Beginning with Casablanca

It’s hard to know where to start, but I think I’ll start by sharing Gabe’s musings about Morocco by copying it here. Several people are wondering and some have asked about Gabe. He is a colleague and friend. That is all. We tend to have similar ideas about what to see and do when we travel, so he is an ideal travel buddy. (He didn’t know he was in the picture here.)

Gabe at Rick's Cafe

Gabe at Rick’s Cafe

Here’s Gabe’s post:

Morocco – Thoughts on Travels

Really enjoyed Morocco, on the whole. Some random observations…

1. Casablanca is lame – no need to spend much time there. Isn’t much to see beyond the grand mosque and a few other locations. Otherwise, it’s overly populated, horrible traffic, limited open spaces, feels old, not much character to it in my opinion.
2. Marrakech is stunning – the red city. Every building has a red tint to it, old and new. A vibrant market and market square with everything for sale, artisans, performers, snake charmers, monkeys, etc. There are beautiful public parks and gardens, thousands of rose plants, and more mopeds than you could ever imagine. They zoom in and out of traffic and around cars, sharing the road with the occasional donkey pulled cart. The Atlas Mountains are nearby, snow! The one bad thing about Marrakech, it’s a very touristy city, a lot of poor people, and hawkers can be very pushy and annoying.
3. Fes and Tanger were my next favorite cities. I started to get a bit tired of markets, medinas, and shopping, however.
4. Morocco, one of the poorest countries in North Africa and the Middle East $3,100 per capita GDP), is currently building a 200mph high-speed rail between Tanger and their capital, Rabat. Eventually it’s planned to extend to Casablanca and south to Marrakech. Tanger is building the largest marina in the Mediterranean, according to our Riad host. Both, at great expense. It’s arguable if you should spend so much money when the country has such poverty and even low literacy levels (67% I think). But, I guess they are looking to the future by building infrastructure, for what that’s worth. How much it will benefit the poor, who knows. I kept wondering to myself, how is it that Morocco can be building a high speed rail, and we don’t even have ONE in the U.S.?
5. There were noticeable police/military that wondered around the major cities. They were always in threes, with two military in fatigues with submachine guns, and a police officer in the middle of them with a sidearm. I found it interesting because they ALWAYS were in public this way, in the exact same order too, like the police officer HAD to walk in the middle. We asked a guide about the police/military presence, he said the government was concerned about the number of Moroccans that had left the country to fight for ISIS, and when/if they returned… Hence the higher than normal security the last year or so. In a side note, I just found an article estimating the number of foreign fighters with ISIS. Morocco is one of the highest contributors, 3,000.
6. I spoke four languages while there (French, Spanish, Arabic, English, none well except English, haha). Moroccans usually learn Arabic as their first language, but most learn French all through school, so are fluent in both. Berber is another national language that many speak, and English is learned by many as a third+ language. Spanish is also spoken by some in northern areas near Spain.
7. Morocco was incredibly green, with diverse geography, from mountains to forests, to oceans and rolling fields, farmlands, and huge deserts (didn’t make it there though).
Go if you have the chance!

I agree with what he said, but here are a few more words from me. (I’m going to break my entries into days, so stay tuned for more.) We arrived in Casablanca (it’s been around since the 7th century BC) about midday and managed to find our way to the hotel in our rental car.

Road from the airport

Road from the airport

We wandered around the old medina (old fortified city packed with vendors and their stalls) and grabbed a bite to eat on the street there.

Just down the street from our hotel

Just down the street from our hotel

The tower in the previous photo lit up at night.

The tower in the previous photo lit up at night.

Just outside the medina - dates, figs, etc. Who knows what it all is?

Just outside the medina – dates, figs, etc. Who knows what it all is?

Graffiti on a wall outside the medina

Graffiti on a wall outside the medina

I was struck by the number of very poor and probably homeless people I saw, most of whom were begging. Children and some adults were wandering in and out among people (and along the road, among cars) selling packets or boxes of tissue. Older men would set up a crate and sell single cigarettes. People smoked everywhere. Shoe shiners walked around looking for people wearing polishable shoes or hitting their supply box with their brush to call attention to themselves. It was sad and made me realize what a poor country Morocco is.

After it got dark, we took a shared taxi (someone else was already in it who was dropped off along the way) to Rick’s Café, which was modeled after the café in the movie ‘Casablanca’. The movie was filmed entirely in Hollywood, but it was fun to hang out there.

Inside Rick's Cafe

Inside Rick’s Cafe

Looking up at the ceiling in Rick's Cafe

Looking up at the ceiling in Rick’s Cafe

Inside Rick's Cafe

Inside Rick’s Cafe

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kalilraina
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 17:37:09

    Thanks, Pam! I’m loving hearing more about the trip, and Gabe’s musings are really interesting!

    Reply

  2. Ann Carr Adkins
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 22:11:58

    We also have a Ricks, in Durham. I’ll betcha it isn’t at all the same!!

    Looked to me as if there weren’t many rocks to choose from. Jus sayin’

    Reply

  3. Judy Taft
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 01:21:59

    Love the travel insights! I have not traveled to Morocco, but would like to do so and so it is most helpful to hear yours and Gabe’s perspectives. So glad you are having all these interesting and unique experiences. Continue blogging so we can all enjoy vicariously! Love, Judy

    Reply

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