December 16, 2019

Morocco – “The Switzerland of Africa”

I guess I’m a creative person but also chaotic. It’s apparently a problem of many people who do creative stuff. But yeah, I recently learned that having more structure in life helps against my so called chaos. Mom was trying early to get this structure into my head with holding endless monologues. Sadly it didn’t help. What it needed was that one internal “click” inside my brain. I experienced that “click” last year, after I realised that this chaos drives me crazy (okay, chaos also gives me a certain kind of an improvisation talent). But that “click” was probably not loud enough. Why? Because I still lose my personal belongings. I try to put back everything to the place where I got it from in the van. But I keep on losing thing . This year I lost an Apple Watch (that device is useless anyway), irreplaceable Polaroid, Money… I stop at that point because I can not explain why the fuck all this is still happening to me. Even with all the effort and structure. So no miracle that I forgot half my T-shirts, sweaters and towels in the laundry of Camp Tico. I realised it at the ferry port. Idiot.

My last night in Europe was short and cold on a dirty parking in Algeciras. The ferry came around 9 a.m. so I went up early. It was off season. Just a few cars and me wanted to get on the ferry to Tanger, Morocco. Ah, and some motor bikers who were seemingly doing a “men trip”. Some of these cars stacked bags, fridges and freezers on their roofs. Not sure why but I guess that they were doing some Spain <> Morocco trades with used whatever. Import Export bizz. I remember how I took pictures of these cars as I though: “Look at them, they are insane.”. In Europe this is something unusual, especially because the police will charge you fines if they see you driving around like this. Not secure enough for the public traffic.

I have never been to Africa before but I’ve heard that Morocco is the “Switzerland” of it. What this means according to the stories I’ve heard is good roads, more money than most of the African countries and some kind of westernisation. Even with this “The Switzerland of Africa” status, I felt at the ferry port already that Morocco is not like a Switzerland at all. I mean look at these cars. I parked my van at the lower deck of the Moroccan ferry. The doors slowly started to close.  I guess now, there is now way back. Sure, I dramatize a little but also know myself well. I don’t do things by halves. So I wont turn back unless something big stops me. The ferry drove 1,5 hours. My pass was controlled on board. In Tanger I left the ferry. The roads were really good. People even spoke good English. I straight drove to a spot I checked out in the internet before. People said to me that wild camping is illegal and dangerous in Morocco. I decided to try it first, instead of believing it straight. Come on, “The Switzerland of Africa”. How much Switzerland can it be when wild camping is dangerous? During my 1 hour ride to the night spot at the beach I felt like I traveled back in time. The average car on Moroccan streets was at least 10-20 years older than the ones in Spain. All cars were full of scratches and dents and on top of all that the traffic signs were in outlandish Arabic or French. Somehow cool, so different. I could feel that my car was a little less powerful because of my heavy new off road tires. I was unsure if the changes of my car were worth this power losses. Close before I arrived at the beach spot I had to drive over a small hill to get on the road which leads to the Atlantic. When I saw the Atlantic I became instantly happy. The colours. So perfect. A bright blue, with white waves and orange cliffs. From the hill, during sun set, I saw people riding Dromedaries at the beach. I’m roughly two hours away from Spain and the world is so unreal already. I guess my first day couldn’t have been more perfect than it was. I cooked and fall asleep. What a crazy new World!

I didn’t plan much but what I planed was that Ricardo will visit me on my first days. So after I woke up I straight drove to Tanger’s airport to pick him up. I wanted to do this trip alone, yes, but sadly some necessary documents and car parts came a little late. So I needed a “currier”. Rico, my best made seemed to be perfect for that job. Traveling which him is usually easy, even if he is not into van life at all. His flight back to Germany was from Agadir which made it possible to travel south together. Nice plan, hugh? I picked him up from the airport and he straight had to confess that he accidentally left a car part at home. What ever, I’ll find ways to get it here. In Tanger we were trying to find food for probably 3 hours. This was not insignificantly cause by my big cultural shock. I was searching for a food restaurant which reminds me of Europe. Not possible.

I though I know how it’s gonna be like in Morocco but actually I didn’t know shit. They transport things with bloody donkeys. I mean donkeys, not even horses – DONKEYS!! The traffic was nothing but horrible. Everyone driving how he felt like and the police was trying to get the whole situation under control by blowing randomly into a whistle. Cars, motorbikes, scooters, donkeys, police officers, all in one round about. Rico, also shocked, was arguing that he feels unsafe as the co driver. So he decided to warn me from time to time. This made me break hard a lot and didn’t help at all. After finding a at the side of the road parking in Tanger a stranger popped up at the van.

His teeth were bad. After he introduced himself as hashish smoking Mohamed we asked him if he knows where we can find these big hashish fields of North Morocco. We wanted to see it. I mean where else do you get such a chance? Hashish is illegal in Morocco but also tolerated in the north (only the north how I found out later). He invited us to his house. It felt strange to us but we went with him. He guided us into a side street of a side street of a side street which enhanced our strange feeling. Arrived at the door of his house we said, “Mohamed, we need to pass this time. We trust you but in Germany this is really unusual and actually we just arrived in Morocco. So… Sorry”. After this sentence he was trying to get us into his flat in every possible way. He went upstairs and brought us an angry looking young girl. Probably 3 years old. “Look you can trust me.”, he said. He started sweating in the face. After we still denied his invitation, he went upstairs again and gave us big piece of hashish. In Germany probably 50 Euro+. We said that we still leave now because we don’t feel well with this situation. We felt a little like fish in the ocean and Mohamed is trying to catch us with putting baits outside like children and hashish. For some reason he didn’t wanted the hashish back, even if we asked him what he gets for it. Later on he called Ricardo a bunch of times on his phone number. Until today we couldn’t figure out what this super suspect man was after. Maybe we avoided big trouble? Funnily Ricardo (he’s a freelancer) had a call forwarding activated on his phone which leaded Mohamed to his dad’s phone in Germany, haha. I’d have loved to see Franky’s face when Mohamed called him.

