After Funda left Fez we met again in Casablanca. She took the bus not having left enough time. Ayca, Ayse, Funda, Enes and me, we all met in Casablanca. Every time Ayca comes over she brings me tastes that I had missed and what my mother sends. This time she also brought the new battery for Enes’ mobile phone which broke down in Spain. While Funda was to leave us in Casablanca, this time Ayse was to accompany us for almost a month.
We strolled around in Casablanca altogether. Our opinion about this city was the same. After visiting almost every large city in Morocco I must say that Casablanca should be the last one to visit. One might go right away to other cities upon arriving in the airport. Believe me, you won’t miss anything. There are much more beautiful places in Morocco. Even spending one day is too much for this city.
We went to the famous Rick’s Café of the movie Casablanca with Ayca. The design of this cafe is made just the same as in the movie. I say made since the scene in this movie was not shot in this cafe. A French woman bought this building in 1990, restored and designed as Rick’s cafe. As a result, there are hundreds of people coming from all over the world knowing this film to this café, a real to the point investment. As we entered the cafe there was a Japanese group inside. By this way capitals or cities are turned into centers of attraction which actually do not bear anything interesting. I saw some of such examples in countries I had visited.
The only place worth to visit in Casablanca is Hassan II Mosque which has the biggest yard I have ever seen yet. One wonders after seeing this huge yard that how many worshippers could gather for a Friday prayer. Why I am wondering this? Since this mosque is presented as “the only mosque where 100 000 worshippers can gather for prayer at once”. Also its minaret is one of the world’s tallest. Even on Friday the mosque hall of 25 000 capacity does not fill up. Well, you built this huge mosque on a promontory at Atlantic Ocean which you cannot fill with worshippers. You destroyed the ocean shore and by this way messed up the natural life. For whom all this splurge? For god? Well, we all know that this is not the case but the case “I saved my ass for mortal life now it is time to let it build a pompous mosque for afterlife.” By the way, if you are not Muslim you are not allowed to enter the mosques in Morocco! Even, if you mention that you are a Muslim you might asked to recite the Kalima Shahadah. Also you will be watched when you are praying. When I entered a mosque in Fez the shopkeepers got angry with me but then got surprised realizing that I’m also a Mohammedan. Well, that was probably the first time they saw a light brown haired blue eyed Muslim. I sat down in the yard looking around. I also shot a few photos. When you visit this mosque you should take your time and sit in the yard watching the people. I beg, one thing would catch your attention. If you happen to visit this mosque one day, share your experience with me and we can have a talk about it…
One of the issues I paid attention in this city was public transport. Even if you traverse the city from one end to the other in a taxi never pay more than 30 Dirham. For short distances 10 Dirham would be more than enough. But, unfortunately there are also slimy taxi drivers not turning on the tachometer on purpose. Make sure the driver turns the tachometer on. I threatened a taxi driver taking 50 Dirham from me to denounce him to the police the next day. He returned my money right away. If you inform the police that you are overcharged by the shopkeepers they will be punished. The king ordered strict measures against overcharging. “Tourists should be handled properly” said the king. There is also tram transport in Fez, Marrakesh, Rabat and Casablanca. Also, you can travel to every large city by train.
Meanwhile, we took a train to make a daily visit to Rabat. There happened a great meeting with Maggy who was in Rabat for business. I had stayed at her home in Sweden. To meet her and talk to her made me feel happy. I took photos and sent to Micheal in Sweden… They had bought a new large house and told that it is waiting for my next visit. : )… Time passes so quickly..
Before going to Casablanca with Enes, we first stopped by in Meknes and then in Mohammedia. We stayed only for three hours in Meknes. We visited city’s medina (a typically walled distinct city section with narrow streets found in many North African cities, old town), had a cup of tea and some conversation. In Mohammedia we left the mainland. : ). Just entering Morocco we had received a message.
– Hi, we arrived in Mohammedia by boat from Turkey. Waiting for your visit.
Dude, who the hell were they? They were calling themselves “courage of ignorance”, the beautiful couple Ugur and Maral. They had anchored in Mohammedia. We visited them and stayed overnight on their boat.
