Casablanca, Marruecos, África
February 19, 2009 - February 22, 2009
Woke up at 5:00, 2 hours after I'd gone to sleep. I got ready, and caught the cab with my friend Melanie to the metro station to meet Megan, the third and last member of our travel party. We took the metro up to the Valencian airport for our 8:00 flight to Madrid. We got to Madrid, had breakfast, and waited for our flight to Casablanca. We left Madrid at 1:30, and got to Casablanca at 2:10 (Casablanca is an hour behind Madrid). After going through customs and getting out of the airport, we hailed a cab into the city. Our driver's name was Sahíd, and he was a total sweetheart. It was a 45 minute drive from Mohammed V to the city.
We got to the hotel and checked in. Our room is pretty sweet! We each have a bed, and there's a bathroom in our room!
After we were all settled in, we went to the Old Medina (open air market) to look around. Everything is so different there. The driving is absolutely NUTS. Lanes mean nothing, and they drive whenever and wherever they want. Also, the men dominate the culture. We couldn't even look at a guy for two seconds without him automatically assuming interest on our part and immediately pursuing it. Also, women aren't very present. In restaurants and bars and shops and even on the streets, you don't see very many women. It was strange. But Casablanca was a really cool city, nonetheless.
After, we walked down to Rick's Café
and then down to Mosque Hassan II - the second largest mosque in the world, the first being that in Mecca. It was definitely a sight to see, and absolutely gorgeous. I only wish that the monument, the effort, the devotion, was for the glory of the true God.
While we were at the mosque, we happened to meet a Turkish cargo ship captain named Mehmet who offered to take us out. Since we'd be hoping to go to Rick's, we willingly obliged. We sat at the bar for a while, thinking we weren't actually going to eat there, but after a bit, he insisted that we get a table. We sat on the second floor and had an absolutely divine dinner. I order a seafood pastry. Top notch. I even got to play Sam's piano! How cool is that?
After dinner, Mehmet walked us home (good thing because it turns out that we were walking through a pretty dangerous part of town), and then we went up to sleep.
We woke up around 9:30 and went down to our complimentary breakfast. I had coffee, and then there were crêpes and toast with orange marmalade and butter. Such a European breakfast. Afterwards, we called the tour guide we'd met in the hotel lobby the day before, Bushhaaîm, and scheduled a tour for 11:00. We went upstairs, got ready, and met him in the lobby then.
He took us to more places than I could've imagined! First, he took us to the New Medina, another open air market, and bought us each a bouquet of flowers. Then, we went all around Casablanca: to the old fort, to the Anfa area (where all the expensive villas are and the queen vacations), to a museum dedicated to the old king, to the Catholic church, to a beautiful park with every kind of tree found in Morocco, to the lighthouse.... It was an incredible tour. Check out this Arabian architecture:
We also went to this amazing spice shop where we got oil massages and got to smell and try all these spices and remedies. Afterwards, we ate couscous, the Moroccan specialty (still with Butch Cassidy, as he is fondly known) at a nice restaurant in the city centre.
When we were done with the tour, we went back and rested in our hotel room. The day before we'd met an American, and we ended up running into him and his buddy again in the lobby while we were having tea. Matt, from the day before, is a recent graduate of UGA, and his friend Bronan, is as well. Bronan, however, was born and raised in a small town just outside of Dublin, Ireland. Needless to say, his accent was awesome. We hung out with them in the lobby for a few hours, and then, around 10:30, we all went out. Since, in Morocco, the only women who go out are prostitutes, we played it safe and went to the tourist friendly Rick's Café for the second night in a row. We hung out in the lounge upstairs with our new friends for another couple of hours, just talking and sometimes watching Casablanca, the movie, which is continuously playing on the big screen.
We finally headed back to our hotel. The boys had discovered the roof the night before, so we all went up there to check out the view. It was pretty awesome.
We relaxed for a while, then finally went to sleep. Another good Moroccan night.
We slept in, finally. We did get up in time for our complimentary breakfast though. This time I had tea, but it was the same, otherwise.
After relaxing some more in our room, we decided to head down to the beach. It was BEAUTIFUL. It had a lot of rocks, and the water was a nice aqua green.
The weather was perfect. We laid on the rocks and took in the sunshine. I was surprised to see people actually swimming and skimboarding. There were some women there, but it was mostly men. The culture for women is unlike any I've ever seen or experienced before.
Around 3:00, we went up to the McDonald's, which is apparently super classy dining in Casablanca, and got McFlurries. Just in time for our 4:00 reservation at Hammam Ziani. Hammams are the Middle Eastern variant of steam baths, and to me seemed more like the ancient Roman public baths. It was completely divine. The whole time, we were naked, which was a little strange at first, but after a little while I didn't even notice. First, the main woman took us into a steam room off of the big room with five low sinks against the walls. She gave us soap to soak in. After, she brought us back into the main room, one by one, for the scrubbing process. First the front side, then the back, she scrubbed my whole body with rough gloves to exfoliate. Everywhere. When I sat up, I looked at myself, only to see little clumps of dead skin. Kind of gross. She washed me off then sent me to the jacuzzi. After 10 minutes or so with the jets, another woman led me to the massage room. She lathered me in some oil type lotion and then massaged every inch of my body. Even my face and scalp. It was the most opulent experience of my life, I might venture to say. After that, I was off to the seaweed bath. I laid down on the table, first on my stomach, then over on my back, and the main woman, again, covered every inch of my body with a clay-like seaweed concoction that at first I thought was going to scald my skin. But after, it was exceptional. When I was caked, she rolled me up in tight plastic and I just sunk into utter relaxation. After some time went by, she rinsed me off, sent me back to the jacuzzi, then finally to the showers, where I washed my hair and body. At the end, they provided us with velvet robes and led us to the lounge, where we idled until we finally determined that it was time to get dressed and return to the real world.
When we left, we caught a cab to the hotel and could find in ourselves nothing more than the energy it took to sit in the hotel café and order dinner. We each had a panini - mine was ham and cheese melt. Very good. We went back up to our room, watched some horrible American program, and went to sleep around 10:00
We woke up around 8:30, ate a leisurely breakfast, then packed up. It was sad saying goodbye to all of our sweet friends at the hotel, but we had to. Butch Cassidy (our guide) had arranged for the same cab driver to pick us up and take us to the airport. We got there around 12:30, went through customs, and waited at our gate. We flew from Casablanca at 2:40 and got to Madrid around 5:25, where we took the metro to the train station. We had dinner at a little café in the train station (I had a breakfast panini) then took a train from Madrid to Valencia. We got to Valencia around 11:45, and Melanie and I took a cab back to our houses.
This weekend was amazing. I still can't get through my head that I've been to Morocco in AFRICA. It's just so unreal. The Lord is giving me so many opportunities. I've just got to figure out what to do with these experiences and what it means for me to be learning everything that I am. I will post pictures to accompany this incredibly long post later. The real world is creeping in with every tick of the clock, and I've still got to get some sleep before it's here!