For a long time Morocco was not on my travel list- my friend John (who I traveled with to
Africa for the first time, as well as
Easter Island) would tell
stories about how stones were thrown at him in the Fez medina (mind you this was about 10yrs ago, and he was a less experienced traveler then).
I also had heard more than one tale from travelers back in the day (let's say 10-40 yrs ago) where a friendly local would befriend a couple
and invite them to their house, only to then expect to have sex with both the man and them woman. Hmmmnn, man-rape really not on my
Lonely Planet top 10 list of things to do, in fact I would say it is on my top 10 list of things to never expereince in my lifetime.
That being said, with a large group you can always cut down on many dangers, and Morocco was now a very well touristed spot. So I had it on my
radar, and Insight (whom I used for
Ireland and thought was so so) had a good itinerary, so I listed them as a possibility.
When I saw the dates could make sense with the Jimmy Buffett concert in Paris, and it fell after (and not during) Ramadan,
I went ahead and pulled the trigger on this from back in February.
$1625 - 5% frequent traveler - 5% pay 6 months prior
1 dirham = .115 USD
Wednesday 15th- fly out
On the taxi ride from my place to the airport- the driver was Moroccon.
Continental 77500 miles, $85
CO 351 - 2:40pm Austin, TX (AUS) to 7:26pm New York/Newark, NJ (EWR - Liberty)
They fed us a hot chicken enchilada on the flight.
Beautiful New Jersey.
Flight arrived early, got some egg drop and won ton soup while I waited.
CO 54 - 9:30pm New York/Newark, NJ (EWR - Liberty) to 11:05am Paris, France (CDG)
Flight is only about six hours.
I used to like M. Night Shyamalan movies so I watched
The Last Airbender and it was really bad. Only redeeming value
was that Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show was in it.
They also served us meatballs with pasta.
Day 2, Thursday 16th
I was one of the first off the plane, but then realized I had left my travel socks at my seat. Had to wait for every single person to get off
before someone could go get them for me. It was interesting to see the who the air marshalls were though.
A sin? My meal in France, le Big Mac.
Then I just sat around for 2hrs waiting for check in.
Paris- I will be back.
Easy Jet #3747 40 euro, CDG to Casablanca 16:20-17:30
Arrival (two hour time difference from Paris)
Welcome to the Arab world.
Paid this guy 200drh for a ride to the hotel.
Once we got to town traffic was incredibly bad and dysfunctional, reminding me of Mumbai. I couldn't
help but think how guys like my driver would be better suited to competitive racing than most Americans, as they are used to having to
anticipate other drivers, squeeze through tight spots, etc.
Room 828, very comfortable.
Sheets and bed were great, good AC, clean, spacious, good location.
Quick nap, shower, and I actually did hit the hotel gym before heading out around 930.
Typical petit taxi.
As is probably typical for cabs picking up at western hotels, the meter was "broken" so I paid 30dhr for my ride. I would learn
using the meter is MUCH cheaper, probably would have been 10dhr or less.
Dinner at Rick's Cafe, my main activity for Morocco.
I of course finally watched the movie
Casablanca (and enjoyed it) a few months before coming on this trip, so was looking forward to my experience
At the door they asked if I had reservations, and said without them they were full and tried to turn me away.
No way was I going home, so I got inside to make a reservation for the next evening, and once inside was allowed to sit at the bar.
It was a fantastic atmosphere, I loved it and think my friend Linda would have too. And yes, there was a
The movie plays in a small seating area on the second floor.
My dinner was an excellent beef stroganoff.
There was also a new dish on the menu I really wanted to try, goat cheese ravioli in pea soup. When I
originally ordered they were out of it, but I eventually struck up a conversation with a lady at the end of the bar, Kathryn from Oregon,
who was the owner! She wanted to try it as well, so if I could wait 30 minutes she would get some made up. Good, I like
having my way.
After returning to the hotel figured I would check out the sports bar they have there. As Lonely Planet hinted at, I would say you have probably an 80%
chance a local woman sitting by herself or two two girlfriends are prostitutes. Staff seemed very tolerant of this, simply a self employed (hopefully)
person working to fulfill a demand. I remember pointing some out to Farhan later in the trip, and he was like "really?"
Day 3, Friday 17th - CASABLANCA
"Welcome to Morocco, considered the 'Jewel of North Africa'! Known to the Arabs as "the farthest land of the setting sun!", it is a land so
intrinsically beautiful and rich with heritage, it has attracted seekers of the exotic over the centuries. Even for the most seasoned travellers,
there is much to see and do. On arrival at Casablanca Airport, your airport shuttle service leaves for the tour hotel at 09:00, 11:00, 13:00 & 15:00.
Then relax and settle in. Tonight join your tour director and fellow travellers for a welcome drink."
[non]View from my room.
Off I go for my Lonely Planet guidebook walk.
Took a metered petit taxi to start at the art deco church below,
Cathedrale du Sacre Coeur.
Growing up in South Florida during the Miami Vice era has made this architectural style a fav of mine.
Those are actually country flags in the stained glass.
Place Mohammed V area.
"Laid out as the Place de France in 1920, then renamed as Place des Nations Allies after WWII, then again to Place Mohammed V, this imposing
square is undisputedly the heart of the city. Its arcades are lined with bustling cafés and tacky souvenir shops while the impressive clocktower
keeps time over the hustle and bustle. Running off the square towards the busy port is the shop- and restaurant-lined boulevard Houphouët Boigny,
at whose end stands a memorial to Sidi Belyout, the city's present patron saint."
Palais de Justice
Stopped for lunch where it was mainly locals for some 40dhr lasagna, which was actually baked.
Well, if you have been to Casablanca but missed this walk it doesn't necessarily mean you need to go back. It was good to get a ground level
view of part of the city as opposed to just driving through it, but not a must do per se.
"The King Hassan II Mosque, Blvd Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah,
Tours Sa-Th 9AM, 10AM, 11AM and 2PM. A relatively recent mosque. It's
the largest in Morocco and the third largest in the world, with the tallest minaret in the world. It is one of the two main mosques in
Morocco open to non-muslims. Beautiful interior complete with water features, a roof that opens to the sky, a huge hammam in the basement (not in use),
and beautiful tile work. Worth a trip to the city."
This was pretty impressive and I am glad I got to take it at my own pace.
As I think about it, on the whole trip I don't recall hearing the full on call to prayer that you would hear in Turkey for instance.
The hotel buffet dinner was just OK. Only about half our group was present.
I did get to meet Maureen, a kiwi living in Australia, traveling by herself and also working in high tech.
She would be one of my buddies for the tour.
Hit the gym before bed.
Day 4, Saturday 18th - CASABLANCA - FEZ
The Japanese do not mess around when it comes the their luggage.
Our trusty bus.
Our guide Nagib and our driver for most of the time was Kalid.
"After a sightseeing tour of Casablanca..."
We learned that Casablanca has about 5 million people, the third most populous city in Africa after Cairo and Lagos (haven't been there yet). The
Portugese used to have the coastal cities, and casa branca (white house) was what this city was eventually named after. A casbah is a fortress.
We briefly stopped at the mosque I had been to yesterday.
On the way out of town we drove by the coastal area of the city (along the Corniche) where people could be seen exercising.
We also went through Anfa Hills, which
was a rich neighborhood where foreign embassies were as well.
"In January 1943, the famous Anfa Conference, held in one of these luxurious villas, attended by Churchill and Roosevelt, decided on the
date of the landing of the allied forces in Europe under the operation code name of Overlord."