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Published: February 15th 2019
We’re jolted from deep sleep by the 6.45 call to prayer from the muezzin who sounds as if he’s standing at the foot of our bed with a loudspeaker. But we manage - miraculously – to go back to sleep before enjoying the best breakfast of the holiday. Everything is homemade, even the jam, and there is enough food to feed a small army. Yogurt, apple compote, omelette, French crepes, Maroccan pancakes, bread and cake. We overeat!
It’s time to walk off some of the breakfast. The Portuguese quarter is only five minutes away. It was once a small island, but the landward side silted up so it’s now a small promontory. It has thick ramparts which we walk along, enjoying bright sunshine and good views. Within five minutes we’ve taken off our sweaters, which is a first for this holiday. The streets are mostly deserted apart from small groups of schoolchildren who are being taken on outings to see the ramparts and the Portuguese cistern. This is a large vaulted underground chamber which was used to collect rainwater in case of a siege. Red marks a metre or more high on the walls show how high the water reached
at full capacity.
We stroll briefly along the beach, which is pretty empty at this time of year apart from a few groups of lads playing football, but gets crowded in summer. We search out the concrete breakwater we saw from the ramparts, thinking there will be a good view back to the citadel, but in fact the view is disappointing. As we walk back, we pass a huddled group of men paying some sort of card game, and chance upon the old Jewish cemetery. As with most Moroccan towns, El Jadida had a thriving Jewish community until the 1950s when most of them emigrated to Israel. The cemetery is large, with over 1000 graves, mostly inscribed in Hebrew and Spanish, as the Jews fled from Spain in 1492 when they were expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella, and Spanish remained their main language in addition to Hebrew.
Time to retreat to the rooftop pagoda at our riad, for a cup of tea and our books. Having decided to dine in tonight, we realise we need to change a little more money, so we head out to the bank. At this point we realise that Friday prayers are still
in full flow, and both the small alley leading to our hotel and the larger one it leads onto are full of men and boys, all listening to the imam's sermon through the loudspeakers. The next door mosque looks big but clearly is full to capacity. We pick our way through somewhat sheepishly, Sara in particular feeling as if she has intruded into the mosque, but nobody seems to object. David makes to take a photo of the serried ranks but Sara kicks him in the shins and tells him not to. The roads are almost deserted, but the food stalls are still open and we buy some fruit for the journey home tomorrow. As well as the larger stalls, there are women sitting on the roadside with a small array of home grown produce laid out for sale on a cloth – a few litres of milk, a handful of vegetables or herbs and, in one case a fine turkey tethered by one leg. He’s still there when we return – maybe this will be his lucky day.
On the strength of the excellent breakfast, we have dinner in the riad and enjoy a tuna terrine, pastilla fruits
de mer and a huge crème caramel. All absolutely delicious and a fitting end to a great holiday.
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