Along the ocean coast of northern Morocco
Ferry from Spain to Morocco
We “celebrate” Sonja’s birthday during the crossing from Spain to Morocco on Sunday December 22. Unfortunately, there is not too much of that celebration, we bought a ticket in the morning, the old ticket turned out to be canceled by Direct Ferries, with the promise that a boat will most likely go in the afternoon. We can immediately continue to the queue in the harbor, that gives hope. The weather is nice, the sun is shining and many people are hoping that today, after days of waiting, a ferry will sail again.
Slowly there seems to be progress in the lines of waiting cars, fully packed as befits Moroccan cars that go on holiday. That turns out to be other ferry companies, which is disappointing, not only to us, but also to the other waiting people, especially European Moroccans, clearly show that they are tired of waiting. A lot of honking and sometimes hot-tempered discussions with the officers of the ferry companies and the port police.
Finally, at the end of the afternoon the counter of our ferry operator is finally opened, the line of cars starts to move slowly and we are allowed to board the ferry. So Sonja will get her birthday cruise anyway. Once on the ferry, there appears to be a long line at the passport control that takes place on the boat. We connect immediately, the sooner we get rid of it. A row of men and women is being formed, Sonja is going to stand with the women and I am standing on the men’s side, the faster it gets along, it is said. Well that turns out not to be quite right, we stand in line for the entire crossing and are lucky that we can get on deck just as the ferry lands in Tangier-Med.
Hey, we had that, we can get off the boat fairly quickly and the first check by the police is over, we can go on the road, we think…
Further on we are in a queue for customs, where every Euro-Moroccan car is thoroughly checked and that is painfully slow. People blow their horn impatiently, but that does not help, we are still in the queue for hours and change lanes, that does not make any extra progress either. Once it’s our turn, I have to hand over my passport and car registration certificate to a customs officer, who directs us to a parking space on the side and signals that we have to wait. Some time later he comes back with a passport and registration certificate and a ticket stating that the car can stay in Morocco for 6 months, we can drive on without further checking.
It is now 11:15 pm so we decide not to continue. In the parking lot behind customs there are already many campers parked and we will also stay, open our roof, drink another beer and wine that we brought with us, eat some toasts with cheese and spreads and crawl under our comforter. Good night, that was your birthday, honey …
We wake up with a warm sun on our roof and departing campers around us, we decide to drive to Tangier today, not too far and it seems a good plan to descend along the coast.
The “camping” that we find in Tangier, camping Miramonte, is quite past glory and does not give its best first impression of camping in Morocco, but well we are safe and reasonably close to the city.
We put on our walking shoes and head for the city, a nice walk along the Corniche, the road along the ocean coast. There is a lot of walking, running and cycling here and in the meantime a lot of traffic is rushing by. Here and there a fisherman tries his luck.
We arrive at the new port of Tangier, over the years it has experienced a whole history, the modern harbor buildings and the old fortified city walls are the silent witnesses of this.
We wander through the old city, looking for an ATM and a telephone card. We find out too late that our bank cards should have been put on global cover, we first have to change our remaining euros to buy a phone card …
We can get money with the credit card, but that turns out not to be that cheap, there are € 7.75 in costs with the amount of 2,000 Moroccan Dirhams (= € 193.77).
We buy a SIM card from Maroc-Telecom (50 MAD) and 5GB credit (also 50MAD) and quickly put our bank cards on global coverage so that we can also use them …
Tangier appears to have a very authentic medina, beautiful little streets, small shops with the usual garbage and things that people need and many, many people who walk in and out. A pleasant bustle, as long as you are not tempted by the most friendly men who want to show you the way. We let ourselves be seduced by a young man who will show us the way to the Kasbah Museum and meanwhile guides us through all the places he believes are memorable places in a big detour to the Museum. When we finally get there he turns out not to be satisfied with the tip I give him, 10 MAD, the museum costs 20 MAD, so I think it’s reasonable.
After we walk back to the campsite we absorb the last sun on the terrace of the restaurant Miramonte, which looks a lot better than the campsite. We drink another one on Sonja’s birthday, cheers baby.
