Of all the gin joints....

Trip Start Apr 15, 2008
Trip End May 04, 2008

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Monday, April 28, 2008

We arrived on the North Atlantic coast of Morocco via train rapide from Meknes.  The ride was smooth, sparing Choyce any motion sickness issues, and mostly pleasant.  The landscapes were all lush and the poverty of the shantytowns on the outskirts of Casablanca was expansive. 

We stayed at a hotel recommended by our taxi driver, Maamoura Hotel.

Casa has a population of around 4 million people and is a metropolis heaving with humanity.  It has the best and the worst of any big city.  While it did not hold any draw for us, we knew we could not rravel around Morocco without a visit to Casa:
Captain Renault
:  What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick:  My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault:  The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick:  I was misinformed.
Initial impressions were not favourable.  The hotel was located in a decaying part of the city and we arrived after the shops were closed for the day, so it appeared even more desolate.  A walk around the central market did not buoy our spirits, but we were happy, at least temporarily, to lunch in a fantastic seafood restaurant.

Leviticus 11:9-12 says:
9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.
12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

We took a walking tour of the area and enjoyed the fabulous architecture; a blend of French Colonial design and traditional Moroccan style known as Mauresque architecture.



Hassan II Mosque, one of the very few mosques in the country open to non-muslims, was on our second day schedule in Casa.  The third largest mosque in the world -- in line behind Mecca and Medina -- is stands majestic on the coast of the Atlantic.  It has the tallest religious minaret in the world, standing at 200 metres. 

The mosque is built partly over the Atlantic Ocean and a section of glass flooring allows a view of the waves washing the shore.  A retractable roof opens the main prayer area, which, by the way is large enough to house Paris' Notre Dame.

The mosque can accommodate 20,000 worshippers on the main floor, an addition 5,000 in the two hanging mezzanines where women are permitted to pray, and an additional 80,000 in the courtyard.  Imagine, almost the entire population of Prince Edward Island converging on the Mosque at call to prayers!

Inside, the Mosque is a feast for the eyes -- marble from the Middle Atlas, granite from Tafraoute, and marble from Agadir, are all delicately and magnificently wrought into intricate patterns and designs.


The Ablution Hall was immense, richly appointed, and fixtures kept free from oxidization by the use of venetian plaster on the pillars.  Imagine the sight of 20,000 men in one hall and 5,000 women in the other hall all participating in ritual washing at the same time!

After lunch, for those whose gastrointestinal tracts were still able to tolerate food, we ventured onward, in search of the Musee du Judaisme Marocain.  This was billed, in Lonely Planet Morocco, as the only museum in Casablanca, and is was quite an adventure to locate.  We took a taxi to the Casa suburb of Oasis.  The taxi driver had no idea where Rue Chasseur Jules Gros might be and eventually, in a bit of frustration, deposited us in front of "shopping".  We asked directions at an ice cream cafe, but the staff had no knowledge of the Jewish Museum nor the location of the road.  Moroccan hospitality and friendliness prevailed though, as one of the servers called a friend who just happens to work for Casa tourism.  Within minutes, this pleasant young man with a fabulous command of the english language was in front of us.  Alas, he too had never heard of the Jewish  Museum and joked about the veracity of our source of information.  Something of a Muslim McGyver, this young man resourcefully called a nearby Jewish school and quickly had somewhat straightforward directions to offer us.
The directions were quite accurate, but we did not really appreciate the distance they enveloped until....umm, we found the museum.  Which, by the way is on Rue Abou Dabi.

Our tour of the museum was facilitated by a dour looking woman who followed us around, turning on lights as we entered rooms.  As all the exhibit faceplates were in Arabic and French, we struggled to understand the displays. 


We did purchase, for 10dh ($1.25CAD), a small booklet entitled:  Jews of Morocco or Extraterrestrials? The brochure "is based on a survey of school-age youngsters.  It is an indication of how little some Moroccans know about their compatriots."  Currently, the Jewish population of Morocco is around 6000, and they have a 2000 year history in the country.  The Mellah, the Jewish quarter, exists as a walled community in the corner of Moroccan Medinas.  Still, no one knows that the museum exists, let alone how to get to it!!
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Where I stayed
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