Jack's travelblog

From Moorish architecture, gardens and the blue city to the Mediterranean

Sunday, 2024 February 11

Today we do a city walk. Essaouira is an ancient city that was founded or at least visited by the Phoenicians. Then came the Romans, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the Spanish and of course finally the French. Not much remains of these bygone times. We see the Portuguese tower at the harbor and the later added wall. There is still a fort from the Portuguese period on the island off the coast. The rest of the fortified town appears to have been designed by a French architect. It looks much older, but apparently it isn’t. We walk along the harbor and see some fish, most of it has already been traded. Craig also wants to walk some more and we walk along the beach to the end of the bay. Beautiful beach and stunning views. Dinner on the roof terrace of fish restaurant Il Mare with views over the ocean. The sun is slowly setting and the sky is coloring beautifully.

Monday morning looking over the ocean from the old wall with the old cannons, of Spanish and Dutch make. A quick tour of the city and then to the bus station for the long-distance bus to Marrakech. When we arrive, we follow Mohamed and take the city bus to the old center. The local guide explains a lot and introduces us to the street food. First dates and sweet cookies with Moroccan soup. Tasty. Then on to the tea place. Here we drink mint tea with a kind of fried donut, but not sweet. Quite greasy. On the large central square we taste cookies and see how some monkeys have their picture taken on a belt with (local) tourists. We do not participate in this. A quick visit to the market and then the bus back to the hotel. The horse carriages are also lined up at the bus stop, and here too animal welfare seems to be a concern.

Some of us managed to get tickets for Yves Saint Laurent’s Majorelle Gardens. Lots of bamboo and cactus, all bed borders, ponds and the pavilion are indigo blue. Some pots are yellow or orange and that makes it special. Furthermore, the limited garden is fully raked and in perfect condition. Nice to see and half an hour later we are outside. That’s fast. We then decide to go into the old city and via 7 Saint Square, with a thousand taxis, we arrive at one of the city gates and are now really in the old city. We walk through the souks and decide to visit the Secret Garden. These old Islamic gardens have recently been restored to their former glory. Actually there was nothing left. Now it is beautifully green, with some water features. After lunch we say goodbye to half the group. In the afternoon a visit to the old city, via Cyber ​​Parc Arsat Moulay Abdeslam. The Koutoubia Mosque borders the park and is currently being renovated, like many buildings in Morocco. It looks like it will also need some reinforcement, probably because of last year’s earthquake. I walk via rue Lalla Rkia to Bab Agnaou, the old richly decorated city gate. Beautiful. A little further, under the Bab Rob gate to take a few snapshots of the snowy mountains in the distance. Back into town. The Moulay El Yazid Mosque has wooden struts and is out of use. Just to the south are the Saadian Tombs. These restored buildings are richly decorated with wood carvings, tiles and plasterwork. Again a lot of Islamic decorative art. Beautiful.

Wednesday breakfast and goodbye to Ann, Diana and Craig. When I get to the station the train to Fes is already waiting. There are four ladies and a little boy in the wagon. Intensive care nurse Chaima chats easily and talks about the complaining patients and poor hygiene in the regional hospital. Clearly different from what she learned at university. She has to leave the next town and then I have a conversation with Asma. She is a unit manager for aircraft and office food and regularly travels through Morocco. She loves to travel and regularly travels with her husband and children, including in the Netherlands. She thinks that in 2 centuries the world will be the same everywhere and everything will look the same. Headscarf or not, she has a progressive view of the world and certainly also has an interest in women’s rights. Before I know it, half of the 7-hour journey is over. Since one of the ladies has a smartwatch, we can see that the air conditioning is not working and it is about 36.4 °C in the compartment. They also find this warm.

It is still quite chilly this morning. By taxi to the old center of Fes. Here I get off at Bab Bou Jeloud. Walk across the enormous square that borders it towards the city wall, back and through Bab Mahrouk as a gateway into the city. This part of the city has a maze of streets and they all end in dead ends. So via the same gate across the market to the Bou Inania Mosque. Beautiful Islamic art, the courtyard is surrounded by beautiful wood carvings. Beautiful doors, decorated ceilings, fountain in the middle. Absolutely great. When a bus of Chinese arrives, I have to wait a while before peace returns. Then back into the alley. Directly opposite the mosque is the water clock from the 14th century. That is to say, it is being renovated, so the bowls that normally stand on wooden beams are missing. Still beautiful to see. I follow the alley deeper into the medina. This dead end at the Madrass al-Attarine, right next to the oldest university in the world. Worth a visit and again a gem. Now a slightly smaller courtyard and again beautifully decorated facades and floors. On the upper floors there are old studies and monks’ cells. Some have a view of the courtyard, others of the adjacent university. Nice to see the green roofs, the white tower of the mosque and some of the facades. Beautiful. The local guide, earlier on the trip, should not have withheld this from us, especially because we walked past it and the university is closed to non-Muslims. I walk through the alleys past the tanners to the other side of the city. A taxi takes me back here. That afternoon I take the bus to Chefchaouen. It is almost empty, about 6 chairs for each person. The ride goes through the mountains and it rains regularly outside. Super green environment here. On the way we stop for lunch, which I don’t need, but coffee is in order. Onwards again and we arrive in Chefchaouen around 6 pm. The hotel is located in the old town and in the evening I walk around.

