A Guided Tour of Casablanca

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, May 21, 2011

The lack of sleep and exercise continued to take its toll. Good thing that we had arranged for a driver/guide today. We were craving some authentic culture and education about each experience we embarked on. Youssef, an exquisitely dressed gentleman arrived in his meticulous Mercedes to take us for the 9:00 AM tour of the Mosque. 8:45AM came and went, when we realized that Youssef was waiting for us at the other Ibis location. No problem, we would go to the 10:00AM tour and see a little more of the wealthy area around the Corniche in the interim. It turns out that Youssef is also an avid cyclist who rides an old aluminum Pinarello. We learned about the current king, who has ruled for 10 years already and is adored by the people. He seems to work very hard, unlike his father and is very hands on with the government. We also learned that the police are just as corrupt here as in Mexico. Proven by what happened next. Youssef made an illegal U-turn which after a run in with the "police," cost him 200Dh cash, a negotiated deal compared to the original 600Dh it would cost another citizen.

The Mosque was beyond impressive. With a minaret that measures 200 meters, and a structure that covers? in distance, you wouldn't believe that it was constructed in six years; completed in 2003 by 10,000 men working around the clock. With each ticket entry, people are are provided a plastic bag for their shoes; it is prohibited to wear shoes inside the mosque. The enormous salon fits 80,000 worshippers inside, with room for an additional 80,000 bodies outside. Every detail was more impressive than the first. The most outstanding was the impressive retractable roof top feature, along with chandeliers and massive electronic titanium doors. The craftsmanship of the wood carvings, marble fountains for the ablotion (a place to wash before prayer) and tile work, all made our head spin. The entire structure cost $800 million USD to construct and provides jobs for the 300 workers it takes to maintain it daily.

Following my list of what to do in Casablanca in 24 hours, Youssef proceeded to drop us off at the Villa des Arts, a contemporary exhibition hall which was currently featuring typical Moroccan dress for women designed by none other than, Yves Saint Laurent; there seems to be a theme here. Next stop was the Place de Houbbus to check out the main plaza and then time for lunch.

Youssef selected an authentic Moroccan restaurant with cushioned benches where I ordered a delicious vegetable puree soup and Lowell was super content eating a Pastille stuffed with chicken and almonds covered in powder sugar and cinnamon.

Our train doesn’t leave until 5:15PM but our time with Youssef ended at 2:00PM. So we spent the remainder of the afternoon in the hotel lobby, working on the internet. Another frustrating couple of hours, technology and I are not friends.

The four hour train ride to Fes was much more comfortable than our previous one. We had one row to ourselves, shared with three other men. I was able to stretch out and take a nap on Lowell’s leg and together we slept for a solid 1.5 hrs.  Just as we woke, we began to pass the miles and miles of green hills and agriculture.
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