We sailed out of Gibraltar on 4th April and made the 20 mile trip across the Strait to Ceuta. Ceuta is a Spanish enclave on the North coast of Africa. It is an 18.5 square kilometre city and, as we were unsure whether to take Money Penny to Morocco, we had been told that you could take a trip across the boarder from Ceuta and sample Morocco without all of the ‘red tape’ we had been lead to believe there would be if we sailed there! We moored up and checked in to the Marina. The cost for just one night was 49 Euros which was over double what we had been paying in Gibraltar and we were still low season! We spoke to a British skipper on a boat next to us who told us that Marina Smir in Morocco would not be an issue as far as the ‘red tape’ was concerned and that he would ‘go for it’. The following day, we did!!!
Our berth in Ceuta next to another Dufour 43 (not the CC version)
Smir was only 13 miles away and when we arrived we were welcomed by a posse of about 12 uniformed dignitaries! We were directed to the reception pontoon and shown to the office. 28 euros a night! Yippee! After checking in to the Marina we were sent to the ‘police & customs’ office next door. Fred Karnos army springs to mind! One guy sat behind a desk checking our boat papers and passports whilst the other sat in the corner eating a large baguette with an indescribable filling before leaving the room to change into what I can only describe as a fancy dress costume….. policeman I think! Anyway, they were both very pleasant and we were even offered some of the baguette!
We were then shown to our berth as Sally joined us from Gibraltar.
We had been given information from another member of the UK Cruising Association that there was a guide in Smir who came highly recommended. ‘He will welcome you on the quay’ were their words – and he did! He was standing right there as we moored up!! We booked his services for the following day and were told he would come and collect us (and Hakan and Eva) in a taxi. We would pay him and the taxi for their services!
The ‘guide’ & the taxi arrived the following morning and we were transported to Tetouan, a city a few miles from the Port of Smir. It was Friday morning and apparently every Friday the women of the city remain indoors to rest and get ready for the weekly family meal later in the day. The men collect the ‘bread’ and the children go to school. We entered the city walls of the ‘old town’ which was like a ghost town. Narrow little streets where the houses are built so close together you can only just see daylight above you. The doors to the houses were hundreds of years old and decorated in the most ornate fashion with evidence of the 21st century visible. The photo shows one of the doors with the old and the modern lock.
At mid day the walled city began to come alive. The children were walking home from school and shops began to open their doors. At one point a small group of children saw us walking towards them and hid in a doorway until we had passed by. One in particular looked extremely worried. Four of us in European dress must have been very strange to these little girls who were used to seeing men and women dressed in djellaba (long loose fitting hooded garments with full sleeves).
The local Carpenter
There were all types of ‘shops’ along these tiny streets. One of our photographs shows a carpenter but there were fruit stalls, secondhand stores, hardware stores, fishmongers and butchers. The butcher either sold red meat or white meat, never the two together. There was also a place you could buy your chicken for todays lunch. They weighed the chicken to check you were happy, before killing it and taking your well earned money! Distressing to us but a healthy option for them as there was no way of storing these in such heat once they had been killed!
Unfortunately we were caught with the obligatory carpet sale! Asked if we would like to see a rooftop view we said yes and were taken through a souk (shop/store), up three flights of tiny stairs to look over the rooftops of this amazing walled city, given mint tea and then asked to sit whilst we said ‘no’ to about 50 different carpets & rugs!!! ‘Why would we need a rug on a boat?’ we kept saying!
We had lunch in a small hotel hidden behind one of the large wooden doors and then were collected by our guide to make the journey back to the Marina. Outside of the old walled city was the modern area and on our way out we passed rubbish just dumped along the pathways and in the gutter. Our guide apologised continually, explaining that it was Friday, Holy day and no one was allowed to work. The rubbish had been there a lot longer than just a few hours or even days but at the end of the day, the whole experience gave us a view into how different lives can be in this world we live in.
We were hoping to spend another day in Morocco but the weather was closing in and if we didn’t leave ‘tomorrow’ we could be here for a lot longer. We decided that we should leave for the Spanish mainland the following day. Checking out of the Marina was not as straightforward as our arrival! When we visited the Marina office that morning we were confronted by 50 or so men outside the door and then found out that the Marina had changed hands overnight! These men were looking for jobs. Some of them had been working in the Marina until 7pm the night before and now had no job! No one knew what was going on. It took us over two hours to visit the various rooms, talking to staff who had no idea what they were doing but eventually we escaped and began our trip back to mainland Spain.