The R301 running along the Atlantic coastline provides wonderful cliff top views of the sea below. Its a good well sealed road and perfect for cycling as it follows the coast South beyond the sprawl of the big cities.
Having left El Jadida I found myself cycling through a big industrial site. Rafts of pipelines stretched above the road which connected a giant tanker dock on the shore with fuel storage tanks further inland. Electric pylons snaked into the distance in every direction.
Further along and past some rocky outcrops the road dropped down towards the sea and past a wooded glade. Small fishing boats were beached amongst trees and a few picnickers sat in the shade. I stopped, had a wander up to the waterline and made coffee. Little fishing huts were scattered on the rocks next to the sea.
I continued my sunny afternoon ride along the coast. It was getting late but felt that with a good push I could make the ‘fashionable’ resort of Oualidia.
It became a little too dark for comfort but could not find anywhere to stop to camp for the night. >Finally I breezed in past the curved electric blue street lights that mark the main drag into Oualidia. There were brightly lit hotels everywhere. I spotted a car/lorry park with four French camper vans. It was, I was told by a man from Amiens, fine for me to pitch my tent amongst the group. He had a small car on a trailer behind his motor home and suggested I place my bike there. Great. So I set about happily erecting my tent in the dark using a headlamp. But then, with lights flashing, the local gendarmerie pulled in to the car park. It seems they had arrived to move people on. I was told I had to leave and they began knocking on the doors to the camper vans. The man from Amiens was not a happy Gaul. Given the late time I didn’t want to argue and and started to repack my tent. However the Frenchman became quite animated. He was determined, literally, to stand his ground. I cycled back to the entrance and began checking the map for the local camping ground. But then the police drove back out and stopped briefly to apologise. They had spoken to their ‘superior’ and, after all, it was okay for me to camp. Sigh. I went back in and once again pitched my tent. The day was finally over.
The town car park was next to the old Portuguese walls and with a view beyond to the whitewashed beach resort on the coast below. It is, I gather, quite the place for windsurfers. I did not cycle down to take a closer look but continued on through the town towards Safi.
There are a number of ‘budget’ hotels (detailed in the guides) in a small street next to the entrance to Safi’s medina and close to the seafront. Hotel L’Avenir is the first and situated on the corner with its cafe and restaurant looking directly onto the main road. It perfectly suited my needs and a well chosen recommendation in the ‘Rough Guide’.
Contained with a square mile or two are Safi’s main attractions. The high walled, almost tunnelled, Medina is an extraordinary step back in time and a living, breathing place for its inhabitants. Above the Medina stands a castle or Kechla (now the national ceramic museum) and a Sufi shrine. A railway runs along the coast and separates a partially ruined Portuguese fortress from the main road which leads into a local shopping thoroughfare (Rue D’Rab’t).
For visitors this area of Safi reveals a perfect combination of history and everyday Moroccan life. I picked a good basic (cheap) restaurant off the Rue D’Rab’t for my evening meals. I used an extra days rest from cycling to give myself blisters exploring Safi’s medina and surrounding areas. It boast a Portuguese chapel but personally did not find it so interesting. However the tiny passageway with beautiful doorways and deeply coloured, sometimes florally painted, walls were remarkable. The ceramics souk was interesting but hardly earth shattering. The evenings magically came alive with the throng of people, shops and market traders creating a wonderful view into traditional and modern Moroccan life.