Ahh, Day 4, what an interesting and adventure filled day this was.
We started the morning off in Casablanca and visited the Hassan II Mosque before jumping in the bus to head off to Rabat for a few hours and then on to Chefchaoen which would be our base for the next two nights.
Nothing like starting off the trip with a chunk of driving. All up only about 350km today but one thing the mainland Australians needed to quickly get used to was the fact that we were not driving in our wide brown land. Yes, Morocco may also be a wide brown land, but this is a wide brown land with different patterns of road use and road users. We would get there when we got there and that is one thing that it took some fellow travellers a while to get used to this concept. Aunty Margaret as the resident Tasmanian on the trip is quite used to the notion that yes a distance may be 300km and yes the speed limit may be 100km/hr but the odds of you actually doing that for the majority of the trip are not the highest 😀
Back to the start of the day though, we were only in Casablanca for two nights, but I quickly adored watching the changing light, colours, sounds and traffic on the beach at Ain Diab.
The “only” reason that our trip was starting in Casablanca was so that we were able to visit the Hassan II Mosque.
We arrived early and were some of the first groups to have a tour for the day. It was quite lovely to be able to enjoy the plaza area before it was filled with masses of other tour groups later on in the day. Yes, the buildings are absolutely amazing but, my favourite features were actually the fountains in the plaza. The combination of the Zellij with the water was just magical. After exploring the plaza area, we entered the mosque and after having some time to absorb the detail and craft work that went into building and decorating the mosque, we joined the English speaking guided tour of the mosque. It was quite interesting to see how the guides from the mosques waited in various parts of the mosque collecting their charges as each guide ran the tour in various languages – English, French, German, Arabic etc.
After we exited the mosque, it was back through the plaza to our little bus to start the drive to Rabat. I meandered back to the bus a little bit too slowly as I had lost sight of other members of the group and got side tracked taking photos. That was the first time and I’m pretty sure the last when I was the last person back on the bus 😀
The drive into Rabat was glorious and if there was only one thing, I could have changed about the trip itinerary as it stood would have been to have more time in Rabat. We had a tour of the Kasbah of the Udayas by a guide who lived in the Kasbah, whose family going back for generations had also lived in the Kasbah. We then drove up to Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V for a walk round before heading to Dar Rbatia for lunch.
The below image is one of my absolute favourites of the trip and is now actually sitting in a frame on the sideboard in the living room. RED is short for Redal which is a services provider in Morocco, behind these RED embossed plates are water and electricity meters 😀 The juxtaposition of the word red on that Moroccan blue paint just gets me every time I look at this photo. I can feel the chalky roughness of the paint on the cement. I can see the blue shining in the sun. I can almost hear the hub bub of the sounds of the streets.
After a late lunch (another thing which the Australians would need to get a little bit used to), we started driving again, leaving Rabat at about 3pm to drive, drive, drive. We drove through large tracts of cropping agriculture mainly of grain and melons. We drove through towns of various sizes, all with their own white stork nests, we drove past roadside stalls, a salt producing area and of course grazing agriculture.
When we drove through one of the melon cropping areas, someone asked what type of melon it was, to which Brahim, our guide responded with water melon. This then caused a response from the bus that no, it was not water melon but a different type of melon eg like cantaloupe, honey dew etc. No Brahim responded with, it’s water melon, to which the bus tried to explain the difference in types of melon and that whilst these all may be melons, a water melon is only a certain type of melon and is not interchangeable with melon. I can confirm now that the melons we saw in the fields and markets and on our plates to eat was Canary Melon. This was a very lovely melon to eat and I am thinking about seeing if I can grow some in my garden.
Shortly after leaving Souk El Arbaa at about 5:30pm, we left National Route 1 and started driving along a secondary road (R408) through to Ouezzane where we hit National Route 13 and zoomed up to Chefchaouen where we arrived at our hotel (Hôtel Atlas Chaouen) at about about 7:30pm. It was quite magical coming into Chefchaouen in the twilight seeing the blue of the town glowing by street lights.
However, what I have not spoken about yet is the demographic make up of our little band of travellers. We numbered 16 Australians, ranging in age from me at 34 through to the early 70s. Whilst me at 34, helped to bring the average of our group down, the median age was much closer to the 70 end of the distribution line then the 34 start of the line…. This meant that there were more people with shall we say quite set preferences as to what time meals should be served and also what a meal should encompass. A general group preference for dinner at no later than 7pm was going to be an interesting and sometimes contentious part of the rest of the trip. Suffice to say, we had dinner very quickly after arriving so that some of the hangries were quelled.
Now for a momentary flash back to this very lovely painting in the foyer of our hotel in Casablanca. Is it not just simply beautiful?
And that is a wrap on Day 4 of Helen goes to Morocco. Tomorrow brings my birthday and our first “bush walk” of the trip 😀