Casablanca

30 hours of travelling without sleep brought me to Casablanca.  My transfer was there (yes!!!!!) and on the way into the city I chatted with two lovely women from Ontario who also turned out to be on my trip. After a room change ( ladies if you are on your own do not let the hotel put you in the dungeon – go to the front desk and stay there until they change your room), arrival in Casablanca was celebrated with a dinner of Moroccan mixed salads and Pastilla (fish wrapped in spices and pastry) – what a treat after airline food!!!!!

I had booked a tourbylocals day tour  in Casablanca and want to move laterally a little to compliment our guide Issam Jabber. My two new friends were interested in joining me on the tour and Issam accommodated us plus some changes in itinerary seamlessly. I also would like to recommend Casablanca to everyone. It has been avoided by some travellers because all of the construction here – but it is well worth your time now and will be even better in the near future. If you come here I highly recommend Issam Jabber as your guide. He can be reached through toursbylocals.com or on his facebook page. He is the real deal and will create a memorable day for you in Casablanca as well as other areas in Morocco.

A 9 am pickup in a well appointed mini-van took us to the Hassan II Mosque – the largest mosque in Africa and the third largest mosque in the world. The minaret is amazing – 60 stories high.

The entire structure is built right on the beach with parts of it extending out over the ocean supported by a platform between two rocky promontories. 100,000 + worshippers can be accommodated here. The fusion of Islamic, Moorish and Moroccan architecture has created an architectural wonder. Doors of wood covered with stamped metal weighing up to 1.5 tons guard the entrances to the mosque. A outstanding tour of the interior by a local guide rounded off our visit. 

Religious tolerance is evident here. Islam practised in Morocco is of what i think of as the relaxed variety very dissimilar to what is found in the Middle East. Tolerance best expressed by the myriad of influences evident in the architectural style in the city as well as in the range of faces in the street. Delicate features of Berbers mingle with faces that could be found on Egyptian tomb paintings and Roman sculptures.

Our SUV appeared quickly and transported us to a central Square – Place Mohammed V – aka Pigeon Square (watch where you step) Which was next on our tour and suffice it to say was a retriever trainers dream πŸ™‚ Some architectural gems surrounded the square – must say I caved and took a photo of one pigeon πŸ™‚

The Art Deco building style caught my imagination decades ago on a trip to Europe and I was looking forward to seeing its form here. The steady destruction of the Art Deco buildings in Casablanca – a unique fusion of French style with Moroccan indigenous geometry inspired by the Islamic prohibition against showing of the human form in art – has resulted in a movement to preserve the reminding facades of buildings exhibiting this amazing style. A stroll to and down Place Mohammed V ( a carless boulevard) rewarded us with a number of examples of echoes of the past. We had a little fun along the way πŸ™‚

Transportation by our faithful SUV took us quickly to the Old Medina, a magical place consisting of a myriad of narrow winding roads, illustrating what Casablanca looked like before the French invaded in the 30’s. For some reason they left this area alone – a fascinating stroll through the past….

Our rambles in the morning left open the way to an amazing lunch at La Sqala – a restaurant built in an 18th century fortress in Casablanca – complete with cannons and guard dogs – which rounded off a wonderful morning. The kitchen staff very kindly consented to my invasion with camera – many thanks to Issam! Lunch was wonderful – a seafood salad (squid, octopus, prawns and something I can’t remember how to spell πŸ™ƒ) with sliced mango and carrots tossed with a tangy vinaigrette πŸ™‚ One of my lunch companions had a fabulous goat tajine – on my list for the next dinner.

Energy replenished from lunch we embarked on a walking visit to the Habous quarter – built in the 1930’s by the French to relocate inner city residents in what is referred to as the housing crisis of the 30’s. A similar housing crisis is ongoing today with Inner city tenement slums being demolished and people being moved to areas outside the city.

…. and then…… Wait for it……

Rick’s Cafe!!!! – a wonderful fake designed and built in 2004 to recreate the memorable movie and famous line β€œof all the gin joints in the world she has to walk into mine” β€” apologies to Humphrey Bogart πŸ˜€

We head to Fez tomorrow.

This is a wonderful country. Please put it on your bucket list πŸ™‚

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