Our second stop along the coast is Asilah, a beautiful artists’ town with beautiful murals on the otherwise beautifully painted houses in the cozy medina.
We have lunch in the sun, tasty Tajine and salad with Moroccan pastries as a desert.
We drive a little further along the coast, small villages, beautiful views over the green winter landscape and the Atlantic Ocean, people walking along the road, on a donkey or on a moped, small shops with what you need and here and there a vegetable stall. This is Africa we realize.
Near Larache driving along the lagoon we find a large parking lot on the beach where we can park our car for the night. We have a beautiful sunset on the other side of the city with fishing boats coming back from the catch.
The guard of the parking lot asks us to move our car close to his box so that he can keep an eye on it during the night. That gives a nice feeling, because we are the only campers in this place and quite a few people come for a walk or just sit in the car with a view of the ocean.
We don’t visit the city, we just turn off at the Marjane supermarket to stock up and tank at the Afriquia gas station, then we drive on.
Sonja has discovered in the Lonely Planet that at Moulay Bousselham there is a beautiful nature reserve where many European migratory birds spend the winter. We have already seen many storks along the way, so we certainly believe that and we would like to take a look here.
There appears to be a Camping International where we can find a nice spot near the lagoon. A nice campsite with all facilities, reasonable sanitary facilities, a bit dated and the hot water does not work, but great for a few nights.
We walk through the village and walk onto the enormously wide beach. Here too we are confronted with the disappointment of Morocco, there is an awful lot of junk on the beach, washed up from the ocean and left behind by visitors, this is Africa, but in the superlative.
We see how at high tide the fishing boats sail with the breaking waves into the lagoon, an example of helmsman’s art.
They also have to go through these waves when they go out, with a big blast of gas of their powerful outboard motor, they then bounce over the crown of the breaking wave, impressive!
In the evening we order our Christmas dinner at Cafe Izaguirre, paella with Moroccan tea. It tastes delicious, but we miss some atmosphere …
Mehdya and Sidi Boughaba nature reserve
Because Sonja would rather not enter the lagoon in a rickety boat and there is a second nature reserve further on we leave for Mehdya. We realize that we have been here before, in 2015 with Marc and Saskia we were standing in front of a closed gate of the Camping International. The campsite is now open and in good working order. Beautiful sanitary facilities with wonderful showers and good toilets, a beautiful outdoor swimming pool, in short, a must.
We have lunch at restaurant Abo Fatima, Sonja has grilled sardines and I have a seafood tagine, very tasty, nicely fresh and cheap.
Sidi Boughaba is an elongated lake parallel to the sea, just behind the dunes and hills. There are many different water birds that migrate from the now cold winter regions of Europe, at least we see storks and herons and also a colony of flamingos, even though that is not nearly as big as we saw in southern France… We take a nice walk and again are surprised by the mess left behind, really a shame.
After so much nature and silence, the hustle and bustle of Rabat is overwhelming, cars, mopeds, vans, horse-drawn carriages and taxis everywhere and everything moves together with the pedestrian crossing. This is an experience for every driver …
Relieved we continue our way along the coast and find a quiet wild camping spot right on the beach just before Mohammedia. Apart from fishermen and day visitors, we are the only visitors.
A shepherd walks past with his herd and the sheep seem to wonder about that big red thing that stands in their grazing area.
The mosque of Casablanca
After some rest on the coast we travel to Casablanca, the large mosque is still on our wish list. We walk outside and are impressed by the grand beauty of the building.
We can also visit the interior of the mosque under the supervision of a guide, this is the only mosque in Morocco that is open to the public, according to the guide: “Because King Hassan II wanted it that way, so all other mosques can remain closed to non-Muslims ”.
The atmosphere becomes very special, misterious, when clouds float in from the sea.
We spend the last days of the year in Oualidia, first a motorhome spot in the town where we are visited by fishermen who let us taste their catch.
Later, on New Year’s Eve, we leave for a secluded spot on the ocean where we celebrate New Year’s Eve under the stars and with home-made oliebollen and French champagne.