Wow, dude, a glass of raki just like being in heaven. A single nip and saying “ohhhhhh beeeee (what a deep breath)” As it happens in the movies, while taking that single nip all my friends which I drank raki with came to my mind (Greetings to all my friends with which I had conversation at a raki table from here). In the morning Maral prepared a breakfast, eggs with sucuk (Turkish style fermented sausage) and tea from my region. We really shouted “ohhh beeee”. God bless you both. You added color to our journey and also a new viewpoint for traveling. Wherever on earth you are now, I love you both. Kiss you.
We strolled along the shores of Casablanca with Ayca. For as long as I’ve known myself I don’t like to walk. Really traveling by foot is not my issue for sure. In South Korea it was easy to walk along the shores of Pacific Ocean and let your feet get wet. But this was not the case here, the Atlantic Ocean is wild. All of a sudden you get wet till your knees. The waves move first backward and then forward which break at the beach unabated. Just run away, run… The shores of Casablanca are very dirty which made me sad. Although hundreds of people are playing football every day there, nobody makes an effort to clean the beach. Are they hoping that one day a big wave will come and take all this dirt away? Uzbekistan comes to my mind… There, the rural administration was emptying the garbage trucks into the rivers. Hummm, I’m wondering what would happen if Switzerland had a coast to ocean. (I haven’t shared my Switzerland memories yet but it was one of the most impressive countries I have visited during this journey… Furthermore, Switzerland is at rank one in terms of bicycle culture based upon my own research and opinion!)
Mentioning football, I must say that people in this country are crazy about this game. More than in Turkey?.. For sure.. I’m not exaggerating everyday hundreds of people are playing football at the beaches of Casablanca. And this is not limited to Casablanca. The beaches of every large city are the same. Also every village has a football field kept quite clean and well preserved. There are always people playing football in the morning or evening hours. There are many Barcelona and Madrid teams’ followers. Realizing that we were Turks they immediately started to name the Turkish football players… As a one on the road for the last four years I don’t know who is playing at which team. I shortly replied as yes, yes
Meanwhile Enes found a LG service for his mobile phone but without any result. Actually the reason why it couldn’t be repaired is quite simple. This is due to the undeveloped industry for spare parts of LG phones. If smart phone is a must for you then get Samsung or i-phone when you are travelling. If something happens to your phone you can find service, let it be repaired and can buy spare parts in almost every country. It won’t make you upset during your travel. I also got some necessities in terms of bicycle components and equipments. For example my tripod had broken down. I wanted to replace it with a good quality one. Enes showed me his tripod he has been using, Sony brand small and sturdy. Dude, while I was thinking where the hell to find such a tripod in Casablanca, I found it in a Sony store, the last one : ). What a nice coincidence. I’ll review this model in my gear page which I update at certain intervals. I’ll write my recent experiences with my gear and will also share related videos.
We had our last diner at Istanbul Chawarma in Casablanca which I would advise to the ones who miss doner. By the way, generally Moroccan food culture resembles that of Turkish. If you don’t have hang ups as too salty, too sweet, too spicy and so on the food is tasty. Every meal of this country is tasty except snail. Dude, it has an awkward taste. Impossible for me to eat… I keep my ration of bugs for South Asia.
After we saw off Funda and Ayca, we continued to cycle towards Essaura together with Enes and Ayse. As we were moving along the coast from Casablanca towards South we came upon massive construction: hotels, holiday villages, time share properties. In some towns there were summer houses. In the garden of one of them we met Rob a Dutchman. He came to this region and settled down after he got retired.
How come, dude? Why did you leave a country like the Netherlands so green, woven with canals, having highly developed bicycle culture, a country with ultimate social opportunities and have settled here? On top of it, you aren’t either a refugee. He is a real Dutch, dude. : ). Indeed, I know why he is here. After my road memories had been stolen I didn’t re-write those yet. Frankly, I didn’t want to either. At that time my homepage had been renewed and then as I was about to add my memories and backing up all had gone. I’ll add them from time to time which for the time being rest on my notebook. Foreign countries do not only exist of large cities or of touristic attraction spots where the fantastic photos are taken. As I was guest in Dutch homes, drinking coffee with shopkeepers I came up with some idea about the country and its economical situation.
