Escaping the heat in Fez is not always as easy as it sounds. Simply getting on a train is difficult, as our reporter, Sue Bail, discovered as she headed to Asillah to chill out
|Asillah - cooler than Fez|
Many people had warned me of how much Moroccans love the beach in August and how crowded every coastal town is post Ramadan but I needed to escape the heat wave of Fez and surely they were exaggerating..... Not at all. I couldn't even get a train out of Fez for the coast for 12 hours as all were booked out. Even the 1am first class carriage was doubly booked with people filling the aisles.
|Asillah was buzzing|
Eventually in Asillah and after a nap I hit the cafe for an espresso and couldn't believe my ears and eyes. This quiet 'art' town as I had known it off season was heaving. Every street was a mass of parading families and teenagers, strutting their stuff, staring with curiosity, cars crawling through the crowds, music thumping, every Mercedes and BMW black. Horse and carts, a local form of taxi, were jigging their way through the mayhem.
The beach was a sports ground, dotted with flimsy umbrellas and thatched cafes, while the alleys of the medina were like a fun park with everyone on a treasure hunt for the next mural to pose against.
The ramparts were bursting at sunset as the foreshore came alive with snail soup stands, henna ladies, fishermen with their fresh catch, music trolleys and again, masses of people, reinvigorated post siesta and ready to amble through the night.
My hotel backed onto a wedding venue with newlyweds each and all night. I can report that there's not a lot of sleep happening in Asillah.
The saga of getting to Paradise Beach.... Great test in patience & how much do you really want that swim????
I haggle with green petit taxi that the hotel recommended only to be told that I have to get a grand taxi. So I go to the grand taxi stand only to be told I need to catch a petit taxi to another grand taxi stand.
Eventually I reach a packed market place where a "friend" says I must book the whole taxi because no one else is going to this famous beach, then he says he has a friend with a very good cafe there, yeah yeah, sure, soooooo dodgy!
|Asillah - art is everywhere|
Cutting back through the market shaking my head, I remind myself that I should know better. It must be the heat, the delirium of the my cold medication. I head back to the hotel for a cold shower and re-energise ready for another attempt.
Back to the market and so starts the spiel, but, in the end, I find myself jumping into a blanketed cart behind a fragrant horse and going for the genuine local back-in-time jig through the back streets, rubbish dumps, shepherds with goats and cows, melon fields, etc baking in the afternoon sun and being overtaken by locals, ten to a car, hurtling down the dusty track to paradise. I'm definitely the odd one out here but enjoying the pace once I relax into it.
|On the road to Paradise - better than a taxi|
Diving into the fresh waves was delicious, and, like a water baby, I didn't want to come back to earth.
After several water-soaked hours I walked back up the beach to find my horse & cart waiting for the jig home and I smiled all the way.
Paradise never comes easily... but it is certainly worth it.
Text and photographs: Sue Bail