Welcome to Morocco. What a ride so far. Fast paced, horn honking, traffic snarled, French speaking whirlwind.
We knew Casablanca wasn’t going to be pretty. Most tourists skip it. But our flight came through here so we decided to take one day. It’s actually
always good for us to have a day to get settled before heading out on an adventure in any country. And, now that we’ve been through the past 24 hours we are glad we had some time.
First, our flight landed 45 minutes EARLY. Cool. Or so we thought. But we waited in the passport line for 45 minutes. Then we got our bags. Then we waited in the bag inspection line for 30 minutes before being pulled aside for a search. They were looking for our kitchen knife, which we have taken through I don’t know how many airports in our checked bags over the past eleven months with nary a problem. Apparently they don’t like knives in Morocco. So bag searched – they pull out the knife, hold it, look at it, sniff it, taste it (jk 😉) and then decide it is just a kitchen knife and give it back to us. Ah duh.
Next we go to get a Sim card from a ditzy girl who
assures us the website where we load the minutes is in English. Next we find a cash machine. Then we spend thirty minutes trying to find the Qatar Air info desk to deal with an upcoming flight. We are directed to multiple locations and never do find the office. We give up.
Next we go to get our rental car. Another half an hour goes by. Then we discover as we are getting ready to drive out of the lot that Morocco does not allow Google Maps. Wait. What? Google Maps is our whole world. Ugh. So no Google Maps in Morocco.
By the time we finally get on the highway heading the 15 miles to Casablanca it’s 4:05 pm on a Friday night. Rush hour. Ugh. The highway was fine but as soon as we hit the city streets it was a frightening experience. Traffic. Taxis. Scooters. Pedestrians. One way streets. No street signs. No Google Maps. Oh My. We could see our hotel but we could not figure out how to get there.
Finally, more than four hours after touching down we arrived at our hotel.
Turns out the annual Casablanca Marathon is Sunday. Very busy. Oh la la!
We eat at the hotel and fall into bed.
This morning we realize the Sim Card from the ditzy girl at the airport is not working and that website she promised would be in English? French. Merci.
Arne spent four hours online and walking to two different locations to try to get the phone operational. He was, shall we say, pas amuse’ (not amused).
We are really surprised how few people speak English. Francais et Arabe. Definitely more English speakers in Tunisia than Morocco – so far.
So it’s noon on Saturday before we head out to see the Hassan II Mosque, the one sight we were most interested in here in Casablanca. (Read more about it here http://www.fmh2.ma ) Our book said there was a 2:00pm tour, but turns out it was a 3:00pm tour so we got tickets and enjoyed the exquisite exterior.
Since we had more than two hours to kill we decided to walk to Ricks Cafe for lunch. I had said we weren’t going to go here because I thought it was too touristy, but we were hungry and it was close – or so we thought. We spent the next hour walking around trying to find it (no google maps). We went through some pretty questionable neighborhoods. Finally we were back at the Mosque so we got a cab and it drove us to Rick’s – we had walked right by it not seen it. Incroyable!
But then we had a spectacular Moroccan meal with
outstanding service in a beautiful setting and voila! Happy peeps. Really glad we went and it was not touristy at all. Lovely. http://www.rickscafe.ma
Finally it was time for our tour of the inside of this spectacular mosque, the third largest mosque in the world, built in honor of the 60th birthday of King Hassan
II in the mid 1980’s. Our tour guide was wonderful, funny, educational and spoke excellent English. The mosque is sublime. Truly – there is no other word. It is one of the most amazing buildings and architecture and craftsmanship I have ever seen. I am so glad we went.
And so there we are. Our first 24 hours in Morocco. It’s a good thing we had a day to work out some of the kinks. Short visit to Casablanca and in the morning we are off to Chefchaouen, Morocco’s famous blue city. Hopefully the marathon won’t keep us from leaving town! In Chefchaoen we will have three days to relax. I am looking forward to that.
The adventure continues! Oui!