Following the Forgotten Coast: Al Jebha to Kala Iris

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 | El Jebha, Morocco

Al Jebha: not a happening place.
We continued the treacherous drive along the coast Friday morning, passing through neglected little seaside communities as we headed eastward. Large domed grain stores clung to the cliffs along our route. At one point, Jacqueline and I pulled over and gaped in amazement as a tour bus loaded to the brim with locals careened past. Many of the passengers must have had a deeply religious experience on that drive.

By mid-morning we reached the fishing village of Al Jebha, the last sizeable town along the coast before Al Hoceima, some 60km east. We bought a few provisions in the local general stores, and gassed up the Kia. All around, men loitered in cafés, worked the shops, and walked the streets, but the town's women were conspicuously absent from view.

From Al Jebha the road turned back inland, into the mountains. We soon came upon our first "road
work" detour sign, after which the road was nothing but a gravel track for mile after mile. In some stretches, a mountainside had crumbled and washed over the road, leaving it looking like a muddied minefield.

Given that we were driving the automotive equivalent of a disposable camera, these sections were not fun. I steered us as smoothly as possible through the ruts, but we both winced each time the Kia's undercarriage scraped over a jagged rise.

* * *

After nearly four hours of sweating, sucking dust, and praying that our much-abused car might get us back to the coast road, we reached pavement, and the tiny fishing port of Kala Iris (كالا إيريس) soon after. Here, we had planned to set up our tent at a campground, but instead found the campsite's bungalows and restaurant bulldozed and the beach littered with trash.

Undeterred, we searched out a cleaner stretch of beach and joined a friendly local family in a plunge into the chilly sea before pitching our tent on a bluff overlooking the sea. I spent the last hour or so of the afternoon fishing off some rocks below our camp, but caught nothing except a few snags on the reef.

From our camp, Jacqueline and I watched the town's fishing boats head out to sea at dusk, then we downed some bread and Vache Qui Rit cheese and passed a bottle of wine back and forth beside our campfire before retiring for the night.

See a map of our route here.

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