In the afternoon we left Tanger. Meanwhile I found out that people speak more French than English. English is actually very rare in Morocco. For the evening I found a close by beach spot in the internet, accessible by 2 wheel drives. The nature after Tanger was stunning. We drove through tales and over hills. Sadly the spot was not accessible at all by a 2 wheel drive, so we turned around. I realised that the tires saved our ass in that terran. Without them we would have been stocked somewhere in the hills of Morocco on the second day. Later and in the night we found a guarded parking in Larache, a city close to the inaccessible beach spot. Not what we were after but the food in a local restaurant was good so it was alright. My cultural shock was still present. Honestly even more present after we met this strange Mohamed dude in Tanger. I started asking myself if I’m really made for Africa, if I already struggle so much with only Morocco. For sure the remaining African countries will be much harder. We decided to drive further to Casablanca. I had no idea what Casablanca is like but it sounded cool and also far away. I anyway don’t Google too much, I rather drive and take the look. In Casablanca we parked close to the Hassan Mosque for the night. Casablanca seemingly has more money as the villages we went through before. You actually can find rich companies here paired with huge city like ghettos. Rico and me later were into one of these ghetto areas during night time for eating out. Very interesting and probably not very advisable for tourists the same time. In the morning (6 a.m.) the Mosque woke us up with prayer sounds of the Mu’azzin. The Islam is much more preset than the Christian religion. This is not only cause by majority of Muslims in Morocco. Another reason is that you can see their religion much more in the streets. People pray 5 times day (sometimes public), woman hide their hair, men often wear traditional hats and almost every one is a believer. This is much different than in the Christian countries like Germany. In my country there is a trend that people stop believing in the church. And even if not they would never were religious clothes like the Muslims do here. Many people were trying to convert me into the islam or asked me trough Google Translator if they can maybe marry my sister. I think next time I will say “yes, you can if you pay me”. Sometimes they are so shameless that the would straight ask for the bank account to transfer the money. It would be funny to give them the IBAN of “Ärzte ohne Grenzen” then, a non-profit doctor organisation helping poor people here in Africa with medical services, food and water. After breakfast we went into the Hassan Mosque. It is the third biggest Mosque in the world and the biggest mosque in Africa. It can take up to 25.000 prayers inside and another 80.000 outside. That’s massive. Just imagine more than a 100.000 people on one single big square. So shoes off and in! I was a bit nervous as this was my first time visiting a mosque. Pictures can’t describe how huge this place is. 5m wide 60m high granite pillars gave the building it’s structure. As a European you see grievances fast. Morocco has many grievances. One is that the money is apparently there but invested at the wrong places and into the wrong things because of corruption and capitalism. Our Mosque guide said that the Hassan Mosque was built in the 90th with many criticism. Money wise this mosque was way too big for a country like Morocco. It then got funded by public donations and private investors. It’s a impressive and beautiful building, yes, but if you ask me this money would have been needed elsewhere. Especially in the ghettos in front of the town where people are hungry.

From Casablanca we drove straight into a random village to see the beach. Rico is definitely a spoiled person. He requires much more comfort in life than what a van could ever offer. Nevertheless it was nice to see that he can adopt to the situation and shower in the ocean with cold sea water. For sure he wasn’t happy with it but he also didn’t complain much. Good boy. Later we spent a night at a beautiful and quiet beach were he even took a second “shower”. I couldn’t believe it.

When you travel through the country side you see crazy vehicles. Some Moroccan trucks sometimes reach double the height of the vehicle because they add so much stuff to their roofs. It looks stunning. But believe me, you don’t want to drive behind these vehicles, haha. The food is really good in Morocco. People used to say that Africa is meat only. And yes it’s a lot of meat but especially Morocco has funnily also some traditional vegetarian and vegan dishes like couscous, hummus and Tajin Vegetarian (picture). I’m a little spoiled with bread as my mum works in a bakery since I can think. I really need bread for breakfast. Bread is bad for the body but makes the soul happy. At least my soul. Luckily Morocco’s traditional bread Khobz is extremely good. Seriously, very tasty but somehow much different than German bread. I have to get the recipe. Rico and me said no to visit Marrakech as we wanted the ocean and a chilled uncrowded place. We expected Marrakech to be very busy and touristic. A place where locals just try to get your money as fast as possible. But as Marrakech was directly on the way to Agadir we stopped here. And it’s true. Compared to the villages you will only rarely find honest and nice people here, as everyone is trying to earn money from tourists. Information and help on the street costs money here. It’s a really ugly attitude of the locals. But sure, even in Marrakech you can find these nice Moroccans who help you unconditionally. Marrakech itself is very beautiful, thou. It’s one single big market. Motorbikes are more than cars and some corners of the city are pure beauties with old buildings and traditional foods. All in all it is definitely worth going here. I am very happy that we didn’t skip it.

Our last night together, we spent at the beach. Where else? haha. I cooked bad rice. So salty that we couldn’t eat it. The spot was cool and we were quickly surrounded by a bunch of friendly street dogs. The next morning I brought Rico to the airport. He was really thankful for what he was able to experience. I guess he saw an once in a lifetime opportunity in this small Africa journey me (he would never start such a trip by himself). Fun fact: He never left the EU before.

But for now I was alone again! Somehow a good and bad feeling same time. Off to Western Saraha. The first country on my journey which is considered unsafe by the German government. I am exited!