Tag Archives: Rabat

Inside the Orient painting

Color. Yellow color of the walls, blue – of houses in Medina. White, in the sun sometimes blinding, – of mosques. Modest brown and mournful black – of older people dress. Bright and tempting pink and violet – of young. Incredible and numerous colors of bazaars, of mosaics that’ve been here for centuries.

Palitra of colors – this is Moroccan painting. An artist from Rue des Consules (where the craftmarket is) draw it and sells to us in his gallery. His small shop belongs to a cat family. Actually, all Morocco belongs to cats. It’s the biggest and the most desperate clun. Its members are everywhere: hiding fearfully under cars, messy and dirty, wandering between tables in street cafes, examining pedestrians from windows and roofs.

An another Moroccan “tribe” looks happier –  street artists  sing on streets of the ancient fortress-town Kasbah des Oudaias, which walls face the ocean. They play traditional instruments and entertain people, spinning the long brush on their heavy round hats. Local busketers look like those in Paris, Moscow, Koln, Cape town and all over the world: cheerful, relaxed, talkative.  And sharing: their art, good mood and happiness. Simple and beautiful.

The gate Bab Chellah – a magic access to the old town Medina. If we turn to the left, we would find ourselves in the mess of Chinese market, run by Arabs and spread for not less than a mile. If we turn to the right, we would enjoy traditional craft of Morocco, whatever your soul desires, from brasses, carpets and Oriental caftans to musical instruments, lanterns and pottery. Make your choice, take your time.

Venders kindly greet and offer their goods. Venders know what is hospitality very well here. Real hospitality, with a genuine smile and welcome.

I met hospitality from everyone except guards of Palais Royal. I was politely expropriated from all three gates I tried to enter. Later Kamil – my volunteer guide and new friend in Rabat, whom I met on a street,  – explained me that only Moroccans have right to enter the palace. The amount of national flags – red canvas with a star in the middle – near it made me suggest it’s still a residence –not a king, but a president nowadays.

Kamil took me to the Maussoleo de Mohammed V, which tower teased us right across the river from our yacht-club. Mohammed had taste: his last shelter looks subtle and nice, reminding more a palace than a death chamber. Guards in traditional clothes on the entrance were busy, making photos with tourists. I felt myself almost like in Agra (probably, I would feel : )

Kasbah des Oudaias is a fortress of ancient times, infused by artistic spirit of times contemporary. Not only musicians and cats feel themselves at home here. Tourists stare on beautifully decorated doors and walls, painted in bright colors. Shadow of exotic gardens – pride of Rabat.

In the narrow passage of the fortress my arm was caught by a woman. She wanted to make me… an injection. In fear I ran away: I thought she will inject me a drug. That was just henna, that is used to paint on surface of hands.

The garden of Kasbah

Hm… and another disappointment: cards that we bought on market for 10 Dh (about 90 cents) in the fortress cost 2 Dh… To be a customer in Morocco is a skill that demands knowledge and character. You won’t be “robbed” by vendors – but being self-confident and eloquent can save 50% of price.  It’s a game – not for victory tho, but for pleasure. And some profit could be.

The ancient walls of Medina that "host" a big open-air market

For 100 Dh we bought spices and mint tea – traditional drink of Morocco. Now we have enough tea and spices till Brazil.

In the restaurant of Kasbah the waitor served another traditional dish – bakery. It deserved the best mark from us, sweet-eaters. 10 from 10 in the rating of “Vagabond”.

The kitten relaxing in a restaurant of Kasbah

We go to Casablanca. Noone of us watched the movie. We have no idea what is it famous for.

We went along the coast, enjoying view of resort towns full of summer houses. Looked similar to Costa del Sol. Or Cote d’Azur. Some poor clue houses were also around. Horses and donkeys grassed nearby. Rural scenes of Marocco made me remember Namibia. We stopped on the road to buy some fruits.

Casablanca, probably, is famous for its industrial zone. It’s huge, dirty and overpolluted.

We wandered on the market of Casablanca. This time we made a brief inspection. Local market is bigger than Rabat’s. But the most famous city for shopping is Marrakesh – 150 miles from Rabat.

Probably, Casablanca is also famous for traffic jams. We were lucky to get out of the city before being completely stuck. By the way, to be a driver or pedestrian in Morocco you needn’t know anything about rules. Just pray for good luck and go. Because no one cares. If the rules exist here, no one uses them. Including road police, who deserve a medal, trying to organize this mess somehow.

Welcome! Bienvenue! Marhaban! مرحبا

Back to the darkness, humid and chilly.

That’s not a warm wrap of Mediterranean, but cold squeeze of Northern Atlantic ocean. I do not complain: this night is summer vacations if to compare with Baltic or Northern seas in autumn. We’re in 12 hours till Rabat, the capital of Marocco. This country has been luring me for a long time.

My history of getting to Marocco:

Plan A: This spring I was planning a trip to Marocco but, due to financial situation and upcoming long-lasting journey, cancelled it.

Plan B: Another chance had appeared, when we arrived to Tarife this September. It takes 35 minutes from this Spanish town to get to Maroccan Tangier. But boycott of our freezer closed this way for me too – we went to the north, to Cadiz.

Plan C: Chris got an idea to avoid Canaries and go along the coast of Eastern Africa. I was excited. But reports of Noonsite brought me back to Earth: Marocco – dirty towns, no facilities, bribes, long-lasting bureaucracy procedures, possibility to be robbed, no anchorage… what else… So we returned to the first suggested route of “Vagabond”: Canaries – Capo Verde – Brazil..

