Traveling to Casablanca, Morocco!
this month has been bonkers (are you allowed to use that word without being a grandma – i am unsure of the rules). earlier this month we traveled from my new favorite city of london to morocco in north africa! you have probably heard of the movie ‘casblanca’ and we figured we should watch it before we venture there, so we did and it is great. now i know where a ton of popular phrases come from. here’s looking at you, kid!
in full disclosure, we booked this trip to morocco pretty last-minute because there was a heck of a deal to fly from london to morocco and back. plus, it would be our 5th continent of our big dream this year!
since we had just watched ‘casblanca‘ we figured that would be the best city to go to, right?! i mean, there is a whole movie that appears to be a cult classic so the best place to visit in morocco must be casablanca, right?! there are no books available at the bookstore on casablanca because everyone must have bought them to visit there, right?!
the famous city that people flock to in morocco is actually marrakech, just make a mental note of that friends. alas, we had our trip all planned for traveling to casablanca so we wanted to make our most out of it. i did have a few moments of panic when i realized our error in just assuming the city when i truly could not find a single book on casablanca – but 13 on marrakech!
so then why on earth are we still talking about it? i’m glad you asked. because there are some neat things to do and see in casablanca – i merely wanted to share a lesson we learned along the way: don’t just pick a city that sounds famous because you don’t know how long the bargain price to get there will last. do a little more research!
after one of the worst flights of my life, we arrived in casablanca late at night where my husband promptly gave me a snack and sent me to bed because i was being a grump. the next morning was much better and we set out to find breakfast.
i wasn’t sure what i was expecting to see in casablanca but it had consistent contrasting feels to the city. many parts were dilapidated and worn down and then there would be a fancy electronic store.
in morocco, the official language is arabic but the secondary one is french! all the signs (and menus) are either in arabic or french. monsieur kiel, if you’re reading this…i am sorry for being a mouthy teenager in high school french class but i still stand by the fact you shouldn’t wear certain pantalons. oh and je vous remercie de m’enseigner un peu de francais.
moroccan mint tea is traditionally served in a piping hot silver teapot and poured from a high distance so the aroma fills the air. it is incredibly delicious, which i later found out is due to the 4 heaping tablespoons of sugar added to tea.
the main attraction in casablanca is the hassan II mosque. it’s the largest mosque in africa and the 7th largest in the world. it was incredible. if you ever wondered what the other side of the atlantic ocean looks like, here it is!
it was built in 1993 and 25,000 people fit inside of the mosque with room for another 80,000 outside on the grounds of it. non-muslims can tour the mosque for around $12 USD per person but of course…we visited exactly at 1pm on a friday, when they hold a special prayer as their holy day and non-muslims, like ourselves, are not permitted inside.
i have been to egypt and the united arab emirates so i knew to bring a scarf to cover my head and to wear more conservative clothes – though my shirt was completely soaked with sweat!
if you are traveling to a muslim country, ladies always have a scarf with you because it easy to wrap around your head to show respect to this religion and culture should you be near a place of worship.
we stood quietly to the side, listening to the prayer call and observing as thousands of people flooded inside. i found it interesting that men entered the mosque through a massive and very beautiful entrance while women were only allowed to enter through a small opening off to the side.
admittedly, i am not well-versed in religious knowledge so i do not know why this is but i certainly pondered on it as an outside observation.
after sitting on sea wall a ways down from the mosque, we figured we should probably go try to find rick’s cafe americain, which is a restaurant and bar inspired by the film ‘casablanca.’
“of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine… ”
there were not too many people drinking at 1:30pm on a friday…probably because they were all at the mosque. i sipped a gin and tonic while my husband sipped a martini. they also gave us a massive plate full of different olives, which sat untouched because i’d rather eat cotton balls than eat an olive.
as we were talking with the bar tender, he asked where we were from. we gave the usual line of “we live in oregon, the state above california in the USA.” (i’ve noticed most people either know new york or california). he then exclaimed, “oh! i know oregon! that’s where the woman who opened this is from!” how crazy is that!? she wasn’t there when we were but well done woman-entrepreneur-from-oregon! it opened in march 2004.
as we sat at the bar, gin flowing through our veins, i started talking about feeling disappointed we didn’t do better research for this trip and we wouldn’t be seeing marrakech. the next thing i knew, my husband asked for the wifi password, looked up the train schedule and said “we have two hours to get to the train station, let’s go to marrakech!”
…and then i knew (again) that i would love him forever.