Morocco: "from Casablanca going south"

Casablanca
Thanks to Humphrey Bogart, the name of Casablanca has a magical undertone, but we didn't like this city very much. Agressive atmosphere, lots of beggars and madmen, pickpockets, street rows and last but not least a big quarrel in the bus. 
A pity, because Casablanca is a nice city with broad lanes, many terraces in the shadow of huge palm trees, the biggest mosque outside of Arabia and a great soukh. 
The marina is under construction, so the boat was berthed 25 km to the north in Mohammedia. Here we had to do business with a harbour master who came shopping daily. We gave him cigarettes, but the whisky was out of stock, sorry. 

Anti-terrorism fee
We had to enter the commercial port of Jorf Lasfar instead of El Jadida because of (at last) heavy winds. It was here that we had to pay the "ISPS fee" i.e. 90 euro's, for costs that are made to prevent terrorism in big ports! This fee is applicable to all boats, thus also to yachts. After extensive negociations we only had to pay the harbour dues (5 euro's). 

El Jadida
A cosy harbour with very friendly people. We went by bike with Ahmed (the gatekeeper) to the extremely crowded soukh, the medina, made an appointment at the hairdresser's (his nephew) and went to the supermarket.
The name of El Jadida means: the new town. But it is also a beautiful town. The Portuguese fortification is indeed magnificent; a complete town with a cistern that has been decor in many movies. PHOTO 1
When we were in El Jadida, the ramadan ended. Party time with lots of food: sweets and couscous. Ahmed's mother cooked for us, and it was very different (and much better) than any couscous that we tasted before. 

To Marrakesh by bus
“Take the train from Casablanca going south” (Marrakesh Express, CS&N 1969).
So did the hippies 35 years ago, but we went by bus. Four hours to Marrakesh and four hours back, not very comfortable but definitely another great experience. Nice to see the inland country: brown earth and brown stones.
PHOTO 2
“Colored cottons hang in the air, charming cobras in the square, striped djellebas we can wear at home...” it's all still there.
Marrakesh is a Berber town, and you can tell that by the warm colours of yellow, orange, red and indigo you see everywhere
PHOTO 3 . The soukh is gigantic, like Harrod's but everything on one level. PHOTO 7
We hired a licensed guide at the tourist office and he showed us the nice spots. There are lots of interesting things to see, feel and taste, such as
PHOTO 4+5+6 gardens, palaces,
beautiful alleys PHOTO 8 , stench and noise. Traffic is formed by buses, cars, bikes, motorbikes, pedestrians, handcarts and donkeys, so you'd better watch out! 

Almost stranded
The Oualidia Lagoon (such a beautiful name!) is located 45 miles south of  El Jadida. According to the Imray pilot (ed. 2000) this is a great spot to drop your anchor. This may have been true in 2000, but not anymore. We entered the lagoon in calm weather at half tide, but stranded!! The boat heeled 30 to 40 degrees! Where 4 to 5 meters water was expected (LLWS) we found not more than 1.60 m. Fortunately the bow turned just in time in the right direction, JW gave full throttle with the gas handle and we got away with it. No Blue Lagoon experience, no paradise. Get out and keep out!


Safi

On to Safi, 30 miles to the south. We got some wind now so we could sail, a small consolation. The big consolation was of course that the boat was not damaged. We could have lost her easily!!
Safi is a commercial port, not cosy but the fishermen's quay is next to town. Busy fish market, where we bought 1 kg of sardines for 1 euro. Marinate them in olive oil and course seasalt and grill them on the bbq... delicious.


Essaouira

PHOTO 10+11 Busy fishing port but rather touristic (lots of Europeans). Nice pottery and woodcarver's craftsmanship in the medina, as usual. Lots of fish on the quay and almost for free. 

The contrast between the busy port and the sometimes very boring moments at sea (when there is no wind) is immense.
PHOTO 12

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