Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Adventures in Morocco: Rabat and Salé

While I’m doing laundry before our day-trip into Casablanca, I’d better start to catch up with what we’ve been doing since we arrived, especially since we’re probably leaving tomorrow.

The marina (Marina Bouregreg) is on the Salé side of the river that divides Rabat, which is the capital of Morocco and relatively westernized, from the older, more traditional Salé. When we arrived, our pontoon was filled with boats with English-speaking people. Not just Juno, who we met in Gibraltar, but also Squander (British flagged with an Australian owner/skipper, another Australian crew member, and a woman crew member from Portland, Oregon), and Sunflower, another Australian boat that is spending the winter here with the crew on board. A day or so later a big U.S. boat, Moonshadow, and another Australian boat, Gone with the Wind, came in. On the dock we can chatter away at will. Ashore is a different story.

Looking back at the harbor entrance with Rabat on the left

Our first full day here we got approximate directions to the ATM machine from Sunflower. (The marina is lined with guards, many of them armed, but they speak Arabic and French, not English.) So we headed off to get some local currency, the Moroccan dirham (MAD), and take a look around. We found the entrance to the medina (the walled old city) and had paused to look around when I heard someone ask what we were looking for (in French). Delighted to understand the question, I told the young man we were looking for the bank (also in French), and he asked in English if we spoke English. (Yes, my French is that bad.) I was very happy that he spoke English until he led us through a maze of little streets to the ATM and then kept hanging out around us wanting to show us the mosque. John thought I shouldn’t have talked with the guy as it was becoming obvious that he was looking for a paying gig as a guide. That would have been OK, but his English was only marginally better than my French. We finally bid him a farewell that stuck at the covered market. “Not today” did the trick. We got what we needed, wandered around the medina some more and found our way back to the boat, but I was a bit daunted by the experience. Salé is definitely a Muslim town in Africa, and we’re not in Europe anymore.

A fish vendor in Salé medina. No, we won't be buying anything there.

The next day we walked into Rabat with the crew of Juno to visit the National Archeological Museum, have lunch and take a look around. This excursion restored my confidence a bit. I’d taken some notes about street names from Google Maps, and we found a hotel where we asked for directions and scored a map of sorts. When we were near where we thought the museum should be, we saw some sort of building with armed guards, and I went up to one of them to ask directions. From there it was easy, and the museum, although small, was interesting. Lunch was also good at a restaurant that I’d found in Lonely Planet online, and we walked back to the boat through Rabat’s medina with Edee while the rest of Juno’s crew took the train from Rabat to Salé.

Really? You can almost see it from here? Where?

Just one of the outstanding Moroccan dishes we tried at lunch. Rigel didn't seem that impressed.

Closer look at the cannons guarding the harbor from Rabat

We had talked about going to Casablanca with Juno’s crew on Saturday, but overnight rain created mud, and both crews stayed home. I spent much of the time trying to find a room for us in Fez for Sunday night. While I’d been awaiting a response from one website, rooms within our budget had filled up on another, so I was a bit worried. Edee had volunteered to stay with Märzen so that we could make the trip, but Juno’s sailing plans meant that we had to go Sunday or not at all. I could finally relax when I scored us a room in a guesthouse (riad) in Fez’s medina.

Our trip to Fez gets its own post later.

1 comment:

Helen McCubbin said...

I really enjoyed my trips to Morocco. Neil taught a course there and enjoyed it very much. I found it worth having a local guide in some towns.

When do you leave for the Canaries?