El Jadida, or two days of vacation are always welcome

Hitchhiking, not every time is easy

When we finished our three-week volunteer work in Essaouira, we started on our way to El Jadida, towards the north, a course that brought us a little closer to the end of this three-month trip.

Before reading further, a clarification: what is this post?

This is a story of our experiences and is 100% subjective. If what you are looking for is practical and useful information for traveling in Morocco, with statistics and specific data, you can find all that and much more in this post Morocco: practical guide for travelers (by clicking here). Clarified this, let’s continue with the story…

Essaouira and El Jadida are separated by 278 km, which, for Morocco, is very much. But as we were in the final stretch of our trip and we had been lucky hitchhiking  (you can read here the chronicle of how we crossed the Atlas Mountains and it took us 10 hours to travel 228 km), we wanted to close the trip in Morocco with a big farewell and a monumental hitchhiking journey of several days, from Essaouira to Tangier, traveling 708 km, in which the first stop was El Jadida.

We made the first 1.5 km hitchhiking without problem. In Essaouira we were very used to this and such short distances were a piece of cake.

The next 23.5 km we did with a couple of French retirees who left us at Had Draa, a town that until then we had not even heard of. Apparently there was one of the largest souks of the country which they wanted to visit. They invited us to go with them and even though I love souks, we had to say no and keep going. We still had 253 km to travel, which meant an eternity.

If you are waiting for a happy ending, like the one we had on other journeys when hitchhiking, you will not be able to read it on this occasion: after two hours of waiting, seeing that the traffic was 100% local, the cars were not only full but totally crammed with more merchandise, people and animals than they should take, we gave up.

Thus, in the middle of that town where we and the French couple were the only foreign travelers, we asked in a small supermarket if there was any transport to El Jadida by bus. The man who miraculously spoke perfect english, said yes, that there were busses and one minute later we saw one arrive and we hopped on while he told the ticket seller where we wanted to go. We paid 80 Dirhams each (about 8 Euros) and everything was solved. Easier but less adventurous.

Many hours later, many more than it logically should take on a 253 km bus trip, having stopped in each of the villages that appeared on the way, we arrived at El Jadida. And there, after seeing the route and all the time it took us, we realized that our plan to hitchhike and arrive at El Jadida that same day before nightfall was not physically possible. It showed us that even having traveled for three months in Morocco, we still had a lot to learn.

We arrive in El Jadida

And then, another chapter began, a mini one, of only two days, which after a long time, we took as a “vacation”. And that made me think and realize a lot of things. I realized that someone who sees my photos on Instagram might think: “But how, if they live on a neverending vacation?”. Actually there is nothing further from reality.

What does “living traveling” mean?

Living traveling is not synonymous with living on vacation, at least for us. In fact I would dare to say that it is almost the opposite. To live traveling with a low budget, where every ticket we “save” means being able to continue fulfilling our dream, being able to continue traveling a bit more, requires a great effort. The fact that we do not live in a fixed place does not mean that we do not work, have schedules, routines, deadlines, projects, etc. We have all that, like any person, only that we do it at the same time we move. By the way, we are more than happy to have made living traveling our lifestyle.

Because of this and because we really enjoy what we do, it can sometimes be very difficult to find the boundaries between what is “free time” and what is “work”; between what is “being on vacation” and what is “living traveling”.

In El Jadida, perhaps because we had very little time to be there or perhaps because we needed it, we took those two days to be “on vacation”.

What did we do on our two days “on vacation” in El Jadida?

We really enjoyed the sea, which we had already seen in several cities, but now it looked different, it looked without agenda or compromises. We saw sunsets, which we wanted to be eternal. We walked through the Portuguese city without hurries or schedules. “And they did not tour the medina?” It turns out that what in any other city in Morocco would be “the medina”, that is, the ancient city, in El Jadida is called “the Portuguese city”.

The ever present sea, surrounding the walls of the Portuguese city of El Jadida
And these sunsets…

A little bit of history…

What since 1956 is known as the Kingdom of Morocco, is plagued by colonialisms, a large number of ethnic groups and very different cultures that came, went away and each left their grain of sand.

Such is the case of the Portuguese, who conquered and inhabited several cities on the Moroccan Atlantic coast (today), such as Essaouira, El Jadida and Asilah.

During the two and a half centuries they were in these lands, they left some impressive architectural footprints, so impressive that when the Arabs reconquered these cities, they did not want to erase them.

This is how today, in the Portuguese city of El Jadida, exist in coexistence buildings such as churches, synagogues, mosques, all together, all in one place inside the walls.

Multiculturality in the skyline of El Jadida

Walking through the streets of the Portuguese city is like teleportation, it’s like being in Morocco but not so much, it’s like being here and somewhere else at the same time. It’s how I imagine some places to be in Portugal, but where people are speaking Arabic and wearing burkas. It is a symbol to live, cohabit, coexist. It is something I would love to experience a thousand times.

Some postcards of the Portuguese city

Since 2004, the Portuguese city of El Jadida is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO, precisely because it is an example of coexistence and multiculturalism, which cannot be called “between east and west”, because Portugal and Morocco are in the same meridian, but still, they are separated by a much larger distance than the geographical one.

The strawberry on top of the cake

And as usual when we are “on vacation” we gave ourselves a little “treat” and visited the Portuguese cistern, the most important monument to visit in El Jadida, which left us speechless. I say “treat” because the entrance was expensive for the type of low budget trip we are doing / living. It cost 60 Dirhams, which made it the most expensive ticket we paid for the entire trip through Morocco (about 6 Euros), but since we were “on vacation” we decided to do it anyway and it was worth every penny. The feeling of being there, in that space between two worlds, a real one and a fictional one, that of air and water, was priceless.

And as is known, when we are on vacation time passes too quickly. Those two days in El Jadida flew almost without realizing it, and very soon we were on the road again, heading north, towards what would be our last destination on this three-month trip through Morocco.

If you want to know how our trip continued in the next and last Moroccan destination, you can click on the photo below to read the next post…

PostScript 1: If you want to help me to continue with this project, don’t forget to share!

If you have any questions, queries or suggestions, you can leave them in the comments below. And if you think this story can serve or interest someone you know, I thank you very much for sharing it with them!

PostScript 2: how do we continue?

If you want to read the next chapter of this adventure and what happened after El Jadida, you can click on the photo below to read the next post…

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