which seemed weird because everyone in front of us took much, much longer.

So long Africa – until we meet again!

In Morocco we drove 4113 km / 2555 mi in total.

We really enjoyed Morocco and would recommend it to others.


Fun facts about  Morocco:

  1. Morocco has a Blue City (Chefchaouen) and a Red City (Marrakech).
  2. Morocco was the first country to recognize the US as a country.
  3. 99% of Moroccans are Muslim
  4. Morocco has seven wine regions but it’s hard to find alcohol.
  5. It’s only NINE miles from Europe!
  6. Morocco has one of the oldest monarchies in the world – since the 12th
  7. There is one ski resort in Morocco: Oukaimeden – the highest in Africa.
  8. Argon oil comes from a native Moroccan tree.
  9. Morocco has the best preserved and largest active medina in the world.
  10. Fez is the home to the oldest existing educational institution in the world.
  11. Morocco is the largest exporter of sardines in the world
  12. The national animal, the Barbary lion, is extinct.
  13. In the hot summer, locals like to bury themselves from the neck down in the dunes at Merzouga – said to be good for rheumatism.