Before arriving in Morocco we’d heard mixed opinions, and had received comments such as “you’re brave , “ I wouldn’t go there” and even “it’s not safe”. Obviously we are not the first to tread this path and most certainly won’t be the last, but we hope to give you an insight into the Country and culture as we travel around this beautiful country.
Armed with guide books, maps and notes and books from other motorhomers we decided that the town of Asilah on the West Coast would be our first overnight stop. You could call it a soft or gentle introduction into the Country. It’s an easy 75 km route from the port and for our first journey we opted to take the toll (€7 approx), which brought us to the outskirts of the town. One thing to note though is that often standard Sat Navs do not work in Morocco, our Aguri Motorhome specific system doesn’t even offer an option of uploading a Morocco map, so here we are relying on the off line mapping system Maps.me and a paper map. We’ve used Maps.me for a number of years and it’s proved very useful, but obviously it doesn’t know the size of our vehicle so routes do need double checking on a map,as we’ve already discovered, but more about that later.
As one of the first stops south of Tangier, Asilah is one of the most elegant of the old Portuguese ports.It’s compact and so easy to navigate and the town’s immaculately restored medina is an attractive maze of white washed buildings each colourwashed in bright blues and greens, all this gives a perfect backdrop for the many local artists who liven the walls even further with vibrant murals. It is packed full of art galleries and in the summer is host to its own arts festival. It almost feels like a mini Santorini, it has a prosperous feel and the past influence of the Spanish can be seen in some of the architecture. It has a chilled out charm in the off season and is a relaxing introduction to Morocco. It’s a beautiful place to amble around and the locals who are clearly used to tourists leave you in peace to do so.
The towns real draw for us though was beyond the medina in the streets that lead away from the main square, here you will see some of the real Morocco, where locals go about their daily business and the streets are lined with small shops selling anything from bread and fresh product to carpets and satellite dishes. If you head to this area in the evening, try and hunt out a café by the name of Ali baba, it has a casual feel, and is very popular with Moroccans (which is always a good sign). We tried the Chawarma, which is slices of chicken which has been roasted on a rotisserie cut thinly and served on pitta bread along with chips, salad and rice. Delish, a tasty introduction to Moroccan cuisine and only 110 Dirhams for two (€11).
The town also has a vast beach, so if the weather is on your side then it is definitely worth a visit. Unfortunately for us it’s not yet beach weather!
Leaving Asilah for Moulay Bousaleham after a recommendation we wanted to visit the Roman ruins at Lixus. Had we have not been told about this place, then we’d have missed it altogether. It seems it hasn’t yet made it into any of the guide books (well at least not the ones we have) maybe because it’s only been opened to the public this year, perhaps that also explains why we were the only people visiting. Set on a hill the site overlooks the Loukas estuary and you cannot fail to be moved by the splendour of the what the site once contained. The visitor centre contains some background info on the site, but the narratives are in French and Arabic only so an understanding of one of them would help. The ruins themselves can be wandered around freely, starting at the industrial area and working up a long steep hill to the amphitheatre and beyond to the acropolis (I would imagine in the heat of the summer with a hill like that, it’s not for the fainthearted). The site itself is definitely worth a visit, even if ruins aren’t your thing then the views from the top are still spectacular. It’s a little disappointing that the artefacts found there are not displayed in the visitor centre, but with a little imagination the site is an incredible insight into the Countries past.
Although there’s not a car park on site there’s a fairly large layby just in front of the entrance which gave plenty of space to park, although the 3 point turn afterwards was more like a 6 or 7 point turn!
We were forewarned by Jan and Trevor who recommended Lixus, a challenging onward journey to our destination at Moulay Bousselham followed. The previous night Paul had suggested that I did the drive to our next destination and after consulting the map told me that he could navigate a way to Moulay without taking said route. I’ve still not got to the bottom of what went wrong with the route mapping, however we now know what Moroccan non toll roads can be like. It felt like driving on a computed generated screen where obstacles and crater sized potholes present themselves in quick succession along the route, couple this with oncoming vehicles also trying to avoid the same it was like a giant slalom on wheels. If nothing else I had a free white knuckle ride and a tension headache to go with it by the end!!
Fortunately Moulay Bousselham was worth it, the area is one of Morocco’s prime bird watching locations and the campground is set in a peaceful location on the edge of huge lagoon. Each day the site is visited be a small number of Moroccans offering food, the first day it was cockles freshly picked from the sand, then fresh juicy strawberries, then locally grown garlic, all so very tempting.
It’s just a short walk to the small town which has a handful of restaurants along with a small souk for supplies. There’s a huge square which overlooks a vast beach sheltered by cliffs where the continual crashing waves of the Atlantic offer a hypnotic spot to watch the sun go down. Local boat owners offer bird watching trips around the lagoon and the fishermen will offer to cook and deliver fresh crab direct to your motorhome door.
We spotted fishermen congregating at the mouth of the lagoon each day with their catch, and locals bargaining for fresh fish to sell at their own stalls or in their restaurants. I joined them and secured two fat Dorada which were then cleaned and gutted for the total sum of just 50 Dirham (€5).
It’s amazing how quickly this country has captured a piece of hearts. It’s not Europe, the campsites are not the same standard, the people will try and get the best price for their goods from you & for them haggling is a way of life, the streets aren’t clean and tidy and the roads are sometimes challenging, but for us all of that and more makes it an enchanting country with so much to offer we just can’t wait to see more.
Our Sleepy Spots
Asilah Camping Assada Cost 80 Dirham (€8) per night for 2 people and Electric. Basic showers with hot water and a toilets. Black emptying but no drive over drain. Fresh water point for filling. GPS 35.471912 -6.028733
Moulay Bousellham Camping International Cost 80 Dirham (€8) per night inc elec. Showers and toilets basic and only cold water. Drive over emptying and filling point. On site restaurant.
Lixus GPS 35.198273 -6.112845
Tomorrow we move onwards to Meknes
Until next time Andi x