Morocco 2013 is a 11-part article about a trip that Shelley and I took with my cousins Tracy and Sarah in late February of 2013. This article differs from that of previous ones in the fact that I have included food, because I believe that is part of the experience when it comes to traveling in a totally different culture than what we are used to in the United States. Morocco was friendly and inviting to photograph and take in. The culture is more laid back than that of the United States. The country is very photogenic. A special thanks to my cousin Tracy who was a great host on this journey through Morocco. She also did all of the driving (thank goodness) and was able to navigate the cities of Morocco as if she were writing poetry. We made a lot of new friends, learned a lot about different ways of life, and definitely made memories that will last a life time.
The trip was great fun and I would love to travel with everyone again.I am changing the format of the blog as apposed to the “In to the West” trip, in that I’m going to attempt to break up the entries so that there is less pages of scrolling. I found from the “In to the West” trip that this was a bit annoying. So with this trip I am reserving the right to break up some of the days into multiple entries. Also keep in mind that clicking on the photographs throughout the blog will bring up a full screen version.
Getting there is half the fun.
Morocco – Part 1
The first full day in Morocco started out in Casablanca with the four of us eating breakfast at Tracy’s apartment and discussing what we were going to see and do. This was the first full day after arriving. After eating we arrived at the decision to walk down to the Hassan II Mosque. The streets of Casablanca reminded me of a larger version of the streets in Charlotte Amalia (downtown St. Thomas, USVI). They are more busy though and contain a lot more traffic, and in many cases the drivers do not obey the traffic signals. Even with all that, the city still seems to invite you to walk and absorb it through all of your senses. It is a far stretch from that of Kansas City, but even in this city of 7 million I felt safe for the most part. Our walk to the Hassan II Mosque did not take long at all, and we arrived shortly after the noon call to prayer.
Hassan II Mosque
The four of us walked around the outside of the Mosque looking for the ticketing booth to purchase tickets for the 2:00 PM tour, which is the last one for the day during the time of year that we were there. While walking around we were approached by a gentleman who offered to show me the lower entrance to the Mosque. Only I was allowed down there during prayer time, as women have a separate entrance.
After I was done with my private photography tour, I was asked to provide a donation for the special access, which of course I did.
While we waited for the official tour to begin, I walked around the outside of the Mosque making more photographs as I went.
Before the 2 PM tour was to start we located the ticketing booth, which in case you are inclined to go is located down a stairwell on the left side of the minaret in the colonnade. This stairwell also accesses the hammam, (public bath equivalent to spa).
Each tour is broken into groups based on the following languages: English, French, Deutsche, and Italian. Everyone who is taking the tour is required to remove his or her shoes once they enter the Mosque, and you are given a plastic bag to carry your foot ware in. The tour lasts about 45 minutes.
We had originally planned on eating a late lunch at Rick’s Cafe, which is modeled after the Cafe from the move Casablanca, but they were done serving until dinner which would start around 9 PM by the time that we arrived there. The cafe is a short distance from the Hassan II Mosque.
Instead we walked to a main street that runs on the east side of Casablanca’s old medina. This is where we found a place that was still serving. One of the things that we learned as we went on this trip was that Morocco still observes a custom akin to the Spanish siesta. It is possible to find places to eat during the afternoon, but they are far less common then in the U.S.
The Old Medina
After our group finished eating lunch, we walked a short distance to the old medina and entered into the labyrinth of streets and alleyways that make up the old town within the walls. A few things that one needs to know prior to setting off in the Casablanca Medina: first, I’m told that it is not as busy and fast-paced as the medina in Marrakesh. Second, pulling out a camera is not the only way to tell the locals that you are a tourist. Third, make sure that your group stays together and always keep an eye out for one another. This last is, of course, true of traveling in any city in the world. The Casablanca medina though is not as old as Fes, Chefchaouen, Meknes, Rabat, or Marrakesh.
Our tour of Casablanca’s medina ended with the offer of mint tee from a local carpet merchant. This was rather entertaining in many ways.