Medinas and Mosques

Trip Start Mar 23, 2012
Trip End Apr 03, 2012

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Sunday, April 1, 2012

Turns out there are only two things to do in Casablanca besides eat and sleep-- go to the medina and go to the mosque. We spent an entire day on each...

 We arrived in Casablanca around noon on Sunday on the train from Fez. We splurged the extra 2 Euros for a private compartment in the first class car, so we were very comfortable and did not get bothered by anyone. Getting a taxi from the train station was effortless and it took about 10 minutes to get to the hotel. Casablanca looks like a really messy version of Marseille—very port-city-like but quite dirty and run down. But much more grandiose and French then South Morocco.

Our hotel was absolutely ridiculous. The lobby was decorated with full Moroccan mosaics, complete with a chandelier covered in giant plastic gemstones. A lovely little Moroccan man served us tea while we waited to be checked in, then absolutely refused to let us carry our own bags into the elevator to go to our room. Once we got to the room on the 6th floor, the man carried our bags in then proceeded to explain to us how we should use everything in the room (including the fridge, hairdryer, sink, etc). It was pretty adorable. The room itself was also extraordinary—the beds had wispy curtains around them and paintings of harem dancers next to each pillow. We spent a while taking pictures of the hotel and ourselves in the ridiculous room.

After settling in, we headed to get lunch at a little French/Moroccan café on the main shopping street. The food was pretty great—we ordered kebabs, avocados stuffed with cheese and shrimp, and cous cous. Definitely our best Moroccan meal so far. We then headed into the old Medina, which was substantially smaller than the Medinas in Fez and Marrakesh, but also much less stressful. It was also crawling with Russian sailors—Morocco would not be the most entertaining place to frequent as a sailor. We bought a few scarves and other assorted gifts, wandered around for a while, then headed back to the hotel. On the walk back, we passed a Sheridan hotel so we went in to ask if Lauren could use the gym to run (she has Starwood status from her days in consulting, and needed to continue the marathon training). The lady at the reception desk told us we could "use the gym but not the locker rooms, because only men are allowed in the locker rooms from 3-8 PM"….. Apparently lady time was from 10-3. Effing Morocco.

Michelle and I went to the grocery store while Lauren went to the gym, then we met back at the hotel to shower and eat some bread/cheese/assorted other goodies for dinner. Luckily, I checked my United confirmation as Lauren was doing some final packing before headed to the airport (she flew a day earlier than us), and I realized that my flights were messed up! Two hours of skype phone calls with United later, everything was sorted out. We then lounged around until Lauren left for the airport at 9 PM, at which point Michelle and I just went to bed.

The next morning, we woke up late and enjoyed the huge spread offered for breakfast by the hotel. Tons of pastries, breads, some cheeses and meats, juices, etc—very delicious. Then we went back up to the room, showered, and did all of our final packing. Hotel check out was at 1, so we stored our bags with them while we headed to the Casablanca port. Casablanca is one of the main ports to Southern/Western Europe and West Africa, so it was pretty gigantic.

We walked along the water until we reached the Hassan II Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Morocco and the third largest in the world. Because we planned on spending some time at the Mosque, Michelle and I decided to wrap our heads so we didn't stand out quite as much. Semi-effective but definitely not overly convincing. The mosque was absolutely stunning, and we spent a great deal of time wandering around and taking pictures.

Once we took about a million pictures of the mosque, we realized we didn’t actually have anything else to do. So, we decided to sit at the mosque all day and read the Hunger Games together on my kindle. It was so beautiful that it didn’t really make any sense to leave, and we wanted to take pictures at different lights, so we just decided to sit there. Luckily, we read at the same speed…  We had bread and cheese for lunch, and just moved around the mosque as the light changed.

After about 5 hours, we had finished half the book and it was starting to get dark, so we headed back to the hotel. We ate the rest of our bread and cheese and sat around for a while before catching a cab to the train station. Half an hour on the train and we were at the airport! We got through immigration without any problems, ate some pastries from the only shop in Casablanca’s airport, and boarded or plane to Frankfurt around 1 AM. Goodbye Africa, hello Germany, yay!
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Jenna on

Was it awkward touristing in the mosques? I thought taking sneaky pictures in the catholic churches was terrifying enough!

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