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.
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:
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?