Sailing to Rabat and road tripping through Morocco

So we sailed from Tanger to Rabat, the trip was nice, something around 30 hours and good wind half of the trip. Rabat is a little tricky to get in, the tide needs to be high so we couldn’t wait for the wind to return and turned on the engine for the second half of the trip. A shame but lots and lots of dolphins made up for it! What made the trip a bit exhausting were the myriads of fishing boats everywhere. Since we don’t have a working radar and most of these boats don’t have AIS the only thing left was to keep careful watch, day and night. Luckily we had no fog, that would have been a bummer.

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

There were lots of fishing boats on the Moroccan coasts

Rabat welcomed us with beautiful weather, a promenade busy with people and many colorful rowing boats that connect Rabat with its sister city Sale (and other destinations more upstream).

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Arriving in Rabat

The river Bouregreg separates them and to get from one city to the other you can either take a tram across the bridge or take the more traditional way and get in a boat that takes you over for only 2DH (20c). That’s what we did the day after we had arrived and Rabat completely surprised us!

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Our rowing boat taxi to cross the Bouregreg river

When we had read about Morocco and its sights it was all about Marrakech and Fes, at least according to our superficial research. Rabat is a relaxed and beautiful Moroccan city with busy Souks (markets), an enchanting Kasbah (fortified quarter) in white and blue and direct access to the Atlantic.

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Rabat’s casbah is all white and blue

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Rabat used to be a true pirates‘ nest!

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

One of Rabat’s many beautiful Souks

Sale on the other side of the river is like Rabat but more conservative and traditional with its many markets and small shops (not one supermarket inside the walled Medina!). There aren’t many tourists in neither of both cities which has the nice side effect that as a foreigner you’ll get bothered a lot less by vendors, fake guides and beggars.


We walked around Rabat and Sale for hours and hours and were completely absorbed in exotic smells, muezzin calls and all those beautiful colors of spices, clothes and vegetables. On our 2nd day we encountered the famous Moroccan hospitality when we met wonderful Loubna in the neighborhood’s Orange shop (the phone company, not the fruit). She would help us with everything, organize us the print of name cards, help us find the market, get us internet on the boat and so much more. She even invited us for lunch and dinner with her family at her house and introduced us to Moroccan food and costums! We tried Couscous, Harira (a soup based on lamp stock and chick peas that is typically served during Ramadan at fast-breaking), Moroccan pancake (Msemmen, the best!!) and freshly brewed Mint Tea, everything tasted absolutely amazing and we found new friends. At dinner I just mentioned that I found Henna hands really pretty and half an hour later Loubna’s Henna lady came over to paint my hands, what an experience. I hadn’t realized that the painting and drying part is an important part of a Henna ceremony: Of course you can’t use your hands so you are supposed to sit still and let everyone around you cater for you, feed you, bring you stuff etc.

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

With our new Moroccan friends, ready to eat delicious Couscous, the traditional Friday’s dish in Morocco!

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Nouhaila, Loubna’s daughter, gave me her Jellabah as a gift, how incredible is that!

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Henna hand before taking off the henna and still with all the glitter…

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

…and the next morning after trying to sleep without moving and still making a henna mess in bed

Even though we totally fell in love with Rabat, Sale and Loubna and her family we still wanted to explore Morocco a bit further so we rented a car. Which was an adventure in itself. Lesson learned: don’t try to rent a car short notice in Morocco. At least not via a portal.

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Preparing our stuff to go camping in Morocco

However, after only 3 days we managed to get ourselves a decent car and we took off, first stop Casablanca’s Decathlon to buy 2 small tents. We continued along a very good and very empty highway to Marrakesh where we set up our tents at the nearby beautiful campsite. I said the campsite was beautiful and it was but the owner was a very grumpy French lady. When we asked her about parking inside the city of Marrakesh she would reply: „Ohhhh, pepöl can ask many kwöshtiöns.

Marrakesh was fascinating, busy, exhausting, beautiful and everything at the same time. Its location is somewhat spectacular – the layout is flat and the landscape looks like an oasis – very dry and only dappled with palm trees and desert plants – and you can see the High Atlas in the background. In fact it is called the only oasis that is West of the Atlas.

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Marrakesh with the High Atlas as a backdrop

Boatnotes Ponyo Sailing with kids

Rabat is the perfect starting point to go exploring Morocco and that’s what we did.

Some info for fellow sailors – Rabat

If you are planning to leave the boat somewhere in Morocco to explore the country by car or train, Rabat is the place to go. The inexpensive marina (we only pay about €10 incl. everything for our 13,80 monohull) is super calm and safe (the heavily guarded marina is inside the Bouregreg river on the Sale side) and being the capital it’s excellently connected by trains and roads.

Only be aware when you rent a car via portal: don’t do it too spontaneously. We made the unnerving experience that whenever we tried to get a car for the next day or the day after that we’d get a cancellation. Apparently Moroccan car rental companies (locations, in French) prefer to have a 48hours+ notice, aha. We payed €130.- for a week without the extra insurance the company wanted to sell to us and everything went smooth.

Drones are prohibited in Morocco, you will have to declare them and they will be taken away during your stay.

Internet is really inexpensive in Morocco, we purchased 10 GB data with Orange (go to Loubna’s shop in Sale’s main street and say hi from the PONYO crew!) for our little router. It only cost us 100 Dirham (less than 10€) plus 30 Dirham connecting fee. Don’t forget to bring your passport.

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