A sailor suggests, but the last word is by weather. And it promised to be tough in two days. We didn’t have chance to reach islands before strong wind will come. We needed a break in the middle of the distance. And the only option was… Marocco.

…Far in the fog – shores of my dear dear Africa! We’re in 16 miles from the land of Marocco! 13 miles of sea from a shore belong to the country. But here they are already, the police of Marocco – military, pretty scary ship. Polite “hello” and the question that made us suspicious about the reason of their visit: “Any problems?” Potential reasons of problems were already overboard, so we didn’t have anything that could interest them. ..did I say anything? : )

Chris explained them that we’re going to Rabat for a couple of days. They welcomed and left. Looks like they just ordered their assistance. Or prevent us from entering inner waters if we are not “all right”, not to cause problems to both sides.

The hospitable shore of Maroccan capital

I expected much from Marocco. I’ve never been to Arabic countries before. Still, I kept in mind, that Marocco is much more touristic (read: tolerant) than, for example, Oman, where Chris had not the best experience of his journey.

We expected much… and our expectations were generously regarded with kind welcome we met.

Gulls sailing a boat. Behind the feathery "fishermen" there're buidings of a new fashionable district in construction.

Rabat has a new channel and a marina that are not displayed on old Crisa’s version of MaxSea. Was thrilling to watch how “Vagabond” first reached the riffs, and soon ‘turned” into vehicle, passing through the space, pointed by MaxSea as a land. We called the marina Bouregreg and asked for assistance. Soon the pilot arrived and led us through a narrow channel to the entrance.

First that you notice – friendly interest of locals. In the estuary two men – one swimming, one sailing – pointed us the right direction, before we asked. Fishermen from their picturesque boats were waving us welcome.

Colours of fishermen' boats create cheerful mood

Guys in the marina spoke English, along with local Arabic and French. They smiled and were extremely helpful. So were migration officials! The procedure took less than an hour. Moreover, we were told all – pass (that substitute visa for sailors) and check-it – check- out – are free of charge!

The marina is well-equipped, with clean showers and WiFi (not very fast, tho). Guys in Capitanerie do their best to help us with all formalities, point all important see-sights and facilities and answer all questions. Guards are neat, friendly and talkative. There’re plenty of them on the quay and near the gate – looks like this place is really safe to stay.

There’re plenty of shops not far from the marina. Prices made a pleasant surprise: twice lower than in Spain. For example, full cake cost 6 euros. Another nice invention was the price of diesel: 70 cents per liter.

Tram station to the Old town Medina is right in front of the marina.

In several hours before departure to Rabat I started to try different ways of wrapping myself. Being guests, we were going to show respect to local religion and traditions, covering our arms and legs. But locals appeared much more tolerant and relaxed than I expected. At least at their attitude to travelers. Moreover, many of local women (especially young) are dressed in very European style: jeans, T-shirts, leather coats, even summer dresses. Hair is loose or in pony tail, without any cover. Probably, women start to dress more modest traditional way after marriage. Anyway, I saw many Arabic couples, dressed very casual way.

Young people having fun in Mausolee de Mohammed V

Men are very nice, helpful and even gallant. When me and Aimee went for a walk together, we didn’t feel any inconvenience at all.

Soon departing to the Old town Medina – and craft market of crs! Can’t wait : )

The wall of the Old town - Medina

1000 and 1 …troubles

In Tarife we met Dominic – a sailor from Belgium, who adores Brazil. He couldn’t miss a boat with Brazilian flag – not a frequent quest in a small harbor of Tarife. Dominic works as a guide of whale and dolphin watching tours, taking excited tourists to the Atlantic for the adventure of their life. www.turmares.com

Arabic spirit infuses the whole town.

Dominic became our guide too – he showed us around numerous bars and pubs of old Tarife. Bar crawl started with calamari, continued with alco drinks, accompanied by crying of flamenco singers, finished on the boat with psychological discussion and smoking session. The evening was all right.

In four days the wind calmed down. But we were destined for Cadiz… The freezer died.

Actually, time in Tarife (and Gibraltar in the plan A) we devoted to preparations for Atlantic crossing. There was much stuff to fix, like pasting holes in a sail, checking the engine, cleaning winches, repairs of a deck table, fixing a loose rudder… And freezer. It theory, we could feel it with ice and buy more cans – some sailors do round-the-world trips without the freezer. But that was considered the last option.

As you understand, the master, who knew all about yacht freezers, lived in Cadiz…

…Autipilot wasn’t in list. It was another unpleazant surprise. But in Cadiz it decided to join the freezer. We were not glad of idea to steer 24 hours a day, 21 days consecutively.

Another unpleasant one was that there were no technicians in Cadiz. But we were still lucky: we found one in a small town in 3 miles from the city center – Santa Maria. Here, spent 15 minutes and 300 euros, we resurrected capricious electronics.  We are ready for departure.

The quay of our marina – artistic maritime Spain

Another news waited for us… On our way to Canaries we could be caught by 35 knots wind, the latest weather forecast indicated. We decided to stop somewhere between… in Rabat, the capital of Marocco, for example. What about Arabic fairy tale for night?

Our almost neighbors – the copy of the ship of the 16th century. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to meet the crew and kindly ask for a tour.

Cris on his site www.mundovagabond.com wrote a post about “gender” of a ship, a yacht. I can’t not agree: in amount of troubles SHE can be compared only to us, women : )