21.07.2009 29 °C
Taxis in Morocco work in the following way:
For longer trips (outside the city limits) or if you have more than three passengers, you must hail a ‘grand taxi’ - usually white, off-white or beige and always an enormously clunky old mercedes. If a taxi is occupied, it may still pull over and pick you up provided that: a) it has sufficient room and b) it is travelling in the same direction. If you want the taxi not to do this, you must hire the entire taxi or 7 seats.
For short hops across the city you can hail a petit taxi. These are usually tiny fiats painted different colours depending on the city. For example, in Casablanca they are red, Rabat blue, Marrakech caramel and so on. They all have roof racks for luggage and carry a maximum of three people. As with grand taxis, they will stop and pick up passengers if they have room. On the first day of our tour, we were grateful for the businessman in the front seat next to the driver as we could not pronounce the name and address of our departure point and the taxi driver appeared not to be able to read the hotel’s card. A few blocks away, the businessman jumped out, paid the driver and we rumbled off through the Monday morning rush hour traffic.
At the meeting point we met our friendly driver and jumped into our tidy but snug van. Our group consisted of four Australians, 1 Portugese guy from Lisbon and 2 Kiwis. Our Australians were a brother and sister team and two women friends from Canberra. After a quick stop in an enormous supermarket we headed down the Atlantic Coast to El Jadida - an old Portugese colony.
Famous for sardines: El Jadida fishing boats
Manueline Cistern in Portugese City - place to hold water and people in event of attack on the city.
After a wander around the old walled city we took our picnic makings to the beach town of Oualidia where we were ‘poissoned’ to death by men trying to sell us fresh fish in French. This was an early opportunity to crack out our beginner’s Arabic: “La, shukran” (no thanks). We were each able to practise the phrase at least 5 times each during lunch.
We headed off after lunch to Essaouira, a reasonably long trip past road-side produce sellers bearing an endless supply of tomatoes and some decidedly odd looking vivid orange pumpkins. The pumpkins appeared to be cut around the base (hard to tell from a moving vehicle) and had a cerebellum-like bulge of white lumpy things hanging out of them. We made a short stop at a tea salon. The relief from the male patrons was palpable when our group of loud, goofy foreigners (including women, ugh) bundled back into their van and left the regulars to their mint teas.
15 - 20 boys and young men were dotted at regular intervals along the side of the road as we pulled into the seaside town of Essaouira. They stood vigorously waving keys at us. What I thought may have at first been some odd hitch-hiking ritual was, in fact, an accommodation service. The keys were to apartments and, as people pull into town, they can stop and be escorted to an apartment for rent. An hour or so before sunset, we turned a corner and along a quiet back street to our hotel where we settled in for the night.