Morocco – Casablanca

This past month, David and I met in Morocco!  The country is as exotic and amazing as it sounds!

We met in Casablanca.  Even though we go for a month without seeing each other, when we do meet it is like I have just seen him earlier that day!  David thinks that it is because we are like a “comfortable pair of old sneakers” and so we just fit well together.  I guess I have to agree with him.  Anyway, it is always wonderful to see my husband and share two weeks of great adventures together.

We found the people absolutely wonderful, friendly and so helpful!  We took the train from the airport to the Casa Port station.  Sadly, the ride in took us past some horrible slums.  We couldn’t believe that people actually lived there.  According to my guidebook, these slums were created in 1920 during the construction of projects in the “Roches Noires” district.  Slums or shanty towns in French, one of the major languages in Morocco, is bidonvilles which translates to “tin-can town.”

This bidonville popped up when construction workers from the country, migrated to the city and built temporary housing near the main quarry.  These workers lived as inexpensive as possible in order to send home their earnings to support their families.  The intention was to go home as soon as enough money was raised so they might start their own business at home.

The bidonvilles are still in existence today but are gradually becoming more permanent as dwellers are gaining more respect from the government.  People who have resided in a structure for 2 years cannot be evicted and after 10 years, they become owners of the land and building.  This allows them to have collateral so they may take out loans for improvement.  Also, there is strict migration control.  Slowly, the shanty town is shrinking and improving.  All good, but it was pretty incredible to have such poverty as our welcome to Morocco.

The apartment we rented was a 10 minute walk from the Casa Port station.  The owner, Noureddine and his manager, Moussa were both waiting for us to arrive.  The apartment was in a high rise on the 10th floor.  It was clean, quiet and safe!  We were happy to be at our destination as it was getting close to sunset.  Shortly after Noureddine and Moussa left, we went to the nearby convenient store to pick up some pasta and fruit for dinner.

Hassan II Mosque

This is the view from our apartment of the Hassan II Mosque.  img_3380

Normally, mosque are not open to nonbelievers but fortunately, for us, an exception has been made for this newly built mosque and the next day, Sunday, we were able to take a tour.

The size of this mosque makes it appear much closer than it actually is.  Construction of the mosque began on July 12, 1986 and the targeted date to finish was for Hassan II’s 60th birthday in 1989.  They tried to meet that deadline and by doing so, employed 1400 construction workers during the day and 1,100 workers at night.  10,000 artist and craftsmen participated in the process as well.  They didn’t make the deadline and 7 years later, it opened.  It was inaugurated on August 30, 1993 and is the largest mosque in Morocco.  It is 65,615 square feet ( 20,000 square meters) and the minaret is 689 ft (210 meters) tall, making it the tallest minaret in the world.  It took us about a half-hour to walk to it.  When we arrived, we were awed by the majesty of this building….we both think it is a beautiful building!

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This plaza can hold 80,000 worshippers.

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All materials…cedar, marble, granite was from Morocco.  The only item imported was glass from Murano, Italy for the chandeliers.

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The mosque is located right next to the ocean.  Water is important in the muslim religion.

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This is the main hall.  Only men are allowed to worship in this area.  It can hold 25,000 people.  Note the ceiling.  It is carved cedar wood.

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This ceiling retracts!  It allows the worshippers to pray under the stars on a clear night or the natural daylight illuminates the hall during the day.

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The balcony on the second floor is where the female worshippers go.  In Islam, men and women cannot worship together.

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The speakers for the mosque are camouflaged behind these carved stucco mouldings. They use the stucco to absorb moisture.  The carvings are such a work of art!

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Water is an important element in the muslim religion.  It states in the Koran, that “God’s throne is upon the water.”  These grooves in the floor have water running through them during services.

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These glass openings allow you to see the 41 fountains in the basement below.  The fountains are used to wash before they pray.

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The area where the minaret is.  There is an elevator to take the muezzin to the top to call the people to prayer.  This happens 5 times a day usually beginning around 5:30 or so in the morning.  Also, this is the area where you walk down to the lower level of the mosque.

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A few of the 41 fountains used to cleanse before prayer.

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The hammam which is similar to a Turkish steam bath.  Our guide said that this one has never been used.

It was quite the experience to tour this majestic work of art built so the muslims of Morocco can worship Allah.

Rick’s Cafe

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It wouldn’t be a visit to Casablanca without a visit to Rick’s Cafe…especially for an American.  I don’t think/know how popular the movie Casablanca is throughout the world!

Rick’s Cafe isn’t all that far from the mosque.  The movie was filmed in 1942 at the Hollywood studio of Warner Brothers.  Some enterprising person/people cashed in on a good idea when they created a likeness of the movie’s restaurant and bar.  It is open 7 dyas a week for lunch and dinner and a brunch on Sunday.

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The ground floor is the restaurant area.  There is a bar, as well.  To the right, is the famous piano and I read that the pianist never tires of playing “As Time Goes By!”

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This lounge area is on the second floor.  Notice the poster on the wall for Ingrid Bergman. Above that poster was the sheet music for “As Time Goes By.”

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At the opposite end of the lounge is this television that constantly plays the movie “Casablanca.”

Unfortunately, we arrived just minutes before they were to close for the day.  I am grateful that we were able to walk through and I was able to click pictures.  We were scheduled to take an early train to Marrakech the next day, so wouldn’t have been able to see it if we hadn’t been able to see it on our trip back from the mosque.

Medinas and Souks

A medina is literally translated as “city” but today it refers to the original part of a Moroccan town.  Usually, it is surrounded with a wall and has narrow streets that are like a maze where one can easily get lost.  A souk is the market area.  We discovered that souks were divided into sections – the fruit and vegetable, the leather, clothing, spice, etc.

When we entered the medina area of Casablanca, we were not too certain how safe it would be, if we were intruding on the local people.  I tried to be very sensitive when taking photos so didn’t take many.  In the next town, Marrakech, we had a better understand and didn’t have the trepidation that we had in Casablanca.

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I loved the colors used to decorate the different neighborhoods.

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I am not 100% certain about this neighborhood but from what I learned on tours of other medinas, I think that this might have originally been part of the Mellah (Jewish neighborhood).  I think this because of the balconies.  In Arab homes, they don’t have balconies on the outside but rather on the inside of the house, around a center patio.  This would allow the women, who are not allowed to be seen in public, to move freely around the house.  They would never go on a balcony such as this.  That is my “educated” guess.

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A prayer rug, waiting for the next “call to prayer.”

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I just love how they use tile to decorate everything!

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Throughout medinas, you can find fountains.  When the neighborhoods were first established, they didn’t have the luxury of water being piped into the homes.  Over the years, this has changed but it is evident by this cart with jugs, that there are still homes without the luxury of running water. 

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This gives you the idea of the narrow streets and the fruit and vegetable souk.

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The garment souk

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I really liked these dresses and even tried one on.  I was very tempted to buy one but then I thought….where on earth would I wear it?  I rarely wear dresses now as it is.  They are lovely, though!

We only spent a couple of nights in Casablanca.  I felt that this was ample time as there really isn’t much to see in this city.  It is rather industrial and a large port city since it is located by the ocean.  Our next city was Marrakech…..which has a totally different vibe!

Blessings…..

2 thoughts on “Morocco – Casablanca

  1. We are indeed blessed! I am working on the other cities that we visited in Morocco….a good snowy day project! Thank you for your encouraging words!

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