Wednesday, October 06, 2010
POSTCARD FROM LARACHE
The View from Fez Postcard Series Continues as our intrepid team heads to...
Today we're in a town little visited by tourists outside the holiday season. Larache is situated on the southern banks of the Loukkos river estuary and has a long history of Portuguese and then Spanish occupation before the French.
The central square, Place de la Libération (also known as Plaza d'Espana) is large and planted with palm trees. Main roads fan out from it, full of early 1920 Mauresque buildings. The town retains a strong Spanish influence and many people speak Spanish as a second language.
Ruins of Portuguese fortifications (see above) can be found along the seafront, and you can sit at a pavement café on the square and see the sea.
Spanish investment in the town has meant that many of the beautiful old buildings are disappearing in favour of bright shiny apartment blocks. The Spanish influence is also found in the food - sardines and paella compete with the preponderance of pizza joints. Restaurants close around 10pm, but in season stay open much later.
We stopped off at Lixus on our way from Asilah to Larache. Phoenician settlement of this area dates back more than 2000 BCE. Much older than Volubilis. Lixus sees fewer visitors, has been less well-researched and is quite overgrown. The resident guide, El Mokhtar El Hannache, will point out the later Carthaginian buildings, and the much later Roman constructions on top of them. Lixus was a maritime city, but these days the sea is 4km away.
There are the remains of a temple to Neptune on the site as well as an amphitheatre (the only one in Morocco), baths, houses, Carthaginian rainwater collection pits (the Romans abandoned these), other temples and a forum. The inhabitants made olive oil and a preserved fish paste much revered in Rome. Today the few olives are wild and only for the birds.
The views of the serpentine Loukkos river are superb from the top of the site. Salt beds, a view of distant Larache and fishing vessels at sea complete the scene.
On the northern side of the estuary, a beautiful beach stretches for miles. There's a large modern development, Port Lixus, with hotels; apartments and even a marina, that's fortunately not visible from Larache. For now; the town relies on fishing and seasonal tourism and seems a world away from both squeaky-clean Asilah and the major cities of Tangier and Rabat.
See all The View from Fez POSTCARDS HERE.