I know why Rob is in Morocco and to me he made a rational decision. He bought a house on the shore of the Ocean. The Moroccan government allows foreigners to own land only by one condition. The land cannot be passed on. Upon person’s death the state seizes the land with all its belonging property. Well, it is the King’s land. While chatting with Rob at the park two Moroccan girls sat next to us. Encouraged by Ayse they started to talk with us. Not in large cities but in smaller towns people knowing some French or English always try to talk with us. If not they at least salute us with “Bonjourrrr”. I like the way Moroccans try to communicate even they know little French or English. They don’t hesitate to make mistakes, “Ugh I may make a wrong sentence, people will laugh at me”, while talking! They try to communicate with you. He/she tries to talk even with broken sentences.
A dialog between a French Canadian and me:
– Gurkan their French is not so good it just comes to you so.
– I guess you understand what they are talking about.
– Of course I do.
– (A bright smile)
While traveling around the world if you understand people so or so, you would be able to cope with any problem you encounter. In many instances it even doesn’t matter that you don’t speak that language…
I’m traveling by bike since 2010. After my Japan tour I held presentations and shared my experiences with Turkish youth for 14 months. That is I have been on the road for almost three years. Most of the time, I spent my time in my tent. For example, during our 3 months of Spain-Morocco adventure we spent more than 2 months in our tents with Enes. Besides this we had stayed in hostels or were hosted by people. And yet, I gained intense nomadic life experience living in the tent. Therefore, Enes, Funda and Ayse might found boring why I was paying attention for choosing the right place to put up the tent or the details for a hidden place. As I mentioned before, I don’t have the luxury to let my guard down what my experiences had proven. Also, as we were heading down to South I didn’t fail to show up at the municipalities.
Once we had a fantasy camping at the ocean shore. Waking up in the morning we realized that this would be the first and last camp at a beach. The bicycles and tents were coated with salty water droplets. The next day we washed them as soon as possible. We learned that there are cafes with Wi-Fi along the road down to South thanks to Enes. Generally there is internet connection in cities, towns and villages. Furthermore, mobiles have enough internet coverage. Moroc Telekom is better in interior parts of the country and Inwi along the costal part.
Along the road we went to the town Azemmour. As we were passing by its medina, I said: “Dude, stop, let us take a look”. After a while we got fed up of visiting medina in Morocco, but this one was quite different. I must say that the art work of Moroccan youth is really eye catching. For the first time we saw a medina decorated with graffiti work. Even we got lost in this medina and found our way out with the help of GPS. It is worth to visit this spot while heading down towards South.
We all got surprised arriving in El Jadida. It was a quite relaxed town, boys and girls walking side by side, hand in hand. In a country where there are strict moral rules this relaxed atmosphere of the city made us astonish.
It is not easy to walk hand in hand, even side by side with your beloved at the beach, on the streets in this country. Pay attention how the tables are arranged in the cafe’s in Morocco. All are facing the streets. When you sit at a table you will watch the street and not see your companion’s face. Who is strolling around with whom, who is doing what and so on… An arrangement for gossip.
Dude, how an awkward situation. For example, you want to say goodbye and kiss your girl friend. You can’t do it. You may only shake her hand. Even, you cannot kiss your girlfriend’s chicks on the street. At the entrance of El-Aaiun you pass a bridge. The hilly side on the left of this bridge is the flirt spot of youth. Because of the gossipy mentality they cannot hang around at cafe’s, on streets. Boys meet with their girlfriends secretly at a stinky place where the whole city waste is flowing to. If you are Moroccan, it isn’t easy to meet and walk around with your beloved. Anyway, in which Muslim country is it easy? Isn’t there any gossipy mentality in Turkey? While we were strolling around in the city a cyclist passing by stopped next to us to have a small talk with us, his name Said. Then he took us to the camping area of the city.
