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Published: April 22nd 2019
Al Houceima is well off the beaten tourist track but coming here gives you first hand insight into Riffian life, as this is the beating heart of the Rif region of Morocco. The bus from Tétouan was supposed to take 8 hours but in the end it was closer to 9. That may sound like a bit of a nightmare but it was reasonably comfortable, not too full, and the driver stopped at appropriate times for toilet breaks! What more could you ask for? The route took us back up to Chefchaouen, but it only skirted the town, then through the dramatic mountains until finally dropping down to the coast. Seeing the sign saying there were only a mere 32km left to go was quite a relief. At Al Houceima the bus station is quite a way out of town but you'd be mad not to take a taxi from there as it's all uphill.
We stayed in the Hotel Perla
which was fine but there's some pretty extensive refurbishment going on and they were working from early morning until almost midnight so we were not too chuffed about the noise levels. Our plan to stay three nights was thwarted as
the hotel told us they were full. We hardly saw another soul so we wondered if they were going to close to complete the refurbishment. Breakfast looked a bit dire for €5 too, just pastries and coffee as far as we could make out. Instead we walked over the square to the Cafe La Belle Vue,
which had a glorious view over the bay and a great breakfast for just over €3.
The hotel is well located for exploring the upper part of the town. The huge Place Mohammed V becomes a bit of a playground around dusk and you have to avoid children riding around in miniature cars. There are also some cool fountains which, if set to music, could be put to good touristy use. Steps lead down to the beach from there and the road continues a little further to the port. It was quite photogenic, but Russ was eventually spoken to by the director of the port, and the police, and asked not to take photos. A bit late by then!!
At the top of the cliff is a pretty mosque, and following the path along the clifftop from there brings you to the Corniche Morro Viejo.
It's a bit tatty, not very long, and bits are still under construction, but it provides some breathtaking views over the water and across the port area. From there we went back to the main road and walked downhill to the bus station. A short path from there leads to Calabonita beach where we sat with some mint tea before getting a taxi back to the hotel for a siesta, hoping the workmen would be taking a break too!
A focal point of the upper town in Place du Rif. CTM
have their offices there so we decided to book our onward bus tickets with the national carrier. The art deco Hotel Villa Florida sits proudly on the place
but we would imagine it's a bit noisy to stay there. We found a lovely restaurant there for some kebabs and tagine at shockingly low prices. The reality is though that there is not a lot to delay you for more then a couple of days so we were pleased we were unable to extend our stay at the Perla.
Instead we booked a night at the Al Hoceima Bay
hotel a few kilometres out of town. Although it wasn't too
far away, we had to take a petit taxi to the bus station and then a grand taxi further out of town to the hotel. What we found there was a nice, comfortable hotel in the middle of a building site next to a very bleak beach. Perhaps it has a warmer feel in the summer. The hotel was lovely though and the three course dinner was good, followed by beer and football at the bar!!
Just in from the scruffy beach there is a 2-3km walkway hidden from the sea by large dunes. It was a bit grey and chilly, and blustery wind did nothing for our walk, but we got the exercise we needed. Just offshore are three small islets, all controlled by Spain. Two are uninhabited but a military barracks houses Spanish troops on the Penon de Alhucemas. It seems so close you could touch it, but venturing into the sea at this time of year would be inadvisable no matter what your motivation is. At one end of the beach are a series of chiringuitos
(beach bars), some of which were open and cooking kebabs during the day. The weather prevented us from seeing if
they open at night but we suspect not at this time of year.
Although it was a bit grim, you can blame much of that feeling on the weather we had. The hotel was, as we've said before, lovely and a welcome retreat from some of the more down-at-heels places we have stayed in. If you venture out to this part of Morocco, it's definitely worth a night there. A grand taxi was summoned to the hotel and we caught our bus from the main bus station heading further eastwards. The adventure continues...
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