Last time we were here on this coast, one of the highlights of the trip was the huge Hussan II Mosque at Casablanca, the worlds third largest Mosque and highest minaret anywhere on the planet. We both remember being total blown away by the sheer scale of it and we both wanted to see it again, if only from the outside. There are a few mosques in Morocco ‘non-Muslims’ are allowed to enter, this is one of them. For 120Dh each (about £10) you can get a guided tour, in the language of your choice which lasts for about 45 mins, taking in every nook and cranny of the huge place (like we did last time we were here), a place big enough that the main prayer hall alone would swallow Notre Dame or St. Peters Basilica ‘comfortably’. We were both as impressed, this time as last with the scale of the place, but we both agreed we’d save the guided tour cost of £20 for other things on this visit. Parking is available directly outside the mosque, just tip the ‘self-appointed-parking-guy’ 20Dh if you return to find your MoHo in tact. The Mosque is well worth a look, even without the internal guided tour.
Our tour guide-book (Rough Guide to Morocco 2004) talked of the tribute bar to the film Casablanca, apparently inside the Hyatt Hotel (a very swanky joint) there’s a bar decked out in the style of the film, T-shirts and souvenirs, prints of stills from the film etc. So we blagged our way in through security and full body scanners, to find that the bar had been updated (ahem! our guide book less so), the bar now looks like any other hotel lobby/bar, still a “swanky joint” all the same, but no mention of Bogie or Ingrid Bergman. You must remember this…I think not!
There’s heaps more stuff to do in Casa, a Jewish quarter, museums, colonial architecture, Art-Nouveau/Deco buildings and even the odd Moroccan palace, but with the lack of a close, half decent campsite with services, you’re kind of limited to day trips. But we think the jewel in the crown of Casablanca (possibly Morocco), is the Hussan II Mosque, equal in stature to Barcelona’s, Familia Sagrada and just as breath-taking.
Moving south, determined to stay off the toll motorway, we chose the N1, a free road like the UK’s A1, which runs parallel to the motorway, only much, much slower. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon, the Maps.me informs us there’s more than 70 km to go before the campsite of our choice. A combination of heavy traffic and poor road means it’s just taken us an hour to do the last 30 km, so we should be eating by just after 7 pm at this rate. We chuck in the towel on the A road, it’s time to swallow the cost and head for the motorway. Normally we prefer to use the ‘town’ roads, you just see more stuff and that’s what we’re here for after all, but some days you just need to ‘crack-on’ and get a few miles done. A little over an hour later …and £3 lighter, we were pulling onto a very damp, ‘Camp International’ site at El Jadida.
El Jadida: The rain continues, off ‘n on, but it’s warm enough. Every Sunday has now been officially re-named ‘Eggy-day’, it’s the day I make poached eggs for breakfast and attempt to do dinner too, usually pizza, it give Angie a break from cooking every day. We’ve learnt to hang on to your egg-boxes here in Morocco, as most places don’t have them. When you go to buy eggs, they hand you them in a plastic bag, not much use in a very mobile fridge! Poached eggs done, time to dodge the rain (down-pours in between sunny spells) and tour the town. El Jadida’s a ‘real’ Moroccan based fishing village, it’s not been cleaned up or sanitised and it feels like it’s not changed in years. There’s 2km of gritty sand/brown beach that’s well used by the locals for camel, pony and horse rides and as soon as the sun came out, so did the local folk and the impromptu football games which springing up all the way down the beach, it looks like a kind of Casablanca-on-Skegness.
The Portuguese were in charge here, back in 1513 and stayed put until 1769, then the Moors kicked them out. But they did leave behind a very useful item, a water-tight cistern. We were surprised to see other tourists were lining up waiting for the attraction to re-open at 3pm and so we were not the only Cistern visitors of the day. Just slightly below ground, the vast cistern held all the drinking water for the walled town. Pity there was no information on quantity and quality etc. of the water in there, in fact, we didn’t see any tourist info on the place at all. We read in our guide it was used in the Orsen Wells film ‘Othello’ to stage a riot scene, empty of water I presume, but being a pair of un-cultured swines, we’ve never seen it. It’s an eerie damp man-made cave in the ground with very strange acoustics and some great reflective photo opportunities.
We like El Jadida, there’s the bustling streets through the new Medina, the Unesco fortress, a fortress wall-walk, the Cistern and a long flat beach, no wonder the Casablanca’s holidaymakers love it too.
Camping International, El Jadida. n33.24017 w8.48850 – 93.50Dh pn inc EHU. (about £8) Hot showers available, extra 5Dh, ask at reception and they will issue you with a key to one of the ‘bungalows’. Whole site is old, tired, in need of a bit of TLC, but adequate. Staff, brilliant. Wifi only in reception.
Next up…is it ‘kesh or kech?