Heading down towards to South from the western coast camping places can be found in every city. Why? Because there are many tourists especially retired French spending their holidays with their caravans. It is possible to encounter hundreds, thousands of caravans on the road. I realized that traveling by caravan should be another sort of experience after visiting the first camping place in Denmark. If I would travel by such a means, the caravan that I would buy would look like this. Hahaaa
This guy is a famous person producing these caravans in Germany. We met on the road. They were staying in the desert for days only using the main road for getting fuel and then spending days traveling through the mountains and on sand dunes.
Sometimes when we cannot find a suitable camping place we asked people to camp at their yards or in constructions. Generally, Moroccans are very cooperative upon such requests. For example, I mentioned in my previous article that we stayed in the municipality building. Once, as we were wild camping, a shepherd came and let us to move to a safer place near his home. You should have seen how he showed us the place. He drew a big stone to show the right place. The stone made a dull sound hitting on hardpan. We were not able to communicate with that guy but understood him. He said:
– Aha, put up your tents here. There is water nearby. And safe
And then he left us.
(Aha, this is the place)
He also came to control us with a lamp in the evening. Another day we got permission for camping in a construction. They said: “No problem”. We put up our tents in gas station one day. People let us camp at their yards. In short, Morocco is a quite safe country in terms of camping in mountains, deserts, forests and towns.
There is a beautiful town called Essaouira. Don’t miss to visit this town when you happen to be in Morocco. You can stay at Orson Welles Hotel for 250 Dirham per night for two persons breakfast inclusive. In Atlantis hostel a bed in a 6 bed room costs 50 Dirham. Listen to jazz at Taros Bar and drink a glass of wine for me. Walking on its streets would bring you to another world, out of Morocco. Essaouira differs from the other Moroccan towns. Its medina is clean and tidy compared to that in the other towns. But be aware of the sweet talk of shopkeepers. As I mentioned in my previous article the “f….. you” situation continues also here. Although Ayse is stating that this is not the situation in this city, Enes experienced it by himself. When a shopkeeper happens to see that you are wearing a necklace they immediately try to convince you to buy another one: “Wow, this is a beautiful necklace. Take a look inside the shop. We have also some”. They pull you inside their shops selling the same product for different prices. Alright I admit that they need customers but. Such simple fooling actions keep people away. Look you have a shop and a show window which you can decorate to make it attractive. No, they insist on f…g you. I’m really fed up with this in towns scattered throughout the Atlas Mountains… We sometimes had lunch or dinner at restaurants. In one of them we ordered kofte (meat balls), two half bread loafs and two bottles of cola. The guy wanted from us 100 Dirham. After seeing the expression of my face he asked me (we were talking in English):
– Isn’t it alright?
– Dude, do you have to overcharge every foreigner you see? Do you know, I’m traveling in your country for the last three months? I know the prices. How can you sell this meal for 100 Dirham while the same costs only 20 Dirham in EL-Aaiun? Aren’t you Muslim?
– Yes, I’m
– And we are Turks.
– Really. Alright then. 50 Dirham
Again, in one of the towns a shopkeeper wanted to charge for letting us to camp on the roof top. I really got angry and swore at him. But as soon as I mention that I’m Turk, the behavior of the people against me immediately changes.
We arrived in the town Quarzazate. We stayed at a Hi Hostel, a double bed room for 70 Dirham breakfast inclusive. I prefer to stay at Hi Hostels having a basic standard. Quarzazate is a famous city in Morocco with the world’s largest open air film studios. Moroccans are trying to turn this city into an art city of Africa.
Game of Thrones, Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator and many other movies had been made in this area. Since there are many places to visit around Quarzazate, it has also an airport. But Enes does not have left much time his 3 month’s visa is almost expired. How come to visit all these places?
(We got almost stuck in sand in Sahara desert.. Well, if you try to go everywhere as if you are on bike….. : ) )
We went downtown and rented a car. Our purpose was to visit all the places around Quarzazate by car and then go back on our bikes where we had stopped. Dude, I haven’t been driving since four years. This would be a quite different experience. We left our bikes for two days at the hostel we had stayed. We put Enes’ and my bicycle bags into the trunk which hardly fit in. Dude, how much load we were carrying… We rented this car for two days for 400 Dirham (about 50 USD). We took our bags in the thought we might wild camp somewhere. We drove 900 km in two days. During this time we transported tens of hitchhikers from one place to the other. At the end we were fed up, it looked like as if we rented the car just for transporting people. I really don’t remember how many people got into the car.
