Saturday, March 5, 2011

Into Africa!

Right now Morocco seems like the cleanest and most hygienic nation in the world. It isn’t of course but coming hot on the heels of India, so it seems. I love Morocco - I came here about 6 years ago visiting Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes and Chefchaouen - and the reason I’m here is twofold; I got a cheap flight from Mumbai to Casablanca and I have to go to Rabat to get my Mauritanian visa. Morocco, it seems, is the only north African country that isn’t kicking off right now. There have been demonstrations in Casablanca but Morocco is a pretty settled country and so the chances of, say, a Libyan or Egyptian situation arising here are pretty small. And everything here seems so remarkably easy now too - buying a train ticket without being taken from behind in a queue, finding a carriage on the train that doesn’t have 24 people where there should be 8, and walking around the streets seemingly invisible to the wider Moroccan population - I’m loving it.
Rabat, which I’d never been to, is a surprisingly lovely city. I’d steered clear on my last visit because it was the capital city and it didn’t have any of the allure of classic Moroccan cities like Fez or Marrakesh. But for the 3 days I’m here it’s beautiful. I stay at the HI hostel close to the medina and meet not just an Irishman but a Sligoman - from Ransboro of all places. The old city is charming and it’s easy to settle in with the locals in the cafés drinking thé a la menthe and munching on cous cous. I’m here though to get my Mauritanian visa and, again, this proves disarmingly easy, in fact the consular section opens early to hand out visa application forms. It takes 24 hours to process and I’m back the next day to collect what essentially will be a transit visa for me as Mauritania is somewhere that I have to travel through on my way to Senegal where a visa is not necessary.
Morocco is a very gentle introduction to Africa though - the rail and bus system here are of a western standard and, in general, it‘s a relatively wealthy country. The next step is to figure out exactly how I’m going to get down through Western Sahara and Mauritania and into Senegal. Time permitting I’ll take the iron ore train across to Choum and then travel down to Atar from where I can explore the Sahara. The train is 2.3km of carriages transporting iron ore and a solitary ‘passenger’ carriage at the rear. There are two benches and it’s first come, first serve for those - if you don’t get a place on the benches you sit on the floor or you stand. If you wish you can climb into the ore cars themselves and travel for free but this is for masochists only apparently. The whiff of adventure is in the air again.


  1. Mate it is kicking off everywhere at the mo, be careful out there fella a hairy white lanky Irishman with a burnt forehead and nose, is an easy target.
    All the girls are fine, Maisie said she is missing you and wants to know when you are coming back to see her?

  2. Hey Gaz! Just about to set off to Mauritania now and then on to Senegal. You tell Maisie I'll be over to see her when I'm settled back at home. Of course the clan are always welcome over to mine.

  3. hey folks im a moroccan from casablanca california street you welcom in morocco i hope that u enjoy more of our country , i traveled the half world and finally i came to morocco i dont know i always feeel like theire is something wrong with me untill i came here sorry
    any way i am happy that u like ur country and note dont worry about beeing stranger b coz we love strangers and host them we just love you the way u r and thanks