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