It was an exciting day when we cast off the mooring lines and set sail to our first African destination: Rabat in Morocco! We calculated quite precisely when we would be arriving to use the high tide to navigate into the harbour. The harbour is situated a few miles up the Oued Bou Regreg River, and with our 2.10 m draft it was going to be tricky getting in. We were also a bit nervous about visiting the first country outside of the EU. This means you have to get a visum and get cleared by customs and immigrations and the port police. We had heard horror stories about corrupt officers, giant drug sniffing dogs and boat searches.
The sail from Cadiz to Rabat was about 140 miles. We calculated that if we would leave at 12.00 in Cadiz, we expected to be in Rabat at 14.00 the next day, perfect for the rising tide. The passage took us straight through the Gibraltar traffic at night, but we have AIS and we can see all the big boats on our plotter (digital map). So it wasn’t a very big deal, although we were keeping a careful lookout. It was an amazing sail with wind from the north (going south) the whole way. We were so fast that we gradually had to slow down the boat. First we reefed, then we dropped the mainsail and when we were almost in Rabat we also reefed the headsail. But we were out of luck, because the marina in Rabat was closed! We had to continue on to Mohammedia, six hours further down the Moroccan coast. So we arrived in the dark. A bit risky, we always try to arrive by daytime. But it all went well and we were tied up to another boat in the harbour in Mohammedia.
Clearing into the country was a lot easier than we expected. Within half an hour, all the officials had already visited the boat and signed the needed paperwork. There were no drug sniffing dogs, no baksheesh needed and everyone was joking around and very friendly. The only big setback was the price of 51 euros per night. Who would have thought an African harbour would charge Italian prices!? So instead of staying for a week like we had planned, we only stayed 3 nights to be able to visit Rabat and Casablanca.
Morocco was very different than we expected. Maybe because our travel guide is from 1997..? We read about spartanic marinas, the desert reaching until the sea, camels and desert people. But we experienced an almost Spanish coastline full of developments, a modern train system and people who are dressed way better that Thomas and I are an the moment. And the marina has normal toilets, warm showers and fast wi-fi. I guess our travel guide needs updating.
The cities of Casablanca and Rabat are both full of colonial architecture, mixed with new developments and lively traditional medinas. We loved the atmosphere and the people, the food and the climate. And there are so many fixer uppers! Around every corner we saw a great run-down house that is just waiting to be bought and brought back to glory. Maybe we should just buy this amazing Bauhausian villa in Rabat…?
We loved everything about our stay in Morocco and wished we would have had a bit more time here!