Into Africa (August 2013)

 

We are sitting here on sofas next to a pool that we have for ourselves on a beautiful little campsite ca. 15km north of Meknes while deciding to do something useful and update the blog. 🙂

We have been in Morocco for 10 days now and are absolutely loving it. The landscapes are varied, the people friendly and welcoming, the heat sometimes oppressing and the towns and markets full of life.

It took us more than another week to drive along the Italian, French and Spanish coast with a little detour through the Pyrenees to Algeciras. For a second time we were stranded at the side of the road and had to find out that the valve between first and second tank is not functional anymore. Apart from that we enjoyed some beautiful drives especially in France and finally took the ferry to Tangier Med in Morocco.

One day was spent exploring Tangier and its Medina which was a nice introduction into Moroccan city life without many tourists around. Unfortunately we had some trouble finding the camping spot we wanted to spend two nights on. As soon as we entered Morocco our GPS kind of gave up on us and left us trying to navigate our way through the crazy traffic of Tangier by compass. We had taken a pretty late ferry and spent around 2 hours after dawn getting lost in the city center hitting the same huge roundabout twice. Imagine 4 lanes of cars coming from 4 different directions and blindly driving in the roundabout to be stuck for the next 10 minutes honking, suddenly accelerating and sneaking their way through to an exit. Buses stopped on the lanes to let out people and taxis doing the same to get new customers. It certainly was an experience in itself but we were relieved to eventually find our way to the camping. By the way the same roundabout is being directed by a couple of police men during the day and perfectly manageable. 😉

After Tangier we headed south to the busy seaside town of Asilah with little art galleries and live music in the streets. Here we tried our first Tajine, different vegetables and in our case chicken cooked over a low flame in a ceramic pot with a conical lid. It was delicious and we will definitely have it again. 🙂

We didn’t linger and moved on to Tetouan where we spent a nice day in the souks and Jasmine got herself some handmade leather sandals. Chefchaouen was our next goal, a little town at the beginning of the Rif Mountains famous for its blue washed Medina. We loved to stroll through the little streets and up and down endless stairs of blue and see the locals go about their businesses without being bothered about our presence or trying to sell us something.

Having been warned before about a bit of hassle driving through the Rif Mountains, one of the biggest hash producing regions in the world, we decided to take on this route anyway. The mountains itself were very enjoyable but the actual hassle was stronger than anticipated. Virtually everybody we met on the whole way was running on the street trying to sell us kif. Cars flashed their lights at us, honked and abruptly came to a halt trying to get us into buying their product. All of that would have been fine if it weren’t for the tough cases of the hash dealers that were following us for miles, overtaking and thwarting us in sometimes dangerously curvy spots. All that hassle made it a bit difficult to enjoy the surroundings as we drove through endless fields of marihuana dotted with expensive villas.

After spending a night in an olive grove shortly after the Rif it was time to explore Fez. Being known as the most complete medieval Arabic town and one of the most important cities of Morocco throughout history we were very excited to get lost in the labyrinth of alleys and souks. We were true to our plan and walked through most of the old medina Fez el Bali in the first day. The smells of spices, leather, colorful pastries and fruits mixed with the less charming smells of the tanneries, old fish and feces made every turn and new quarter memorable. A freshly pressed orange juice or homemade lemonade here and their kept the spirits up until we were one of the few people still walking about while all the shops closed and merchants went to snooze in the shade, drink tea and smoke kif. The day after was spent in a museum which was mainly interesting for its architecture and mosaics as well as ancient pottery, carpets and clothing. Before that we took a petite taxi to a tomb overlooking the city with houses cramped next to each other on the one side and empty rolling hills on the other.

So that’s how we came here to this beautiful little campsite from where we explored the Medina of Meknes and the Roman ruins of Volubilis. We have had our fair share of cities for the moment and next destination will be Azrou before we head further south into the Middle Atlas until we hit the fringes of the Sahara.  We are looking forward to the cool of the mountains and hopefully some hiking. 🙂

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