Morocco || Part 1: Casablanca

Here's the story of my first African - Marocco adventure. My notebook is filled with little stories from Casablanca and Marrakech. Part 1 of this Marocco series centers around Casablanca. You will find practical travel tips, as well as my personal top 5 highlights. 

On the plane, I sit between a Mali and a Nigerian. The Mali talks about underground structures (he is a Scorpio!) and how a new country wants to emerge in the north due to the oil fields. Apparently, Algeria exploits oil belonging to Mali. The Nigerian talks about the African community feeling. When someone dies, for example, relatives have to organize a huge party for friends and closed ones. So she was on her way to a funeral party. There is simply no time to stay sad. More broadly spoken, African people have a mindset of sharing with their tribes. What is mine is yours. Maybe Africa is still in the so-called poverty because it is challenging for the entire community to lift themselves up, to take everyone into a better life.

Out of the airport, red evening sky. It was strange but the sky looked higher than normal. Adverts for Coca Cola and Shell. Mc Donalds in Arabic letters. A round-about with Marooco flags, probably ten of them. Always so strange to see this sort of national pride with my German eyes. I can feel the travel vibes, home in the world. Got the money belt on, let's go.

PART 1: CASABLANCA

Casablanca is huge and Marocco's commercial hub. Here's a map of the central part. The blue dots show you the main sites I visited (you can read more below).

Where to stay?
I'd recommend staying in walking distance to the center which is not on the waterfront. I stayed in the city center, not on the beach front. My hotel was close to Place Mohammed V.

Here are some suggestions:
£ Hotel Astrid
££ Hotel les Saisons
£££ Hotel Le 135

Currency
1 Dirham = 0.08 Pounds = 0.09 Euro = 0.11 US Dollars (August 2017)

What to be aware of
It's a Muslim country, dress appropriately. 

How to get there
Plane: Take a train from Mohammed V International Airport to Casa Port station; runs from 6am to 10pm.
Train: Casa Voyageurs is the name of the train station when arriving from / going to Marrakech. Casa Port is for going to Rabat. 

 

What to see?

1. The Old Medina

A gentleman from the breakfast table had warned me:

“It’s important to act super confident. When people are coming at you just say that you live here and you should be fine.”
 
Sure, no problem. In all honesty, it wasn't even a lie. I feel at home in the world wherever I am. 
 
But as soon as I cross through the town wall, I'm not so sure anymore. I had entered a giant labyrinth of infinite puzzle pieces and was standing face to face with the holy random principle. A place out of a movie scene. For some reason, there is still a little left over memories from Aladin. Shall I turn right or left? There is so much freedom in this simple choice. It’s noon, burning hot, my heart is on fire. Let's do this. 
 

 
 
The alleys are small and dreadfully contorted. I go with the flow and followed where the majority of other people would go to have some sort of orientation. However, at one point there was no human current any longer. The ladies had gone into their houses and I was left on my own, I got some kind of shivers and struggled to demonstrate a determined way forward when I had no idea where I was going. 
 
What if someone would pull me into his house to rob me? Is it dangerous here? But I kept on walking. My arms were swinging down my body as if pulled by some invisible destination. 
 
Round the next corner, a new type of buzz. Fish, fruits, vegetables and a whole lot of herbs, coriander, and mint. I could get used to this version of present! What hustle and bustle, I’m completely in the moment, I’m alive and flow within this life stream, with the masses through the alleys of Casablanca. And what I realize in this precious moment: Fear is part of being but what’s important is to keep on going. 
 
 

 

2. The Blue Mosque

Children are running around. Someone talks to his Nokia 3310. A mum sits across from me. She finds a pack of chocolate in her bag, puts it on the ground and then lifts it towards the sky. Another woman is all covered up, I can only see her eyes. Then I spot an empty water bottle in front of the entrance of the mosque. The bottle is pointing towards the sky in the same manner as the minaret and the chocolate.

A few minutes later a prayer is happening, the speaker on full power. I don't understand a word. Business, as usual, it seems. My mind drifts away, a former Arabic-speaking flatmate visits me in my memories. Time is so relative. Maybe I was living with her once so she would introduce me to the Arabic world, maybe she had formed some sort of bridge in my consciousness. I stop following a train of thought which would probably not lead anywhere. The woman opposite me is wearing the same colors as the brick wall she leans against. Turquoise and deep dark blue. My favorite colors. A match of two realities.

Her daughter comes over to me, she takes a seat and observes me writing. It's the cutest thing and I pretend I didn't even notice. A few minutes later I hand her my journal.

 

3. Place Mohammed V & Courthouse

While walking through the cold hallways of the courthouse, I discovered a bunch of old documents. Are these old murder cases?

It felt like I'm standing face to face with the past of Casablanca's justice system. You could easily think these would just be a bunch of papers but this seemed to be the sum of long hours, hot debates, fighting corruption and ensuring the country is in a stable balance. A random, but a valuable discovery of my trip. The feeling of justice. 

 

4. Observe the Local

 

5. Popcorn in Parc Murdoch

 

The skeleton of this park bench looks rather poor. There are only 8 planks left. My bum fits perfectly and I don’t mind not being able to sit back. This is park Murdoch and I’m eating popcorn which I bought for 1 Dirham from the gatekeeper.

