We left Mohammedia early before dawn. As dawn broke we still couldn’t see much as there was a heavy mist with visibility less than half a mile. As we approach Casablanca there was a city of cargo ships at anchor which we could see on the AIS and then loomed into view as we got nearer to each one.
The Hassan II mosque, the tallest religious buildiung in the world, and the most westerly of the muslim world appeared to float in the clouds as we passed it.
We still had no wind and saw very little of note until we arrived at El Jadida at 15.50 as the fishing fleet was departing for their evenings work. We entered the tiny harbour and jostled with the steady stream of fishing boats that were leaving. There appeared to be only room for one boat to anchor inside the harbour walls without causing chaos, below the remains of the Portuguese walled fort in a deep water pool.
We had read that you had to go to the ‘Yacht Club to check in, and before we had a chance to do so there was loud whistling and gesticulation from a figure on the wall. We launched the dinghy and took the documents to the shore where the gesticulating man was very welcoming and took me through the locked yacht club premises, carefully re locking the gate to the harbour office where his part of the process was performed. He finished by giving me directions to immigration and the police to perform their duties and giving me a key for the duration of our stay to re-enter the yacht club! The walk to the immigration (or anywhere else outside the yacht club) involved a tour around three sides of the fishermen’s inner harbour, where nets were being repaired and loaded with fish heads in preparation for the night’s fishing.
Once again there were small barbeques cooking what looked like sardines all over the place, feeding the hungry fishermen. To say the area had an odour of fish was an understatement, but the many cats of all shapes and sizes seemed to love it!
The following day we explored the town. Just to the west oif the harbour the old Portugese walled town was fascinating. Apparently it used to be surrounded by a moat, but this has since been filled in, but the battlements still remain complete with many cannons. Central to the walled town is the cistern – a huge underground ‘room’, with a hole in the centre of the ceiling. In days gone by this became filled with rain water and provided a source of water for the rest of the town.
From the top of the wall, you could look down onto the boatyard, where fishing boats were being repaired after being hauled out of the water up tracks, and new boats were being built – all with hand tools and small antique power tools.
To the East of the harbour is the contrasting of beach resort; Western style cafes and hotels along a wide expanse of parkland footpaths. After a stroll along the foggy beach front we settled into one of the cafes for a nice French Moroccan style breakfast.
We headed inland a few blocks and found downtown El Jadida where the locals shop and bought fresh veg and fruit to top up our fridge but passed on the meat being sold by the street butchers!
The guide books had said it was nice to support the small restaurant on top of the yacht club so in the evening we went ashore. Slightly bizarrely although its situated on the first floor of the yacht club there was no way in without leaving through the locked gate (for which we had a key), walking around the fishing harbour, out to the main town then along the main road and back down a dark grit road to the bottom of a staircase no more than a metre from where we started!
On leaving, we were very tempted to climb the fence to save the 3/4 mile walk and asked permission. The response from the waiter was to shout for ‘Rashid’ the gatekeeper mentioned in the guide book, who duly arrived some the shadows with a whole wad of keys and duly opened the gate, and the gate to the pontoon, which avoided teetering along the dockside outside the railings, which we had had to do every time we went ashore until then. All in all a strange experience but enjoyable none the less.
We returned to the boat and settled in for our last night there since we were leaving for Agadir the next day.