The days are slipping by here, tied up in the Bouregreg Marina in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. We are finally back with the international cruising community, it is certainly the united nations here with the French outnumbering all of us, Australia flying four flags, New Zealand and America represented with 3, then we have Canada, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Finland and Austria – and we are all heading for the Canary Islands then on across the Atlantic in December, there have been a few dock parties already to get to know each other.
We have been exploring both Salé, where the marina is situated and across the river in Rabat. It’s all very interesting - the medinas, souks, Kasbah,, the wail of the prayer call, it’s easy to remember that we have moved onto another continent. The local medina just a couple of minutes up the road in Salé is still surrounded by the original city walls, in excellent condition hundreds of years on. Inside is a maze of tiny alleys, hardly a foreigner in sight (just the odd lost cruiser!!), the hustle and bustle of modern day life across the river in the capital city has hardly touched here – it is a world away.
One day we ventured out of town and visited the local pottery co-operative. It was a large group of buildings that you could wander through and watch all the processes take place, starting with them shovelling the clay into wheelbarrows, bringing it inside where it got mixed with a little water, divided into big slabs and then placed on various wheels and turned into all manner of shapes and sizes. Different outbuildings housed the painters, glaziers, kilns, and rows and rows of pots and plates lay baking in the sun. We are not talking modern industry here, not a conveyor belt in sight, just people power. We watched several men load a truck (in the photo) with pots and plates, it was overflowing then they still added more – utilising even the space above the cab. Then a net was thrown over to ‘secure’ it all, I imagine the percentage of breakages is very high.
Across the river in Rabat is a true blend of the old and new. A modern motorway bridge spans the river and an excellent clean, regular and very cheap tram system is an easy way to get around. The ville nouveau district has wide boulevards and classic French buildings are a reminder of the years of French rule here. But then you walk downhill into the ancient walled medina and souk area and you are transported right back into the heart of Morocco. There are literally thousands of little stalls selling everything you could ever need, the trick is in finding the right stall!!
As you move through the souk the produce, meat and fish markets display an interesting and often unrecognisable array of products. There is a section selling gold, another with dozens of stalls just selling perfume, another lane is full of women's underwear, another with woolly blankets! Finally you move through to the almost touristy end, much more orderly and clean it is overflowing with colourful Morocco carpets, artwork, jewellery, pottery and leather products. But the best thing about the souks here in Rabat is the stall owners don’t hassle you at all. Mark had such a look of horror on his face as I stopped to look at a carpet, then actually touched it – the Egyptians would have taken that to mean you wanted to buy it, the Turkish were a little better but we definitely would have been drawn into their shop for apple tea to start the buying process, but here- well the stall owner just ignored me, I admired the carpet and carried on my way, amazing. It just makes wandering through the souk so much more enjoyable.
Just outside the medina walls and guarding the river entrance on the southern side is the Kasbah. Kasbah are fortresses, just like the small walled medieval towns we have seen throughout Europe. We have seen a few Kasbah now but they have all been empty so it was a real surprise to see that this one is still home to a large community. We felt like we had been transported back to a cute Greek Island in the Aegean, all the buildings were white washed, with boarders of what we always called Med Blue, for now renamed Moroccan Blue. The tiny lanes were swept clean, potted plants framed doorways and bougainvillea added a wonderful splash of colour.