Morocco: from Tangier going south

Normally one sails from Portugal via Madeira to the Canary islands. But we were seduced by Morocco and entered this country through the front gate. 


In Tangier we were welcomed in Dutch by a fisherman. Yes, his sister lives in Amsterdam...  But first of all there are the formalities: lots of paperwork with intimidating policemen. You have to be extremely polite and well-informed about procedures. We were given shore passes on which our position on board is stated: JW is "capitain", P is "tourist". Such is life here.
There is also some corruption. Police and custom officers won't bother you much if you offer them some "bakshish", like a packet of cigarettes. But you have to be careful, because you have to present it as a small gift, as a token of appreciation. It is a game, and you can get angry about it but that won't help.
The medina, the traditional Arab town, is extremely picturesque, and you can loose yourself easily in the many narrow streets winding up the hill.
PHOTO 3 In the soukh (market) the produce are fresher than fresh. Splendid beef, vegetables and great fish. Sardines and dorades of course, but also giant swordfish and shark... Herbs, olives, sticky sweets, it is all irresistible. 
Only 28 miles from Tangier but very calm in comparison to the busy town. 
Very friendly and helpful people, there is no water nor electricity available, and also no gasoil but the head of police arranged this for us. 

November was ramadan time. All restaurants and cafés were closed until sunset, and in the villages most shops were closed as well. Those who do not work, just hang around between hours of prayer in the mosque, to which they are called five times a day by an Arab voice over a loudspeaker. But in the evenings the streets are crowded.

Moroccan people like to get in touch with other cultures, but they simply do not have many chances. Thus it happens frequently that someone asks us polite if we please want to make conversation.

Hospitality is unlimited. If you ask a Moroccan if he knows a nice restaurant for you, fat chance you'll get invited to his own home and dish! 
This happened to us, but as they live at night during the ramadan, dinner would have been served at 0100 AM, and we had to get up early at 0500. Pity.
Although entry at night is not recommended, we gave it a try. According to the pilot book, there should be lots of lights and transits, and we have radar. Plus: it is high tide. 
But the characters of the harbour lights are not correct (compared with information on our charts), and even worse: we could not find any of the transit lines. And there are a lot of sandbanks that tend to shift...  Fortunately the pilotage answered our call on VHF and guided us into port (in French) while we were monitored on radar. We moored alongside the Gendarmerie Royale so they could keep an eye on us while guarding us.
The formalities were again extensive but we have the impression that their main goal is to talk to you for a moment, just to see what kind of people you are. 

On the fish market we saw a swordfish of two meters l
PHOTO 6, which was definitely too big for us. But a nice monkfish made a great dinner!

As all villages, Mehdia consists of two parts: a luxurious neighbourhood for the more wealthy (one of the homes is named “Villa Pays-Bas”) and a kasbah for the ordinary people. Unpaved sandy roads with on either side fruit stalls and bread sellers. In the evening the streets are crowded with people, and men are having coffee in the many cafés. We met two fishermen there, and we talked a lot and afterwards they took us back to the boat; by Mercedes! 

We left the next morning and all fishermen waved goodbyel.

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