My first full day in Casablanca, my friend and I headed to the Hassan II Mosque from lunch after a false start. We opted for the English tour. A Moroccan man approached our group and said that our guide was sick and we’d have to come back tomorrow. He paused a beat and then revealed that he was our guide. Thus commenced the jokes.
The mosque was impressive. Our guide told us that much of the construction’s financing came from many individual contributions.
He instructed us to take off our shoes in the main room. My awesome friend had planned ahead and brought an extra pair of socks for me. We padded around, looking up at the extremely high intricate ceiling and arches. The absence of furniture added to the feeling of enormity in the space.
Almost all of the materials used to build the mosque come from Morocco. One exception is the chandeliers, which are from near Venice.
Unbelievably enough, the grandiose roof is retractable.
Our shoes back on, we saw some baths, which range in temperature. I admired the pretty Moroccan tiles.
Outside, the clouds had parted a bit so we could see the mosque exterior.
The minaret is the tallest in the world, standing at 689 feet, or 210 meters. From it comes the call for prayer five times a day.
I snapped a shot of these satellite dishes before we took a taxi back to my friend’s apartment for tea and a chat. There were clusters of satellite dishes on every roof in Casablanca. It was one of those random things that struck me. I remember a friend who visited me in Paris for the first time years ago who was completely entertained by all the different metro train handles. What is most amusing is often the most ordinary.
We had dinner at a low-lit, modern looking restaurant that a friend’s boyfriend who is from Casa had recommended. My friend told me that this is a certain type of restaurant in Casablanca—swanky ambiance, contemporary music. I suppose it can be compared to the variations in New York bars, from dive, which serve cheap drinks under dim lights that probably hide some grime, to upscale rooftop or cellar bars that charge five dollars for a soda. At my previous company, our happy hours generally took place at the former.
I topped off my meal with a small chocolate dessert on a large white plate. The experience didn’t end with the food. On the contrary, the hall of individual bathrooms held mystery. I entered one that was deep and dark, with the toilet all the way at the end and a wall of glass that looked out to the sea. It was almost black outside, but I could hear the waves crashing.
I was grateful to be with my friend as we (she) chose a taxi to take us home. The drivers parked directly outside the restaurant wanted to horrendously overcharge us, not that I would have known they were trying to do so. As we walked through the parking lot, other drivers solicited us, and one kept bringing the price down but still not to a normal price. She waved him off. As we turned away and walked towards the road to hail a taxi, he brashly told us that we shouldn’t do that. He obviously didn’t know my friend, because commanding us authoritatively was the exact way to ensure that we didn’t turn back. She was already mad that because we were foreign, no one would give us a fair price.
A bit further alongside the road, she hailed one that we took home.
The whole taxi experience made me realize how much more independent I would have felt had public transportation been the means to get around the city. I’m used to arriving in a foreign city, reading the metro map, and figuring out how to buy tickets. Taxis were the equivalent of public transportation in Casablanca. They had a meter, but I would not have known the correct price or how long it should take to go from one place to another. To make it more complicated, taxis were shared with strangers, so it was necessary to note the cost already on the meter when you joined the party. I spoke French but no Arabic to help feign familiarity with the system. I could have done it, as tourists do, but I’m glad I didn’t have to. I felt no stress standing next to my able Californian guide who tossed back her blond hair and bent her tall frame to the dusty red taxi to arrange our ride.