The past few days have been exciting times since picking up our father and uncle who have come aboard Tamarisk looking for some adventure. Almost immediately after they boarded, we sailed off the European continent towards the shores of Morocco. After a very smooth and easy 150 mile crossing from Cadiz, Spain, we are now in Africa for the first time on this journey. We pulled into the Moroccan port of Rabat on Wednesday afternoon and before we even got behind the breakwater we were feeling a bit of culture shock. We’ve become accustomed to well marked, deep, safe harbor entrances from our time in Europe. Here there are no light houses marking the harbor entrance, no channel marker buoys to keep you off the shallows, unmarked hazards everywhere (rocks, parked fishing boats, shallow areas, people rowing, etc.), and a very shallow channel that desperately needs dredging. We entered at high tide to make things easier and we landed safely, but we’re in a different world here and it was obvious from the beginning.
After arriving on land we picked up a rental car and headed out towards Marrakesh, a well known inland city and a popular tourist destination. If driving a boat in Morroco is difficult, then driving a car here is almost impossible. Our first encounter with the police came before we even got out of Rabat as we took the main road through town trying to dodge pedestrians, scooters, and donkey carriages that come at you from all directions. We followed the big painted arrows on the street, but somehow still found ourselves going down the wrong way of a divided boulevard. The cop said the signage on the road is “antique” and we shouldn’t have followed it – according to the new rules, we were supposed to have turned right at the previous intersection, and with that we had committed our first Moroccan traffic “infraction”.
After two more equally ridiculous “infractions” on the way to Marrakesh, we realized there are police everywhere here, and they’re all watching everyone like Eagle Scouts and looking to meddle in a most annoying way. In Marrakesh there are two to four cops at almost every intersection, which creates an uncomfortable police state atmosphere that’s a reminder of our time in Ukraine – but at least here we get official receipts for our “infractions”, unlike Ukraine where the money goes straight into the pocket.
Marrakesh does have some redeeming qualities, but to enjoy it you have to be comfortable in a chaotic street market environment with masses of locals aggressively trying to sell junky things to anyone carrying a camera, and you have to beware of getting ripped off. But once you power through that nonsense, the place is fascinating culturally and shouldn’t be missed because you’ll never forget it.
We’re now waiting out a storm system offshore before making our push to the Canary Islands about 500 miles (3 days) away. It looks like we’ll have a good weather window that starts on Monday morning.