Showing posts with label Casablanca. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Casablanca. Show all posts

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Moroccan round trip almost complete (Day 21)

Since we liked Essaouira so much, departing hour definitely came way too early. Before we joined our Moroccan travel circle where it begun (that's in Casablanca), we still had some time left to soak in the relaxed atmosphere of Essaouira.

No matter what sort of goods you might be looking for, in Morocco it is quite possible to find it all in one shop. On some occasions you might try on a new pair of shoes and in the meanwhile buy meat for dinner. You could get some blood on your new shoes in the process, but that doesn't really matter. You're in Morocco, remember?

During our last morning in Essaouira we walked by the countless cannons lined up on city walls once again and treated ourselves with another delicious seafood meal. The last week in Morocco went by, strongly tasting of fish. We had a seafood meal at least once a day. Most of the people I know would have had enough of it much sooner, but we just couldn't resist it. It was always as fresh as it could be and usually also very delicious. At some occasions some of the fish we chose from, were still moving.

When we finally walked to the bus station, we noticed there was something wrong with one of the tires on our bus. Since we were a bit early, we figured out they would fix it in time.

Scheduled departure time got closer with every minute, but a few of the employees from the bus station just couldn't decide how to handle the situation. After some half an hour of walking around the bus and discussing the situation, it seemed something was happening at last. To my amusement I realized they all went away just to get some coffee.
When they finally got back they tried a few new things. By then most of the passengers were quite amused with the show. Obviously nobody was in a real hurry.
At last the bus driver decided that going to a nearby gas station would be the right thing to do. He was back in 15 minutes and we were ready to go. I wasn't so sure at the time, but fortunately the tire lasted all the way to Casablanca.

In Casablanca we had lots of time to spend the remaining Dirhams. It wasn't a hard task, since we didn't have all that many left.
We met some more interesting people while hanging around the city center. The most interesting were father and son from Saudi Arabia. They were in Casablanca on a business trip and were arranging some details regarding sports clothes manufacturing. They were setting up a production of various copied trademark clothes. For me the most amusing dirty detail was sowing labels "Made in China" onto the products. Obviously, various products are not being copied only in the Far East. There are others (Moroccans in this case), who copy the Chinese.
Actually when you think of it, Nike, Adidas and such products are all made in China. And to make a perfect copy, the label also has to look as genuine as possible.

After an illuminating chat with the two Saudis, it was time to catch a train to the airport. Moroccan trains are quite good - they could easily be compared to European standards. Unfortunately due to Atlas mountain range, stretching over a considerable part of Morocco and rising over 4.000 meters above sea level, the railroad network does not cover a very large part of the country. That is why we did most of our traveling by bus.

Later that same night we boarded our MyAir flight to Venice, Italy. Everything went smooth and in the morning we were met by M's sister, who took us home to Slovenia.

We really enjoyed this three week Moroccan adventure of ours, but it is nice to be home again.


Tuesday 28 October 2008

Casablanca - City of Contrast (Day 1)

When we arrived to Casablanca we were met by a driver from our first hotel (Oued-Dahab Hotel). Because of the time of arrival we chose to book a room for our first night in advance, preferably with an airport-pickup option.

There are other options to get from Casablanca airport to the city (the most reliable is the train line), but during the night the only one is taking a Grand Taxi. That is just fine, but when you are fresh in an environment like Morocco it is highly unlikely that you would find a ride like that for a reasonable price. Compared to the train price (35 MAD per person), the pickup was rather expensive (250 MAD for both of us). I think Grand Taxi would not come much cheaper, if at all.

Oh, and one more thing. Because booking in advance via email, the hotel even gave us a "Lonely Planet customer" discount.

The hotel itself is centrally located, reasonably cheap, quite basically furnished but clean. For those of you out there who are not traveling on such a tight budget, the same family also runs a bit more expensive hotel in the neighborhood which is supposed to be extra nice for the price. Check out Hotel Guynemer.

When exploring the city of Casablanca it is hard not to notice the extreme contrast. Various parts of the city look completely different.
You can find expensive shops in the city center. Locals walking around are clearly influenced by European style and fashion and a working woman in an European-like business outfit is not an uncommon sight at all.

When we walked from the better kept city center to the Hassan II Mosque, we also passed by some very poor suburbs. Those parts really look like slums. It seems residents mostly have to worry about getting enough food on the table on the day to day basis. Unemployment seems to be a huge problem.

Surprisingly just next to all that poverty stands the famous mosque. Not many mosques around the world are opened to non Muslims. Hassan II Mosque is one of them.

It is a remarkable sight, mostly made of marble and similar expensive materials. The amount of details and sheer size of the structure (it is the third largest mosque in the world) is simply amazing. It is speculated that some $800 million were spent on the project. It is not hard to imagine, why not everyone is happy with that.

It took us quite some time to take a good look at the mosque and its surroundings.

Afterwards we went to the nearby beach, which was quite a disappointment. There were loads of garbage to walk and swim amongst, but locals gathering there didn't seem to mind. We didn't like it much.

Our exploration of Casablanca was influenced heavily by the fact that it was the time of Ramadan (the ninth month of Muslim calendar marked with fasting).

During that month a good Muslim should eat and drink only before sunrise and after sunset. During the daytime nothing should pass his lips. Besides food, that also includes water and cigarette smoke. Not everyone we saw obeyed that last smoky part.

Well, as I was saying this meant that we had to put more effort in finding food. As we found out working hours also change during this time. Most shops, restaurants and offices stayed closed during daytime.

Immediately after sunset everything became alive again. With every hour streets were getting more and more packed with people. Quite a change compared to daytime.

We weren't too impressed with Casablanca, so we decided to move on in the morning.

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