Tali woke up, and promptly woke me up, at 2:30 this morning, despite the comfort of our Hyatt Hotel bed, and wanted me to make her couscous! I told her that I would be happy to, but the version without visible ingredients would take quite a while to complete…so instead we read our books for an hour and then went back to sleep. Ah, the joys of jet lag!
We are driving today the short distance to the first stop on our journey, a riad in Sale, named “The Repose.” Sale is Rabat’s sister city, separated only by the Oued Bou Regreg River, which is crossed by a monorail, an old and a new bridge, and a rowboat service. We will be stopping along the way at whatever beach towns appeal to us.
First we checked out of the Hyatt in Casablanca, and walked across the street to have breakfast at a streetside cafe, where we had couscous, a salad and mint teas, for a price of 120 dirhams (about $15). We will no doubt become expert in the subtleties of both couscous and tagine as our trip continues, but this version tasted fine to us, though the “vegetarian” couscous we requested still arrived with several lachunks of meat! We then had an espresso at a nearby cafe, before starting our drive.
As we drove north on the coastal road, through the outskirts of Casablanca toward Rabat and Sale, we noticed that much of what would have been considered prime beachfront elsewhere is here given over to factories, warehouses and other commercial uses. In most places along the route, the Atlantic Ocean is not even visible, hidden behind concrete walls, or factory buildings. We occasionally saw a Beach Club, reminiscent of those from my childhood in Lido Beach, New York, a place for members to enjoy the beach and the food. As we drove further north, through Mohammedia, we hit some gated streets filled with summer homes or apartments. We imagined that residents of Casablanca might drive here for weekends at the shore.
We arrived in Sale, having taken the new bridge, and in short order, at The Repose, inside the medina walls, by about 4pm. We were greeted by the owner, Jan, who originally comes from London, but has for the past fifteen years lived in Morocco with her husband, Rachid. They spent more than a year renovating their riad, using traditional craftsmen to reconstruct the wall finishes and mosaics, finally opening for business just one year ago. The Repose is indeed lovely, with the public rooms, the kitchen and the owners’ quarters downstairs, the bedrooms on the second floor, and the outdoor terrace on the third floor, the roof level.
We spent the next four or so hours wandering around the Sale medina’s winding streets and alleys, of course getting lost more than a few times. It’s a vibrant place, with local people selling to other local people, not at all dependent on the tourist trade. As a result, we were almost completely ignored, a far cry from the aggressive salespeople we have read about in the medinas of Fes and Marrakech.
We returned to The Repose just in time for a late dinner on the rooftop patio. It was a great start to our trip!
With best wishes for your own amazing journey,