Casablanca was chosen as a destination because it was on the train line from Fes, the name sounded better than the capital, Rabat and it has a long beach parade on the Atlantic coast with a few affordable hotels. Maybe the inner Aussie came out in a sudden desire for a long beach walk instead of Museums? After the hotel was booked I discovered that the last King - Hassan II had built the third largest Mosque on the planet on that same bit of coast. Lucky us - the best of both worlds.
"Here's looking at you kid' was voted the fifth most memorable line in cinema by the American Film Institute. Rick(Bogart) says it to Ilsa(Bergman) in the 1942 film - Casablanca. Both taxi drivers we had were very keen to show us Rick's Cafe, the setting for nearly the whole screenplay and encouraged us to go in for a drink. The fact that the cast and crew never left the USA to make the movie doesn't get in the way of a good tourist trap! This entrepreneurial attitude is a good representation of Morocco's largest city and commerce giant. The population is just over 4 million, about the same as Sydney. I'm not sure if that includes the shanty towns because the taxi driver said over 6 mill.
|snipped from - http://www.rome2rio.com Marrakesh is another 3 hrs southeast of Casablanca|
|Not the ideal breakfast!|
|The first store was opened in Downtown Casablanca in 2000, now they have over 30, fluke to have had it in Fes|
|Taken from the aisle inside the train running along the compartments. M and I had the seats opposite the girls|
|No Health and safety regulations for renderers?|
The other passengers eventually stopped whinging about the guy's boss and the heat from the sun (even though they had the heater on full) and opened the curtains so we could see out both sides. Either they or we were in the wrong carriage but the people with tickets for their seats went to the mirrored ones in coach 2.
Willow did not believe us when we told them not to use the toilet when the train was stopped at the stations because the waste just dropped right out on to the sleepers. Her face was a picture of horror when she came back from her wee trip because she thought we'd been tricking.
The next lot of photos were taken from the moving train - apologies for reflections and fuzzies.
|Miles and miles of Olive plantations - a silvery sheen similar to Eucalypt but worth a lot more. Fes in the distance|
|Gotta love a country that colour coordinates it's signage and landscape design.|
|A huge rural fair with many horses and mules|
|Very surprised to see Eucalypt plantations - goats and sheep grazing freely|
|Eucalypt trees used to make the poles(rear right) used to hold up ceilings as the walls are built|
Many of the apartment blocks we saw here were off square - sometimes significantly and poorly maintained
Lots of building going on along the rail line.
|Soaking up some vitamin D|
Although the paint work and interiors were shabby, it had unlimited hot water with great pressure and no suspicious smells and a balcony looking straight down the beach. Being winter, the giant water park, which needed serious attention to its paint work, between us and the beach was empty and silent. The waves were enormous and seemed to have three different breaking points as they rolled in. We decided to sit in the sun until it had completely disappeared before heading out for dinner.
|The tide came in quickly and the families suddenly evaporated around 5pm.|
Casablanca is growing very fast but the gap between the rich and the poor is very obvious. KMVI is trying to get the slums cleaned up to avoid another surge of extremist Muslims suicide bombers like in 2003. 12 terrorists and 33 citizens died in attacks on Jewish and European targets. The ring leader was finally caught after his involvement in the Madrid bombs of 2004.
The food in Casablanca was a mix of French and Moroccan with many Italian and Spanish restaurants sprinkled around. The menus would be called 'fusion' to charge a bit more in Europe. The dinner at the hotel was a little weird with us the only people in the whole complex. The mushroom sauce on the steaks was great, Willow's French burger(no buns) was cold and raw in the middle but Petal's pizza was a winner. Tea the next night down the boulevard was highlighted by the restaurant cat sitting with us the whole time and happily munching down the anchovies off our salad and chicken that accidentally made it to the floor. The threat of ring worm was the only thing that stopped Petal putting it on her knee and feeding it by hand.
We went for a walk on the beach after a Maccas breakfast - very expensive but the proper cup of tea was worth it. (See my last blog for the teabag celebration photo). There was a lot more water spray in the air and the waves seemed to be crashing even harder, probably connected to the ongoing storms washing across the Atlantic and into poor old England.
