Saturday, September 18, 2010

Postcard from Oualidia

It's ironic that 'saafi' in Darija means 'enough'. One night in the industrial port of Safi, north of Essaouira, was quite enough. Approaching from the south, we passed the enormous phosphates plant, belching out sulphorous white smoke from its labyrinthine tubes.

Safi does not delight the visitor

Next came the huge sardine works that also don't produce much in the way of pleasant smells. The other big industry in Safi is pottery - much of the ceramics found across Morocco come from this town and the potteries dominate it. There's absolutely nothing for the tourist here apart from the potteries. We were glad to move on.

A hair-raising ride to Oualidia followed. The taxi was older than us, about the same vintage as the elderly driver. But appearances can hide all sorts of things - here was Mad Max himself. In a car that rattled and bucked, where the instrument panel had long given up and there were no seatbelts (not necessary in taxis in Morocco, of course, though we wonder why), this driver got up to knuckle-biting speeds on the poor coastal road between Safi and Oualidia. Thank goodness there's a white line in the middle of the road to guide the driver - for most of the ride this old bucket straddled it, when it wasn't on the wrong side of the road overtaking huge trucks on blind corners.

Arriving in Oualidia meant a fight with Mad Max - we wanted to be taken to our hotel, he would go no further than the taxi rank. In the end he couldn't anyway, as the car died there and then. We were secretly quite pleased about that. So we hiked the kilometre or so down to the beach to find our hotel. There are no taxis in Oualidia, and no signposts to hotels, strangely enough.

an aerial view of the lagoon at Oualidia

Oualidia is truly beautiful, set on a peaceful lagoon. The town is split between the usual Moroccan conurbation up on the bluff, and the string of hotels, restaurants and holiday homes along the beach about a kilometre down the cliffside. Around the lagoon there are plenty of sea sports - a surf school run by Morocco's champion surfer, Noureddine Joubir, quads, scooters, windsurfers and kayaks for hire, or you can just laze in a beachside restaurant savouring fresh fish. This week there's a red tide (a form of algae ingested by molluscs making them inedible), so no oysters or mussels. The oysters are farmed in the lagoon - you can visit one of the factories to see how it's done, and then taste them in the restaurants.

The lagoon in Oualidia

See all The View from Fez POSTCARDS HERE.


Tales From Bradistan said...

In Safi you could have explored the ancient Medina, no tourists in there and concessions to them either. It's not an enormous area but you can spend 2 hours in there just wandering about. Then after that you could have got some amazing fried fish for just 30DH a plate at Sidi Bouzid amongst all the other hungry diners.

Helen Ranger said...

Hi Bradistan
Yes, I did both those things. Though Sidi Bouzid is an hour's drive from Oualidia, only 5km from El Jadida, a long way from Safi.

Anonymous said...

I love the ancient medina of Safi, we spent time there on one of the greatest morocco trips we have ever had. My boots had fallen apart by then and a guy in there fixed them. And its true, no other tourists, we were the only ones.

Tales From Bradistan said...

I am referring to Sidi Bouzid in Safi, it is above the port with a selection of fresh fish restaurants. It is not somewhere you can just stumble on, you need to walk there from the centre or take a taxi. It is mentioned I think in the Rough Guide.

Anonymous said...

What are the laws I n drinking and smoking in safi?