Morocco - Rabat & Casablanca, November 2010

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Africa » Morocco » Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer » Rabat
November 21st 2010
Published: December 19th 2010
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The next day we headed to the Moroccan capital of Rabat, our main goal being to gain Visa’s for Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. After a longish drive we turned off the main highway and drove down a long clay road surrounded by lightly forested land on both sides. We soon found a suitably isolated spot and set up our bush camp – which was to be our home for the next 3 nights. On arrival we all trudged out into the forest and brought back hoards of firewood – a task Martin was very adept at and thoroughly enjoyed – hunter-gatherer and all that! It’s amazing how much wood can be accumulated and how quickly when there are 22 motivated people on the job! As this was our first ‘real’ bush camp (no toilets, showers or electricity!) the atmosphere was both chilled and excited.

The following day we headed off to the Mali embassy and dropped in forms and passports before parking up at the Marjane (we are visiting this Moroccan supermarket chain as often as we can – while we can! Supermarkets are quickly going to become a rarity in West Africa. Ahhh the simple things....). Dispersing into the city, the both of us and Tim headed up to the walled medina, which was fairly small but really laid back. The people are friendly and it’s fun just wandering around. We were also desperate to find some sort of laundry (we found out this is ‘masbana’ in Arabic) as several of us had done hand washing in Fez and then been rather disappointed it hadn’t dried and were now carrying around large black sacks of washing quickly turning a bit rank! Laundry found (Tim’s French is a great bonus! Emilie, we definitely should have hit you up for French lessons!!) we dropped it in, ignoring the pretty exuberant prices and headed off again to wander the medina and Martin and Tim both bought jellaba’s (Jedi robes!). Bunny was stoked to bargain down a wooden jewellery box to under half the starting price. :-) After this we stopped off at a local coffee house where we found great mint teas and coffee are served for miniscule prices – awesome! Later that afternoon we headed back to the truck at the Marjane and then back to bush camp for campfire pizza and the night, Mali visa’s in hand – woohoo first visa’s down!

The following day, we’re back in early and handing our documents in to the Burkina Faso embassy hoping for as quick a turn around as the Mali visas (especially as they’ve just hiked all their prices up – ouch!) We parked up at the Marjane again and have a little while to kill so Bunny got out chalk and drew up squares at the back of the supermarket carpark, we also managed to buy a ball a few days ago and get that pumped up for ‘Four Square’ (or Hand ball) which is an instant hit. Great to get some exercise in!! After a couple of hours of that, and Burkina Faso visa process started, we drive up near the Kas Bar and since it’s actually pretty warm today get our tents out on the roof of the truck to give them a bit of airing. That done, we head into the Kas Bar with Tim and Marc which is small but interesting. Martin and Tim get their first wet shaves – for less than 2 Euro each too! Understandably a little nervous at first with the local guy handling cut throat razors at their necks, they both come out smiling and ‘smooth as baby bums’ as the saying goes. Also indulged in some freshly squeezed orange juice from a street vendor........ superb! We went back to the medina for a walk around, found Jane, Lindi and Miranda and then a local restaurant where we managed, amidst much confusion, to order lunch and then discover we’d all eaten each other’s dishes. Ahhh these are the good times. Went to pick up laundry at the allotted time of 12 and had been loaded down with more eager peoples black sacks of washing to drop off. Took a while, but everyone’s washing is in now and we have part of ours back – rest to be collected at 3pm. Ventured to the bank to swap some more Euro (should have just brought British pounds to swap here to save two lots of currency exchange – but all good in hindsight). Anyway, got to the bank which – according to hours on the front door – should be open...... but the door is locked. Peering through the front windows we see the bank workers clustered around an ‘Avon’ type woman selling makeup. Ha ha! Oh to be able to shut up shop whenever you feel like it.... came back an hour later and managed to get it sorted though. Then it was back to our spot in the forest for another bush camp and one of the cook groups whipped up a fab Moroccan soup we still want the recipe for!

