Going to Safi
We decided to move on today. Essaouira is beautiful, but the weather is not really good for the beach thing. We walked all over the old Medina and feel we have seen what we needed to.
One last breakfast at our favourite restaurant and than the CTM bus to Safi.
Safi is a bit further north and famous because it is the sardine canning capital of Morocco. It did not sound very interesting, but we wanted to have a look anyway.
The bus trip was pleasant enough, with a local kid providing musical entertainment from his ipod. Reggae, rap and R&B.
The landscape here is very green and a bit hilly, but with all the rain it looked mostly blurry and miserable from the bus.
Arriving in Safi we were not sure how long we wanted to stay here. Perhaps only a few hours. At a cafe we had lunch, the waitress offered us to stay at her house for 20 Dirham each. That sounded great, and we could leave our bags at the cafe till we returned at 19.00 at the end of her shift. The rain stopped and the sun came out, so we set off for our walk around town.
We headed for the old Medina build by the Portuguese. They were here between 1508 and 1541. They build the old fortress, the Medina walls and a Portuguese Cathedral. That’s the first thing that stood out when entering the Medina. It doesn’t really look like a standard cathedral, and has now been converted to the mosque minaret. A quick look was enough.
Wandering the Medina streets and alleyways is always fun. This town is a lot quieter and not so many racing scooters make it a far more relaxing place. This one stands out because of all the arches. It gives it a real medieval feel. Old ladies hanging out their laundry, boys playing soccer and men drinking their teas and coffees at the cafe’s. In between are the souvenirs stalls with a lot of pottery. Safi has a big potters district and some of the pieces on sale are very nice.
While wandering up hill we meet a friendly potter named Z. He wanted us to have a look at his work. His shop is tiny and filled with amazing pots and plates. He proudly told us that he has been a potter for 41 years and we can tell he is a master at his craft. He had pieces and styles we have not seen anywhere before. He gave us a demonstration and showed us some pieces he made for some Israeli synagogues. This brought up the fact that David has an Israeli background and this started the Hebrew lesson. Z has taught himself several languages to better communicate with his customers, and he took the opportunity to learn the whole Hebrew alphabet.
By now we had been given pillows at stools to sit on. The neighbouring ladies were getting curious about the tourist hanging out for so long and stopped by with some fresh crumpets for us.
After a while we thought is was time to go. It was almost 17.00 and we had to be back at the cafe at 19.00 and we had not seen that much of Safi yet. Z wanted to show us something though, so we follow him up the steep winding alleys. He brought us to the synagogue. It is build on an ancient holy site but is not very old. A beautiful building not the less. The two local police hanging out asked us about our plans for the night and got a bit worried when we were vague about it. We did not want to say that we were staying at a friendly locals for a small price, as that could get our host in trouble. In Morocco you can only make money of tourist if your identity card states that you are in the tourism business. Our host could get a fine for giving us cheap accommodation. After reassuring them multiple times that we were fine and happy, they let us go.
Z then took us up the walls at the top of the Medina for a view. Great views out over the potters area with the kilns and the ocean on the other side. In the sunset it looked amazing. We probably would not have found this place without him. We invited Z for a coffee, but he did not have the time. He showed us the right roads back and left. A kind and wonderful man.
We made our way along the outside of the old walls a bit and back through the local market. It is Saturday night and it is busy. We do notice a couple of policeman though. They seem to be shadowing us. When we stop at a book store we threw them a bit, and they walked on only to double back and show up behind us again later. Outside the market they came up and expressed their concern about us. What are these four tourist doing? Are they lost? Do they need help? Again we try to make it clear that we are fine. We are staying with a friend that we are going to meet now. The police doesn’t know what to make of it. They radio in that four Australians are wandering streets and for other police to keep an eye out. Thanking them we left. We are now confused. Are they scared of the Australian gangs invading Safi, or is this town not that safe? We have felt safe here, but now we are not too sure any more. Especially when about 500meters further another two policeman pull up on their bikes. Are you lost? Do you need help? What the..? We again explain the whole story. (Thanks by the way, to Sophia as she speaks the best French.) This time the police wants to follow us to the cafe and have a coffee with us there, just to make sure we make it there ok. Fine. Not too sure what our host is going to think when we show up with the gendarmery, but we don’t really have a choice. We walk on with the two police bikes in tow.
With all the interruptions we also seem to have wandered off course and we are not sure where we are any more. We are actually lost now. Well, since the police is here, we can ask them! When they find out we need to go to a cafe near the grand taxi stand, they come up with the plan to organise us a car to take us there. One officer disappears and reappears with his personal car. This is getting silly. Now we are getting a police officer to drive us! This town must not be to bad, if the police have time to do all this! As it turns out the cafe is only just around the corner and not far at all. At finding out who our host is the officer is happy and does not want to join us for the coffee. He does hang about still to keep an eye out. Great, as on arrival our friendly host tells us that her mother has not given permission and we cannot stay at her house. She seems almost in tears for having to disappoint us. Off course it is not a problem for us and we thank her profusely anyway. The officer comes back over and insists that he will now take us (and all our bags) in his small car to a cheap hotel. You have gotta love Safi!!