Go back into the city when it is light and enjoy the blue alleys. Endless blue painted alleys, there seems to be no end to it. Many photos later I made it halfway through the old city and ended up at the waterfalls at the end of the city. There is not much water, but it is still nice to see. Then visit the castle in the center. Not very special, but nice. Further through the city. Discover more blue alleys and then I stop by the supermarket and go to the hotel. Calling my brother Wim on the roof terrace for his birthday. Have a bite to eat around the corner on the covered terrace. The neighbor across the street is, as befits this tourist village, quite aggressive in recruiting customers. They are not above lying about each other’s restaurant. Fits in with the lax attitude of the hotel owner and the boys who sit in the street on their cell phones and occasionally sell something.

Saturday looking for the taxi stand. This appears to have been moved to the bus station. Here I appear to have to wait a while until there are enough people who also want to go to Akchour. We are only missing 1 person and if we pay 5 DH, 50 euro cents, extra we can hit the road. Great deal. We meander through the mountains for 45 minutes. Beautiful views through the green mountain landscape until we arrive at the beginning of the “village”. First a row of tourist stalls, most of them still closed, and then some restaurants where the BBQ is already smoking. The route begins a little further walking. First the artificial waterfall and then a path past the necessary terraces and tents. The river drops off quite nicely and there are small waterfalls everywhere. The terraces with chairs and tents are everywhere and last quite a long time along the route. Every now and then the path goes up from the river and then walks along the river again or crosses it. After an hour the tents become fewer and largely missing, even near the river sites. The river is now suddenly dry. The sand is still wet, but no more running water. Further up the mountain and it even starts to get warm. Today is a perfect hiking day as it will only be about 16 °C. More than enough in the sun and certainly uphill. More beautiful landscapes, the gorge is green and high mountains on both sides. In total, the elevation difference of the hike is 400 m down and almost 800 m up. I hardly meet anyone during the last part and then finally the end point. A small restaurant, unfortunately with tables and chairs everywhere, but fortunately not in front of the waterfall. No one to be seen, except the owner. Take some nice pictures and enjoy the waterfall that comes down the mountain. The limestone rocks provide a beautiful picture. The waterfall, as it were, slides down and only releases 15 m above the ground. Great place for lunch. Just a mint tea and then to another viewpoint, which is slightly higher. Also beautiful. Some more people have now arrived. Still only a handful. Top. Back is a lot easier and is still very beautiful. I return to the village around 3 pm and go to the taxi spot. Here you have to wait a while until the taxi is full and then back to Chefchaouen.

In the meantime I have booked the bus for Tangier for 6:45 PM. Although everyone has a seat number, the Moroccans appear to sit on the bus fairly randomly. Darkness falls quickly and there is not much to see. The first load goes out at Tétouan and we continue straight away. When we arrive at the bus station, the taxi drivers are already pushing and asking for the top price. Nightly rate. Sure. When I get in, the taxi driver asks again whether, the reduced price, is indeed 40 DH. Then you know enough. But I am at the hotel around 10 PM. At the reception it appears that the reservation did not go well. In the end I get a suite, with several rooms and a huge roof terrace.

Breakfast nearby and via Terrasse des Paresseux with the old cannons past Gran Teatro Cervantes, which is covered in scaffolding. A view of Burj des Irlandes, an old fortress wall with white houses on top. Through the fish market and a visit to Place du Grand 9 Avril 1947, with the beautiful palm trees. Through Jardins de la Mendoubia into the old town. A stop at Musée Dar Niaba, the old French Consulate, where there is now an exhibition of art and especially paintings. In the garden there are beautiful orange trees, full of oranges and tableaus with glazed tiles. On to Place Petit Socco and to the boulevard. Along Borj Hajoul and Borj Dar Al-Baroud. Then the tourist bus along the coast. We see the beautiful blue water and on the other side Spain and Gibraltar. The first ten minutes stop is at Cap Spartel. Nice view and funny lighthouse. Along beautiful beaches, which are still a bit too cold, especially with today’s strong wind. Finally we arrive at Grottes d’Hercule. More of a fairground attraction. Back at the harbor I walk along the boulevard along the sea. Continue up the park to take a look at the Phoenician Tombs. Many young people hang around here to enjoy the view. Apparently they don’t see the tombs carved out of the rock. Cultural barbarians. They do some justice to the Roman name Berber. Towards the city, past Borj Ben Amer, through the old Kasbah. Nice alleys, annoying rude old “guide”. Enjoy the view at Bab Al Bahr and then visit the Musée d’Art Marocain and Musée d’Archéologie. Actually a connected museum. The Moroccan art is disappointing, but the old stuff is worth seeing. Beautiful building too. Visit the Jardin du Sultan and then slowly return to the hotel via the old town with all the shops.

Monday, the last morning in Morocco. In the main street I grab a taxi and it drops me off at the station. I take a look here, but I soon find the Grand Taxi stand and almost immediately the taxi to the port, Tanger Med, is full and we go. The road runs along the coast and after 45 minutes we arrive on site. I have to look where to enter, but the local police show me the way. Through the scanner and to the counter. Convert the reservation into a ticket and then go through customs. I’m already at the terminal at 10 AM. Everything went much faster than expected. Then we can take the bus to the boat at 11:30 AM. Get out and walk onto the boat. The luggage is allowed in two containers as a kind of luggage storage. The boat leaves before 12 noon and we are quickly out of the harbor. The weather is beautiful and Gibraltar can already be seen on the other side. This beautiful trip in Morocco is already at it’s end.