Travel Journal

Play it again...

(Monday 11 October 2010) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 46 – 9/19/10 Casablanca
Train ride was about four hours to the train station which is a bit outside the town center. Here we were met with the strong taxi guild. Despite having meters, they refused to use them forcing us to go back and forth to try and get the best rate. We didn’t have reservations, so upon securing the cheapest fare we rode to the heart of the cheap hotels. The first one was a good price with a shared bathroom and we ended up taking it. It was still early so we got a sandwich at the open market across the street and headed to the medina to explore.
The streets in the medina were fairly wide thanks to the French who figured every city should have a medina and built one there. It was rather dirty and smelly though and we made our way through it rather quickly as street kids started up conversations with us with a tone that was rather uncomfortable. Casablanca has an extremely high unemployment rate and something like 60 percent of the citizens live in shanty towns just outside downtown and the rich industrialists live in the city causing tension.
Leaving the medina on the North side, we found Rick’s Caf�.
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An American bar built to mimic the caf� from the movie Casablanca. It’s upscale and shows the movie continuously downstairs; however, it is so upscale you have to ring at the front door to be admitted. Not wanting to spend another 120 DH on beers, we gave it a pass.
Just walking, we happened to stumble across the Hassan II Mosque which really is the only reason we were stopping at Casablanca. It is huge. We confirmed the time for the English tour the next day and then a guard offered to take pictures of us. He moved us into an alcove and then had me wear his hat. I knew where this was going and gave him a 12 DH tip.
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Trying to catch a cab back to the hotel was useless as the drivers wanted 5 time the fare we paid from the train station to the hotel which was much farther so we ended up walking back.
The next morning though we caught a reasonable taxi that used the meter – probably because the driver didn’t speak English and got to the Mosque. Tickets in were expensive but well worth it. This is the only mosque in Morocco that allows non-Muslims inside and I have always been curious to know what the inside of a mosque looks like. Very luxurious with heated floors, retractable roof and views of the Atlantic. Beautiful marble and wood with everything made from Morocco except the Italian chandeliers. I also found out the shoes are removed not for religious purposes but only to keep the mosque clean. We also saw the hammon which normally would be used for cleaning before prayer but which has not been utilized yet. I would highly recommend visiting this place!
Afterwards we had to walk a bit before finding a reasonable priced taxi back to the hotel. We checked out and got a taxi to the train station. Once there, I could not find the Garmin and with the train arriving in half an hour, I panicked and got a taxi back to the hotel and had it wait while I searched the room in vain for the Garmin before returning back defeated. Julie had searched my bag while I was gone and found it so it was just a fool’s journey. Fortunately I had got back in time to catch the train to Marrakesh.
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