I just spent four days in Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. I enjoyed my time there, but I am still processing all that I've seen and experienced. I took a city orientation tour that was designed to acquaint us with the notable sights and neighborhoods of Casablanca. We visited a food market and I saw mass amounts of fruits and vegetables, but I also saw carcasses strung up that were for sale. I think I hid my initial shock well, but the image of the skinned rabbits with the fur still on their feet will probably remain etched into my brain for a while. At least until we get to the next port and something else takes its jolting place.
After leaving the market we visited City Hall and a compound. I found the architecture of the buildings in this industrial city unique and beautiful. The architecture had Moroccan, French, and Portuguese influence, giving the city an identity that felt like a remarkable blend of individualism. For instance, I saw a lighthouse and from a distance it looked like many lighthouses I'd seen before. It wasn't until I got closer that I realized that this lighthouse, near La Corniche, had distinct differences. It's top had a Moroccan flare that reminded me I was not just on any other coast, I was on the coast of northern Africa.
I spent some time visiting the $800 million Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest in the world. This massive, beautiful, and breathtaking building is truly art. The sheer size of the structure is enough to give you pause, but when you consider the level of detail evident in the ceilings, the artwork surrounding the fountains and everything in between, you cannot help but to stand in awe. It is one of the most inspiring buildings I've ever seen.
No matter how interesting or beautiful they are, a country is more than markets and buildings–it's also its people. I met some interesting people in Morocco as well. My favorite was Mustafa. My friend and I met him in a market and he has become part of our Moroccan experience. He took us deep into one of the markets to show us where to get what we were looking for and even haggled prices for us. When we were done with our shopping, he even put us in a cab and sent us on our way. He was such a fun and friendly part of my time in Casablanca. Mustafa reminds me of the good that exists and I hope to use him as an example of how I should treat tourists when I'm at home. I should never be too busy or too caught up in my own world to be kind to someone.
Another part of my Moroccan experience was a wild cab ride. I am certain that a particular cab driver will travel well beyond Morocco with me. I don't know his name, but I'm willing to bet that he was auditioning for a role as a daredevil. This guy created his own lane and not only pulled in his side mirror to create more space, but at one point he reached out to the car next to us to push in that driver's mirror, too. He then went down a one-way street and decided that's not the way he wanted to go. He put the car in reverse and hit the gas. After that, we rode behind a car that was traveling too slow so he decided to go around...with an oncoming truck heading toward us. There was definitely not enough space for him to clear the slow-moving car so I thought 'this is it. This is where he looses, and ultimately, we all loose.' No, he veered off to the left onto a side road that my friend and I hadn't seen, but was extremely thankful was there. We couldn't get out of that thrill ride fast enough.
Of course you can't talk about traveling without talking about food. I had several meals, but one of my favorite foodie experiences was at this darling ice cream shop called Oliveri. I ordered this concoction that said vanilla, nougat, caramel, chocolate, and a few other ingredients. It was delightful. My other fun food experience took place at the local supermarket. My favorite food purchase so far has been the hazelnut chocolate caramel spread, although I haven't tried to the potato chips with the picture of the rotisserie chicken on the bag yet.
My friends and I stood out on the deck as the ship sailed away from the dock in Casablanca. As the ship floated out to sea, I thought of my time in Morocco with fondness. Casablanca was a great host. Now I am excited to see what Ghana will bring.