Trip Start Aug 06, 2008
39Trip End Ongoing
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For my next stretch, I enjoy some pleasant company again. Youssef (see Chellal hike) decides to join me for another segment of my journey: Bouznika to Skhirat. Skhirat looks like the outermost suburb of Rabat, so I know if I can make it that far, I will reach Rabat…
We head out from the Bouznika station past a row of mechanic shops and through an arched gateway. Once again, being in an area where there's not a lot of history or monuments, this is quite a memorable discovery, as we compete for the most imaginative story as to the origins of this arch.
"This was the triumphal arch built by Sultan Abderrezak after leading his armies to victory and freeing the Castle of Bouznika from the Portuguese in 1537"… is the best story I come up with.
But it turns out, the story is not entirely imaginative—there actually is a Castle of Bouznika! We reach the coast, squeeze between a couple of beach houses to the shore… and lo and behold… there’s a castle perched on a rocky outcrop!
OK… more like a bunch of multi-storey beach condos with a wall around them, but Youssef tells me that this actually was a castle at one time… so although not quite as well preserved as say, Essaouira, Safi or El Jadida, it’s a cool discovery—since it was completely unexpected.
Here I take another Bouznika videoclip… and we go to explore the “castle” and hike around it’s exterior walls. Interesting to see an old castle turned into a beach resort—the first I think I’ve seen in Morocco.
On the other side is a stream which looks like has very muddy banks
So we start over, this time trudging along the highway for awhile until we could see the ocean to our left with no barrier, fences or exclusive compounds blocking our way… we follow a path through the ripe wheatfields and finally reach the ocean.
Looking back, I get the annoying feeling that we could’ve just followed the beach from the beginning and saved ourselves several hours of looping around but… oh well… you live and learn…
Youssef is a particularly openminded fellow which which allows for some very interesting conversation as I’m able to broach subjects with him I’m usually not able to talk about here in Morocco. As we trudge along the beach, we talk about Moroccan culture, romance, religion, ambitions… The din of the Casa Rabat freeway can’t be heard, and thanks to the sand dunes blocking the view, we can almost convince ourselves we’re exploring and endless wild coastline…I find out that it’s actually less tiring to hike through sand barefoot than with shoes which I do for a while, making this perhaps my longest “barefoot hike” to date…
No sign of civilization for miles—except for an occasional stray cow, or one or two lonely beach houses overlooking the shore—looks like a great place to get away from it all… a stones throw from Casablanca
And then, all of a sudden, we find ourselves walking down a divided boulevard which appears out of no where. This must be the beginning of Skhirat. Sure enough, soon we reach a little plaza which actually has an underground parking lot (something you don’t even find in Casablanca!) then a lively little fishing port with gnarly fellows bringing in their rickety bright blew boats in—a stark contrast with the upscale beach town feel the rest of the place has.
It looks like our hike along the beach is coming to an end—but not without a swim first. There’s an island not to far out, and part of me wants to see if I can reach it by swimming, but common sense overrules... so I settle for a dip right near the shore…
And from there, we head up across the freeway to the “real” Skhirat (what we’d seen so far was just the beach zone) where we find a nice little restaurant where I finally get my wish: a half of a sheep’s head all to myself for a very reasonable 30 dh (3 euros)…
Despite it’s suburb status and all the large summer homes popping up all around town, Skhirat still has a few traces of small town left to it
At first a couple of schoolgirls come a sit nearby. I have mixed feelings about having girls as my audience in Morocco. On one side, it’s refreshing to be able to share my songs with the female gender… on the other hand, I tend to get ugly, suspicious glares from some of the men passing by. I guess I can’t really blame them. I mean, what thought would first cross my mind if I were in the USA and I saw an older Saudi tourist chatting with a couple local junior high school girls?
Anyways, things go OK in Skhirat… I give the girls a CD and they head off to school… then a couple of fellows stop by… Just a nice, relaxed atmosphere here in this town, not too traditional but not too modern and jaded either.
Finally I head on to Skhirat’s tiny commercial area, then on through a pretty gritty market… On across the highway to a dirt road neighbourhood by the train tracks… and I’m satisfied with my tour of Skhirat…