For example we listened to the story of Mohammed whose car was broken and he listened to ours. As we arrived in the city where we dropped him, he offered us money: “Dude, what for is this?”, “Please, take it.” As I told him no, he invited us for a cup of tea together with his father. They were speaking English quite well due to their jobs (shopkeeper).
As we were chatting, Mohammed’s father:
– This is the first time that I meet Turks.
– Well, didn’t you ever meet a tourist from another Muslim country?
(He thought for a while)
– Really very strange, throughout all the years I’m working you are the first Muslim tourist I have ever seen.
This is the town Agdz in Morocco. Now, there is a road turning left just at the exit of the city. The place where we are driving to is named as Tamnougalt in Google. If you happen to ask, how the hell have you found this place? Just right at that time. How guys just hoping off bicycle would drive a car?
– Ey, Enes where is this road going to?
– Gurkan, this looks like a dead end road according to GPS. Fuck it, let’s go. If not we’ll turn back.
– Aaaaa, the end of asphalt.
– Whoa, we are on dirt road. Be careful don’t hit the bottom of the car.
– But I told the guy to rent us a jeep… For sure we’ll go off roading.
– Slow down. We’ll hit the bottom dude
– Dude, can the car get through this part?
– Woww, where the hell are we? Dude, the real Kasbah (a unique type of medina) is here. Life is still continuing as in the past here. This spot is a real highlight.
After not encountering a living being for 15 minutes in nowhere we started to think: “Dude, if something happens to the car we’ll get stuck here. We can’t even call for car service. Fortunately, we have all our camping gear with us. If there is no way out we’ll camp here.” While we were thinking what we would do, a tourist car stopped next to us. Well, we can count ourselves as the denizens of this terrain.
– Hi, we got lost. Could our car get through the road in the direction you are coming from?
What a pity, he also rented a car like ours.
– Yes, yes, no problem
The water flowing from Atlas Mountains has created a marvelous palm tree oasis in the valley. For the first time in my life I saw such a wonderful landscape. There were thousands of water canals built underneath the palm trees used for farming. While cycling in Morocco I didn’t see any tractors but horses, donkeys and oxen used for plowing the fields.
We also drove to Skoul 150 km to the north. Both the owner of the hostel we stayed at and also the owner of the car rental service told us that dinosaur remains had been found there (By the way, during my visit at National History Museum in London I thought that they were real). Well, we decided to go there. After driving about 100 km I stopped in a village to ask the people where the dinosaurs are. First in English, then in Turkish, finally narration.
– Amca (uncle in Turkish) we heard that there are dinosaurs here, where to go?
– Dinosaur remains
– Dude, I say dinosaurs, the huge animals
While trying to explain making gestures plus some additional voice effects, ROARRRR, at the end we come across with an English speaking guy. He showed us where the place is. Dude, in every language dinosaur is dinosaur. Either the villagers don’t know that there are remains found or they don’t know what dinosaur is. Then, we arrived in the next village where we were told that we had passed by. As we were about to leave the guys showed us a man walking on the road and said: “Take him with you, he’ll show you the place.” Well, to perform a meritorious action has become our job.
Well, Amca got in the car. We don’t know where he wants to go but guess that we’ll drop him at the next village. But, he showed us the road turning left as the way to dinosaur remains. We had to drive up a slope again. It was meaningless to ask the man whether he comes with us, neither was it polite to set him off. So he came with us. At the end of a real dirt road a huge building was ascending. We came in front of the door, but what a door. Also the building was brand new and its door locked. While we were thinking how to enter the building Amca took a key almost as long as my arm out from his djellaba (a traditional men’s dress). Whoa, he was the keeper of this building dude. hahahaha
He unlocked the door with that huge key and we entered in the building. It was recently finished and was completely empty. He took us to the spot where the dinosaur remains were supposed to be found and what we saw was this…..
– Hummm, Enes what are you thinking?