Two mothers with headscarves are taking a seat next to me. A lot going on here on this warm evening. Children are playing on the red sandy ground. A couple of boys ride their scooters in circles. The boy with the largest scooter wears a green t-shirt with an imprint on the back which says Morocco.

I see how the next generation of Marocains is growing up. Innocent children. Why is it that we are not able to keep the mentality of a child when we grow older? Why do some of us become angry, manipulative and depressive as adults? Are we living in a pink bubble as a child? Or are children showing us how we ought to live in reality?

The seven-year-olds run around for the fun of it. As much as I try, I cannot comprehend their pattern. Whereas the older men run around in circles to exercise clearly seem to have a goal in mind.

“I want to be healthy.”
“I want to be fit.”
“I want to clear my head.”
(“I want to lose weight.”)

The children, on the contrary, are laughing and screaming and dropping their scooters. And continue their random act of playing while the sun sets and the light disappears.

I smile at the two women next to me and say goodbye.

 

Have you been to Casablanca, how did you like it or what do you associate with Morocco?

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13 comments

  1. Morocco just entered the list of places I want to visit. I think it’s because I’ve been studying all sorts of religion in uni that places like this, rich in culture and belief fascinates me.
    I don’t do well in public crowded places. My anxiety goes haywire when I’m in one alone. My paranoia sits in like “will something bad happen to me?”
    The photos of the mosque look beautiful. I’ve never been into one but (also in uni) I’ve studied their architecture and design. How every curve, every pattern, every arch has its significance.

  2. I hear beautiful things about Casablanca, the architecture and art really keep the city alive. This is so beautiful, and I love the photos. Perhaps one day, I can visit <3

    with love, Bash   |   HEY BASH

  3. Oh so lovely! I love the way you write your experiences. I love how you enjoy your alone time. It is really nice to see Casablanca through your eyes.

    I’ve never been there, but I was in Marrakech last year (family trip) and it was fun. I remember that busy, hectic activity of the marketplace, everyone trying to sell us everything. The big contrast between modernity and ancient buildings. The kindness of locals. It was an interesting experience, altough I missed mixing with them and learn more about their culture and lives.

    Hasta pronto,
    Deborah

  4. Feeling so inspired by everything you posted, especially this blog post. When I worked at the tour operator company in Germany I was “in charge” of attractions/activities and hotels in Morocco even though I’ve never been. Now I definitely want to visit.

  5. ein wunderschöner und serhr ausfühlicher Beitrag liebe Finja!
    Marocco interessiert mich als Land und Reise auch seher … bisher hatt ich leider nicht die Gelegenheit dort hinzureisen. deine Eindrücke und Fotos sind echt toll und machen große Lust darauf 🙂

    hab einen schönen Start ins Wochenende,
    ❤ Tina von http://liebewasist.com

  6. wow Morocco looks/sounds amazing! I’ve never been, but I would love to! My only issue would be that I’m very claustrophobic so I don’t know how well I would fare atThe Old Medina or down any narrow streets. The Blue Mosque looks absolutely stunning!

    Georgia Megan

  7. Liebe Finja,
    I can read your post forever, it’s so beautifully written I feel like I was there with you. And your photographs. Oh, your photographs. They are marvellously raw and honest, that I feel like I’m seeing true Morocco for the first time—most blogs I’ve seen have glamourised the country so much, I hardly recognise it as the African country that it is.

    I’ve been wanting to visit Morocco a lot lately. I feel like African countries have various personalities. West African countries are the “typical” African countries that I’m most familiar with—Nigeria, Ghana, etc. South Africa—the
    country itself and Madagascar—are the closest to Southeast Asia that I know of. And then there’s North Africa, like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, with a majority of Muslim citizens and Arabic influence.

    Your shots of the narrow alleyways and crowded marketplace—that’s what I picture and associate Morocco with. When I was in Studienkolleg, many of my friends were from Morocco—although, sadly, most of them were lazy—and they definitely take care of one another, like we do with fellow Indonesians too. I think it’s a developing country complex—when we have so little, there’s nothing else to do but share.

    And that blue mosque looks so divine and beautiful, that I wish I could pray there once in my life. I love how you describe the atmosphere there—and all across the city.

    How I wish I was there with you!

    Alive as Always

  8. I absolutely loved your shots of the Blue Mosque. They were amazing, you have an artists eye You should put a travel book together. The scenes in the markets and all the color and variety were really nice.
    It’s interesting to see other cultures and their customs, they can teach us so much. If people would just be kind to one another. A simple gesture, that would be a start.
    Reading about your adventures makes me want to travel and explore. Thanks for taking me along on your journey.

  9. You writing is so fluid, one can’t help but become absorbed in your experience with you. The photos are delish! You’ve done something magical here. Thank you for sharing!

  10. I’ve never visited before, so thanks for sharing! // The alleys seem overwhelming but exciting and like there are many hidden treasures to discover! // The Blue Mosque is beautiful 🙂 // I think that adults have a lot to learn from children. Children so pure and have an inspiring excitement for life and learning! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

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