11 January 2013

Early Start
Sunrise on CTM
Road to Oujda
Big Mosque
Cathedral & Police
French Architecture & New Town
Old Town Alleyways

Our bus from Figuig left early this morning.  Getting up in the dark and dragging our bags to the CTM station.  At lest it was not that far.  We still haven’t replaced one of the bags yet, so it is literally dragging, as there are no wheels left!  Still, we made it in plenty of time, and got to stand there in the chill pre-dawn air.  People slowly started arriving and eventually the bus arrived as well.  For a change, we had to load the luggage in ourselves, but were not worried about this.  We were more worried about the little old ladies.  They can be vicious when getting on a bus, we had the best two seats allocated to us, and didn’t want to loose them.  Sending Anna on to stake our claim, I waited for the driver to unlock the storage compartments.  Loaded on, and prepared this time.  We had stocked up on junk food, and kept our blanket out just so we would not freeze to death before we arrived.

Friesians in Morocco!

Friesians in Morocco!

The trip back to Bouarfa is the same road, and the only thing that made it interesting was watching the sun rise.  The hills turning from dark outlines to red and golden before assuming their rightful colours.  It was quite nice to watch, and each hill was a different shade.
The bus stopped at Bouarfa for the driver’s breakfast, and we stocked up with a couple of pastries and coffee from the Cafe.  Considering it was a bus stop cafe, it was very reasonable and the food was pretty good.  Loading back on, we settled in for the long hall.  Oujda is at least another four or five hours away.  The trip itself was not that remarkable, and although we were going parallel to the Algerian border, there was nothing interesting happening.  Occasionally there would be the odd shepherd, or even a car.  There weren’t even any police checks!  Going north more trees started appearing again, and plots of land were divided up with walls being created around them.  By now, not that remarkable.

On arriving in Oujda, there was a stop outside of town.  We think this is where the main souk takes place, and most people left the bus here, but we were told to stay on.  The bus then took us into the heart of the city, and deposited us next to a large square and Mosque.  More coffee was consumed in an attempt to warm up and get some life back into fuzzy heads.  It was not a bad trip, and arrived on schedule, but was a very long way!
Not wanting to walk too far, we went around one corner and checked int the first hotel we could find.  It was at least 30m from the bus stop.  Still, it had clean rooms, a hot shower and was central.  Anna was smart and had a shower right away.  I decided to wait until evening, and it was after 11pm before I could get one.  It is a big hotel with only one shower per floor (about 40 rooms per floor)

A very modern city in places

A very modern city in places

Feeling as if we could now take on the town, we made our way back downstairs and went for a look at the central Mosque.  On the outside it is beautifully tiled, and carved.  Ornate fountains and doorways made it a pleasure to look at.  The few glimpses we caught of the inside gave the impression that it was even more beautiful inside.  However one end of it has now been overtaken by banks, change houses and shops.  The Minaret even has a LED display rotating through the flag of Morocco and the time.  This, I think is unique!  The square is lovely and open, lined with manicured palms, that seem a little out of place in the bustling town.

Last remains of the old walls

Last remains of the old walls

Walking around, we went through the main market areas, the gold alley, where all the jewellers proudly hang their wares out for display.  Hand’s of Fatima hanging above ornate bridal belts and rings.  The street vendors walking around selling Jellaba’s from doorway to coffee shop.  Wandering cigarette salesmen coming up for a chat.  There was a nice guy doing just this, that we constantly ran into while he was doing his rounds.

During the course of our meanderings, we came to a remnant of the old Medina walls.  There is nothing left other than a 10m stretch or so and a gate that looks to be used more as a public toilet for the men than a gate to get from one side of the city to the other.  A small park commemorates where the Medina used to begin, and a 5* hotel on the other signifying new town.  The difference between the two is stark.  There are clean, well laid out streets with side walks, cars and cafes.  On the other side, small streets with the shops encroaching on the street, and houses built up over the side walks.

Backstreets of Oujda

Backstreets of Oujda

Here it turns into the maze of twisting alleyways that have grown up organically over the years, as houses have been constructed to take up every bit of available space.  Going down a wide street that you think will take you to another area getting smaller and smaller as it branches off, and eventually terminating in a doorway set in the wall.

Typical Moroccan architecture is nice..

Typical Moroccan architecture is nice..

We did manage to find a Cathedral though.  You don’t see many of these in Morocco, so we went up for a closer look.  They still did services, but was locked up tight when we were there.  Walking around, we decided to take a photo or two, as we needed to put something in the blog.  Doing this attracted the attention of a passing policeman.  He waved us down, and started talking to us.  It turns out that he did not want us taking photos of the Cathedral.  Calling over someone else, there was a long discussion about whether it was ok or not.  Eventually we were told there was no problem, and we could go on our way.  This was a bit weird, especially as we saw even more police around the next corner.  Not sure what was up, but it didn’t affect us.

French architecture gives the town a bit of flair.

..but the French architecture gives the town a bit of flair.

We were wandering through new town by now, and you can see the French influences in Architecture.  There were French windows.  Well, doors on the second floor that are barred off, and looking out of place, along with some 1930’s buildings with the curved walls and decorations.  Unfortunately, most of this is being looked after in the traditional Moroccan way (waiting for it to fall down) however the ones that have been renovated, or looked after are quite attractive buildings.  It is amazing how the different areas suddenly pop up.  From here, we were back into new, new town.  Neon lights, electronic billboards advertising the latest cars or washing machines and wide spacious parks with large fountains.  Then a street over back into a winding alleyway that ends up with a donkey tied up on the corner.

After the quiet country atmosphere of Figuig, Oujda does not let you forget you are in a city.  However the people are nice, and it has a very pleasant feel to the place.  It is also nice to see all the different influences within the city itself.



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