– I’m not sure Gurkan
– Dude, are the remains underneath this mound? Did they abandon the excavation?
– Amcaaa, WHERE IS THE DINOSAUR?
He makes a hand gesture as if saying “there it is”.
– Dude, what dinosaur? On top of the soil there are footsteps, bricks etc.
– Gurkan, those guys built a huge 3 storey wedding saloon but nothing inside.
Outside I asked him again, this time he replied me as “Rabat”. Hughhh, at the end… Dude, the remains are in Rabat. We came here for nothing and nobody is telling us the truth. In Rabat I found out that the remains were sent to France. Eheuhh. Sorry Enes, but France is a little far from here…
There is a town, Sidi Ifin in the south called the paradise of surfers. Dude, the whole country is a shore at the Atlantic Ocean filled with surfers. Anyway, 15 km away of the city entrance is a place called Lagzira. I must say that everyone who has time should visit this place to observe how nature creates art. Staying at fisher houses costs 60 Dirham, breakfast 20 Dirham and lunch 50 Dirham. : )…. A spot where you can feast on sea food.
It is possible to follow the ocean shore from Sidi Ifin till 50 km to Tantan. But we waffled to take this road after seeing 4×4 jeeps abandoning.
– Enes, left or right?
– There is no road on left hand side Gurkan. Dude, only a mule path.
– Eeee, what to do then?
– We have excess water, let’s take this mule path
What had Enes said?… Adventure starts where the road ends.
Anyway, in Enes’ video you can watch how he is pushing his bike on the mule path. I realized how demanding this track was as we struggled to get out for 3 days. The first day we were lucky and could camp next to a well. I filtered the water from the well and used for cooking our dinner. In the morning I washed my hair with the same water. By the way, those wells were occupied by frogs and mosquito. But the water of wells at the skirts of mountains is clearer.
The water of all the other wells is really muddy. Towards the end of the second day we needed to find a well to camp at but couldn’t find. On top of it cycling 80 km in the field makes one really exhausted. At the end of the day we saw a shepherd. He also was glad to see us. Enes asked immediately searching for water: “Su, su, suuu (water in Turkish).” Dude, I looked around there wasn’t any well in sight. I was astonished how the shepherd could keep so many animals in this wasteland.
(Dude, Enes you recorded a video there if I’m not wrong. Send me a photo I couldn’t find any among thousands of shots. Those moments)
– Gurkan, the guy will give us water, take your water bags.
– Dude, how? There is no well
– Man, just go
– I have probably to filter that water
I took my 4 L water bag and followed the guy. We cannot drink the water of such regions without filtering. If not, we get sick most probably. I know this situation very well from Turkmenistan. The natives get immune since it is their way of life but our intestinal system cannot cope with it. While I was thinking, I saw that he was taking water from the top of the muddy puddle which we had crossed shortly before. How come, dude? It is mud, mate…
– Enes, come over dude, you must see this
– What happened, man?
– Come and look that guy is preparing tea for us. Hahaha.. We’ll drink it no way out..
Enes comes next to me
– Do you see this muddy puddle?
– He, for animals….
– (hahahaha) No mate, he his preparing tea for us with this water.
– Fuck, dude
There are two reasons why I want to drink this tea by heart.
The guy is very happy to have guests and that he has something to offer.
Tea does not grow in the desert North African regions. But they all love tea. Well, how come? Caravans were transporting goods via Silk Road for centuries. Tea was introduced in this region by this way. At present, tea is imported mostly from China. We all know tea without sugar has a somewhat bitter taste. Well, those guys use well water mostly salty and soil for everything. Imagine you prepare tea with this water. Therefore, since that time, for centuries, sugar was used abundantly to suppress that bitter taste and this custom is just continuing. Ask someone in this region why he/she drinks tea with that much sugar, you’ll be told hundreds of different tales. But, actually this is a custom which has its roots in the far past. To me they don’t drink tea with sugar but sugar with tea. I guess this is the reason why hyper tension is wide spread… Likewise, I had mentioned in my Japan memories why the most expensive part of a cow is its fatty part. Analogous situations.
Next comes our desert adventure with marvelous new experiences…