Back at the Marjane the next morning, it’s time for Mauritania visa’s today which could quite possibly be some of the most difficult. We were supposed to drive right through Mauritania but when we were still in the UK, the UK Foreign Office issued a travel warning to avoid all travel to the country. Our new plans are to drive to Nouadibou and then fly from there to Nouakchott to skip the most risky part of the journey, then we’ll drive the rest of the way from there. Hasty (Grant), our driver, is going to drive right through so we’re all very appreciative – he may have to employ a police escort to get him through safely – we’re still waiting to see. We’re going to make up time by adding Senegal to our itinerary and driving through that way to Mali so that’s the good news – Senegal should be really interesting! Anyway, still need visa’s for the rest of the drive through Mauritania, so they’re up today. However first Andi has some more changes for us – civil unrest in the countries we’re travelling through is throwing our proposed (though ‘rough’) itinerary into disarray all over the place – bugger. The UK FCO is now warning no travel to various areas in Mali, several of which were on our itinerary including Timbuktu and the Dogon County. Bugger. Bunny in particular had Mali and especially the Dogon County very high up on her list for this trip. There is some talk between the Aussies and Kiwis that we will break off from the trip and go anyway if we can – depends if our governments have also issued warnings. Will see how we go. Andi and Grant have mapped out a new route for us to take anyway. It’s a little exciting that we are having all these changes because of the crazy places we are going, but just a shame about this particular area that I had so been looking forward to. Ce la vie. Back to the Marjane in the morning, Martin and I do some shopping for cook group and more marshmallows.... always marshmallows ;-) Then we head up to find wifi, someone says it’s free outside a particular hotel so off we go but can’t find a connection. We decide to visit the Mausoleum for a look around while we’re in the area and that’s quite impressive, glad we went up to see it. From there we went back to the medina, which we are beginning to feel we know very well and find an internet cafe to catch up on a few things. While still waiting for Mauritania to come through for us, we have time to grab some lunch and snacks from the supermarket again (basically spend money on a whole lot of snacks we don’t need!!) Then, yay, third visa’s acquired, it’s time to leave Rabat and by this stage we’re all looking forward to seeing a new area of Morocco.

Next up is Casablanca, we have a rather lovely drive mostly along the coast to Casablanca, or our campsite 28km out from the town. It’s lovely to be on the beach again, though still a little too cold for swimming. We take a break from our tents for the two nights and get a room with Ian and Kirsten. Bunny spends the evening re-sorting her luggage and getting an early night in a real bed while Martin stays up and is entertained, along with the others, by another group of travellers staying at the same camp and getting hit on by a gay kiwi guy when he goes to collect firewood.

We weren’t expecting a lot from Casablanca the next day, hadn’t heard great things previously but we parked up near the Grand Mosque which is one of the largest mosques in the world and really rather impressive. We then had a wander around the local medina, and then found a really lovely cafe which was like an oasis in the town. The cafe was built in a converted fortress, so had an impressive front entrance and also included a gallery of paintings and pencil drawings ... and possibly the best, cleanest bathrooms in Morocco! Spent a while there with Tim, Ryan, Kirsten and Ian. Afterwards we went in search of the famous ‘Rick’s Cafe’ from the old film ‘Casablanca’. We managed to find it, (well a replica of it!) and there was nothing else for it but to order ‘Gin Martini’s’. Ridiculous prices but guessing we will probably not be in Casablanca again so was a fun thing to do. The atmosphere was definitely reminiscent of the film – classy and distinguished (we were underdressed in shorts and tshirts); Falcon had a Cuban cigar and we whiled away a few hours munching on bar snacks and getting sozzled on gin drinks.

So, by passing our time in cafes we managed to while away a thoroughly pleasant day in Casablanca. Andi was delayed returning to our carpark at the Hassan II Mosque, so we had another epic game of 4 Square before finally heading back to our camp by the ocean. Bunny’s cookgroup whips up another divine feast of home-made turkey burgers followed by Apple crumble, all cooked over the campfire; we didn’t realise it’s Thanksgiving in the USA so Falcon, as one of the three Americans with us starts dinner with a Thanksgiving speech – which was heartfelt and lovely. ;-) The next day we were back on the road heading to the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the imposing Todra Gorge.

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