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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Monday, July 28, 2014

Casablanca



Travel Dates 5th-6th July 2013  

I was sad to leave Moulay Idriss. Despite the steps and steep roads, the odd but comfortable guest house/hotel, the dust and the heat it was a pleasant, relaxed two days and probably the closest I came to real life in Morocco away from tourists and guides. I departed Moulay Idriss for the railway station by the same means, Grand Taxi, but at a much cheaper price of 10 dirhams. I was wedged into the front right passenger seat beside the unlucky customer who straddled the poorly padded gap between the two bucket seats. 

The taxi took us about 20km to the main Meknes Grand Taxi Rank, where I negotiated the short extension to Gare Meknes for another 20 dirhams. I realised he had misunderstood when he tried to deposit me at Meknes Al Amir, the minor station, but eventually I persuaded him to take me the main station. 



I had a pleasant lunch at the café near the station and also a pleasant 3 ½ hour journey in air-conditioned 1st class to Casablanca. The route was rural initially, slowly descending from the Atlas foot-hills to the rolling pastures nearer the coast. 


After passing through the urban fringe of Rabat, the capital, we reached Gare Casa Voyageurs, Casablanca, where I walked to the Ibis beside the forecourt of the station. 

 

I asked for a non-smoking room away from the rail lines. Somehow the message didn’t seem to get across the first two times. On the third try I got a room on the city side that did not smell of smoke. It was standard Ibis quality: moderate speed Wi-Fi, compact, clean, comfortable bed and small but adequate en-suite. Both the Ibis hotels I used in Morocco were better quality than the other dars and hotels I stayed in. 

 
The tram ran past the window but did not cause me noise problems and was a very convenient way to get to downtown and the medina. The self-serve ticketing system was easy to understand, with an icon to choose English, and very cheap.



I spent the afternoon wandering around downtown, then along the roads near the docks.


Despite the romantic name and wanting to visit since watching Bogart, Bergman and Rains so many years ago in one of the best movies ever made, I used Casablanca as just a transit stop en-route to the Greek Islands. After Fes and Moulay Idriss it seemed too modern and almost Western. I enjoyed my brief visit but was happy to stay just one night.

Casablanca was an interesting mix of old and new. The medina was far more tourist-oriented than those at Tangier and Fes. Most traders were obviously selling to the tourist market, unlike the other medina markets which catered primarily to the locals. For the first time I saw lots of other tourists. There seemed to be a cosmopolitan mix from Europe, the USA and a few from Asia. 

 
 
The small section of the true Medina I entered beyond the markets was less congested than Fes and more modernised, but for the first time I felt uncomfortable while wandering the alleys. Just a feeling; no-one said anything, but the atmosphere was not really friendly. Maybe they've seen too many tourists and dislike the intrusion, so I obliged and wandered elsewhere. To be honest I found the Fes and Moulay Idriss medinas more interesting.

 
 
The central city was modern and bustling, with the standard trappings of a major modern city: skyscrapers, Western 5* Hotels and traffic.



Early in the afternoon I happened across a small, dark bar where I had a pleasant local beer. Bars are not always easy to find in Islamic cities, apart from those in the 4* hotels with 5* prices. Later, when I caught a Petit Taxi near the docks and asked him to find a bar he spent almost an hour wandering in a seemingly random way before depositing me at one that had closed for renovations. By chance I found the one I had come across earlier around the corner. Serendipity. I am not a big beer drinker but when the mercury goes over 35(98) in a land where air-conditioning has not really caught on, a cold beer can be bliss.

I had a nice tagine in a fast-food café in the up-scale hotel district for dinner, then retired early to the Ibis to write up some notes and re-pack my bags for the flight to Rhodes next morning. 


The journey from the hotel to the airport involved a short walk and a pleasant train ride. I'll report on the slightly more stressful journey from there to Rhodes in the next post.

Cheers, Alan

2 comments:

  1. I am so enjoying your adventures so far Alan. Whilst I haven't visited anywhere in north Africa with the exception of Tangier and Khartoum the photos are familar scenes from many crew transfer busses in the middle east when I was flying. Damascus is a vibrant memory for me, with the wide boulevards created by the French and the exquisite restaurants contrasting with the souk and surrounds of the holy mosque which are back in the middle ages. Such a shame what is happening there now and few westerners will ever see what I was privileged to see there.

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  2. Casablanca is of course the most modern city and though it caters to tourists is also an important business center. I'm pleased you found time to explore a bit!

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