A red-headed cowboy leaning against a pillar in baggage claim, looks up from his phone. It’s Doug Baum, our guide for the next 2.5 weeks. He assists Brenda with her luggage, and looks around for mine. I hold up my purse. “I’m traveling light this trip.”
- The population of Morocco is one-third Arab and two-thirds Berber, with Arabic and Berber being the primary languages. Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city and is one of the four largest metropolises in all of Africa.
We meet up with Mark and Catherine who have arrived from Australia, and start a walking tour of Casablanca with Nezha Sebti, our local guide. Among the buildings that I remember, are the Post office (shown below) and the Rialto Theater where Josephine Baker and Edith Piaf performed.
We end our walking tour at Rick’s Cafe, inspired by the film which wasn’t even made here (Casablanca was shot on a sound stage in the US). Jet lag sinks in, and all I remember from this meal is the white linen tablecloth, and Coca-Cola poured from half-sized green glass bottles into tumblers filled with ice, each garnished with a wedge of lime.
The next morning, it’s breakfast at a seaside cafe on the Corniche, and my first view of the Atlantic Ocean. Another first is my introduction to tagine – a regional cooking style – this one an egg and kefte dish that Mohamed, our driver, shared with me.
Today we visit to the Municipal Building – a miniature version of the Lion Courtyard from the Alhambra (which cracked me up after seeing the original in Granada). Afterwards, Doug took me to a nearby souk where I begin to build my Moroccan wardrobe.
A short drive later brings us to the Hassan II Mosque.
- The Hassan II Mosque is the largest in Morocco and the fifth largest in the world, built with one end extending over the sea. We didn’t get inside, but we explored the lush details of the exterior, and watched workmen as they were restoring a fountain and the mosaic work over one of the side doors.
Beyond the Hassan II plaza we walked past the madrasa – a university for Koranic study. I was surprised to see prickly pear, which Doug says is prevalent here, brought from Spain during the time of Columbus. It is used throughout rural Morocco as fencing.
We end up in a museum which had extensive examples of the craftwork that we would see up close and personal throughout this trip.
Next stop – Rabat ….