Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Postcard from Azemmour

As regular readers will have observed, The View from Fez team are making a whistlestop tour of some of the less frequently mentioned destinations in Morocco. Today our journey continues northward, with a stop in El Jadida.

The World Heritage Site of the Cite Portugaise is set within ochre walls and contains various gems such as the Church of the Assumption and the synagogue, as well as the eerily tranquil Citerne (cistern), lit by a single shaft of light. The church is being turned into an upmarket hotel and restaurant by M Leymarie, owner of the Beldi country club in Marrakech.

The Cistern at El Jadida, an entry in The View from Fez photography competition

Just inside the Cite gate is a pleasant restaurant, La Portugaise. It's good to know this, as El Jadida has a serious lack of decent restaurants. The town itself is pretty tacky.

Azemmour was our next stop - a pretty medina set above the Oum Errabia river. Again, few decent restaurants though lots of hole-in-the-wall places serving good sandwiches and rotisserie chicken. These are just outside the walled medina, around the leafy square.

Azemmour (pictured above) has featured recently in several magazines as THE place to buy property. It's probably about 20 years behind the much more upmarket (and cleaner) Assilah, near Tangier. One senses that within a few years, Azemmour will look like Assilah (given a similarly forward-thinking governor). At present it's subject to upgrading but makes no concessions to tourists. There are, however, a couple of good places to stay. An advantage is that it's on the trainline and only 1 1/2 hours from Casablanca.

We stopped off, too, at Mazagan, the mega-resort opened late last year (see our story here). It looks like any other Kerzner resort with a few concessions to being located in Morocco (eg ochre walls with crenellations, doormen in fancy burnous and babouche outfits, and a show of Moroccan artisans in the foyer). But in amongst the golf course, casino, spa and several restaurants, you could easily forget which country you're in. It has brought jobs to the area, speeded up the construction of the highway (but closed the picturesque coastal road). It's not alone - there's a Pullman hotel and golf course next door, too. One wonders about the water needed for all these golf courses - not such a problem here as in Marrakech, perhaps, but nonetheless unsustainable use of a precious resource.

See all The View from Fez POSTCARDS HERE.

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