The beach turned out to be a lot nicer from a distance, a far cry form the manicured beaches at home. It was littered with broken down bits of plastic and bottle tops, a dead and bloating goat lay at the high tide mark, a sewage out let poured fluids down to the ocean right where people have been swimming the day before although the walls marking this hideous exit where painted beautifully. We were all a bit upset too at the treatment of the horses for hire. They weren't groomed but looked as if they'd had enough to eat, whipping them to canter for the customers and the brutal yanking on their bits were sickening. I had to keep reminding myself that if they couldn't earn money for their owners they would have no life at all.
|Window at Maccas|
|Looking out to the Americas|
|Watching the locals ride the hire horses and play football. Hotel B is the Blue and white building in the center|
|No shells only broken down plastic|
|For hire, a very sorry looking bunch|
Willow refused to come and help because my attempt at communicating with people who speak languages other than English is apparently 'totes génant!' One of the concierges had a little English so I was able to help get him to understand that we wanted to book one of our rooms for another night even though we would be checking out at 11:30. With a few locomotion actions he understood why we would want to check out at such an insane time. With that all sorted we moved the girls stuff into our room and met the taxi guide we had booked for a comfortable zoom around the city. It was a white Merc. again but a much later model.
|Five star residences close to one of three |
royal palaces in the city.
|Entrance to Rick's Café |
opposite the one of the Port entrances
|Poor Petal had a headache and actually asked to wear|
my fuddy-duddy glasses!
|A top the 'fort', that looked a little short and easily scaleable - restaurant through the fetching blue doors.|
|Last stall down a road in the city, one of many others all side by side, they were fresh fragrant and beautiful.|
|Hassan II Mosque facing the city|
One of the places we got out at was The Hassan II Mosque. Because of its Goliath Minaret, square as all North African ones are after the style of the Karaouine at Fes; it is the tallest religious building in the world. Taller than the Great pyramid and St Peter's. It is smaller in area only to the Mosques at Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Probably more importantly, apart from the Italian chandeliers, all the materials are sourced from Morocco even if the architect was a Frenchman.
|The platform on the minaret that the Muezzin|
makes the call for prayer (adhan).
Can't help but imagine Scar calling down to
his followers in The Lion King.
|On entering the Mosque we had to take our shoes|
off but were not asked to cover heads.
|The Mezzanine floor for women: these are both sides of the main area below.|
|Floor mosaics in granite and marble.|
Really cold - prayer mats are a good idea.
|Public pools designed for inter faith socialising.|
These are the women's, the men's are on the other side.
They have never been used!
|The fountains for washing before prayers|
Fess brass lamp above one of 50 odd
alabaster fountains. Women's in a
separate location. The pillars are coated
in a egg, lime, clay and olive mix that
absorbs water to reduce humidity?!
Back at the hotel we packed, washed hair, up dated Bk until it was dinner time. Eventually it was 11:30 and the Taxi driver was back again to take us to the train station. Willow had arranged the fee and time with this guy who had very little English and could not believe that he was understanding what M was asking. His first language was Arabic and second French so Willow was finally able to persuade him that yes we wanted to be picked up at 11:30 pm to catch a train to Tangiers. The fee of 250Dh (£18 approx) was agreed upon and he turned up!
The train station was bulging with people, mainly young guys who started singing to pass the time - and yes they sang harmonies. Probably filthy football songs but in Arabic they sounded pretty good. A hippy looking grandad was 'teaching' a young French backpacker how to play a new card game that kept Petal entertained trying to work out the rules, but he cheated so much that it became impossible.
When the train arrived we were let out one person at a time onto the platform with two people checking our tickets. We discovered that they had hooked the wrong cars on and there was no first class! Ugh - not news you want to hear with a 6 hr train trip ahead in the middle of the night. The tourist class seats were comfy enough but without the leg room. My seat number didn't even exist so I just grabbed one and hoped no one tried to commandeer it during the trip. People got on and off, audio advertisments were aired every 20 mins or so in Arabic then French. The conductor refused to turn off the lights and a trickstery 20 something girl kept trying to sneak a seat in our compartment instead of sitting on the beautiful orange vinyl benches in 3rd class. This meant wooshing doors every time the conductor was out of sight and wooshing doors every time he found her again. Very little sleep no matter what positions we tried to curl into.
|All by himself and he didn't even snore.|
A stop into the public loos was a bad decision. In both Morocco and Spain there was a real issue with toilet paper - most people carried their own. If you didn't, you had to pay the bathroom attendant for a few carefully measured out squares. If there wasn't anyone there you had to hope there was a serviette or tissue in your bag. Even in the Moroccan Hotels the loo rolls were very small to discourage use. At Tangiers the toilets looked like someone very ill had exploded and the attendant had no paper. The other gross thing in all the public inconveniences was that they each had an open waste paper bin for feminine hygiene items and non poo paper. They smelt like the kid's loos at school during a month long cleaners strike and looked much worse. Really makes you appreciate good pipes.
We booked the first Ferry to cross that morning but they wouldn't take the last of our Dihrams and the money change place wasn't open. The bank in Cambridge had warned me that no one would exchange them outside of Morocco so we have about £35 worth as souvenirs. The Ferry took just over an hour - it was drizzling over the Mediterranean the first time I have ever been near it. They served tea and coffee but wouldn't take the Dh! We had more of the mandarins bought from Casablanca which had become our staple snack food while in Morocco.
|Reversing out of the port: we had our passports checked as we left the terminal and after getting off the shuttle bus before walking onto the boat via the car deck. It would seem that Spain wants to keep their Moroccan neighbours out|