Spain/Morocco 2011:
Day 10 - Marrakech, Morocco


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Spain/Morocco 2011: [Day 1 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 2 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 3 - At Sea] [Day 4 - Gibraltar] [Day 5 - At Sea] [Day 6 - Funchal, Portugal] [Day 7 - Tenerife, Canary Islands] [Day 8 - Arrecife, Canary Islands] [Day 9 - Agadir, Morocco] [Day 10 - Marrakech, Morocco] [Day 11 - Seville, Spain] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 14 - Andorra]

Monday, October 31, 2011: We arrived in Casablanca, Morocco, right on schedule.

The beautiful Hassan II mosque dominates the waterfront view.
We were excited about our shore excursion: a three-hour drive inland to Marrakech for the day.
There were plenty of Maersk containers to be seen around the docks, but we got this shot as we were leaving the dock area.
We passed this modern Novotel, ...
... and this more traditional building with lovely details.
Downtown Casablanca featured pretty trees in bloom, ...
... and small billboard ads for couscous.
Here's some typical Casablancan architecture, ...
... and here's a beautiful white mosque.
The McDonald's fare advertised looked pretty typical ...
... which is good, because we didn't have a chance to stop and try whatever unusual things they might have on the menu.
Here's the Casablanca Technopark, ...
... and here's a large toll plaza.
We passed the train tracks that must host the Marrakech Express, juxtaposed against a more traditional method of transportation: the donkey and cart.
We stopped at a gas station/rest area, ...
... with restrooms that earned an excellent seven point score on the Bundlings Restroom Scale, ...
... and a pleasant outdoor seating area to enjoy our complimentary cans of orange Fanta.
Debbie was pleased. Of course, there were street vendors milling about our bus, trying to sell us things, but we had a couple of people on the tour who always took a bullet for the team, purchasing something from everyone who came their way.
Back on the bus, we photographed sheep, ...
... small towns, ...
... more small towns, ...
... and more, every one of which had a white mosque in the center.
Our guide noted that some of the landscape we'd be seeing resembles the Sahara Desert minus the sand, and we're guessing that this river is another exception.
You must choose. Circle back to Casablanca or take a right to Marrakech.
Another tour, another soccer stadium.
We reached the suburbs of Marrakech, and sure enough, it looked like the Moroccan version of American suburbs, with apartment complexes of identical units, except the architecture was distinctively Moroccan.
This is an actual oasis -- an area with lots of palm trees providing food, ...
... near a water source, such as it is.
Here's another amazing display of different colors of bougainvillea shrubs, ...
... and here's another Moroccan apartment complex.
Closer to town, it's starting to look a little different -- herds of sheep, a random donkey, discarded plastic bags, ...
... and some more dilapidated housing.
We reached the walls of the ancient city, known as the medina.
Enticing as this beautiful gate was, it was not yet time for us to visit.
Instead, it was time for lunch at Hotel Mansour Eddahbi.
The interior was beautiful with ornate details, ..
... like this recessed lighting.
Mmmm, rolls and salads and meats, plus a giant pile of delicious couscous.
Tasty desserts, too -- none more delicious than the bowl of tiny apple cubes floating in some sort of honey juice.
Our group's dining area was outdoors, perfectly shaded in the perfect temperature by trellises, ...
... and orange trees.
The food was all great, but the lamb was what we remember most.
The pool area looked like fun.
The restaurant featured wall murals, like this showing the traditional horse races we had seen the day before, ...
... and this showing an ancient town with a stork's nest on top.
Back on the bus, we drove along this lushly gardened boulevard, ...
... then headed into the old town. We were joined by a second guide whose function was to both keep us safe and keep us together as a group, which was no small feat in some of the situations we found ourselves in later in the day.
We walked through a park toward the Koutoubia Minaret, a 12th-century Moorish monument.
Orchy posed for a quick photo.
Our guide, Bennis, explained the function of the gentlemen wandering the park and town dressed in colorful outfits and hats. They sell water, stored in their pouch and poured into cups to drink from. They also will pose for a photo with you if you tip them.
We stopped to admire the Koutoubia Minaret up close, and our guide told us that it was a sister tower to the one we'd be seeing the next day if we toured Seville (which we did).
Here's a closer shot. Pretty, huh?
We walked along the edge of the park, ...
... and this creepy guy, who we nicknamed Creepy Guy, followed and photographed every one of us repeatedly.
Back in the bus, we passed a cafe featuring Coca-Cola, ...
... and a mattress store.
We walked, ...
... and walked some more, dodging fast moving cars and motorcycles and people in the streets.
Our destination was the Bahia Palace, ...
... a beautiful place with endless ornate details.
Look, ...
... and enjoy.
We did a lot of photographing ceilings, ...
... and detail work on doors.
Pretty fireplace, mantel, and ceiling.
Another pretty ceiling.
This corridor led to a ...
... lovely courtyard, ...
... which makes a great view out these windows.
Cool mosaics below ...
... and above.
We got a quick peek of this open area, ...
... and then we were on our way out.
Tom thought that the Arabic word for "exit" resembled the Road Runner.
Some stray Moroccan kitties were enjoying the afternoon shade.
Back out, ...
... and back in the bus, ...
... passing more beautiful gates into the medina. Note the stork nests on either side of the gate.
Out of the bus again, and through this gate, ...
... to experience a little more of life in the medina.
This was a beautiful minaret.
Up ahead, we saw another stork nest.
Let's zoom in on it, shall we?
This shop sold those colorful water vendor hats.
A few blocks away, we reached the Saadian Tombs, dating back to the 16th century.
Access was via a very narrow corridor, ...
... that opens into a large courtyard.
The tombs are in the ground, with rectangular mosaic tops, ...
... and Arabic writing inscribed on the tops in stone.
The rooms contain the tombs of the sultan's extended family. Here's one, ...
... and here's another.
Of course, the ceilings are decorated as well.
Stray cats roam the garden among the tombs.
After our visit, we did some more walking.
This shop sold tajines, earthenware pots with cone tops for cooking. If anything in this country had a price tag, we would own one, but we do not.
We walked through narrow streets, ...
... passing many produce stores, ...
... and dodging many motorcycles.
Hmmm, here's an interesting assortment of things that used to be on the outside of animals.
Speaking of animals, here's a store that sells fresh chickens. How fresh? Well, there are some still alive in the back of the store.
We retraced our steps, ...
... and walked down some more narrow streets.
This shoe vendor had a unique approach to keeping the stock fresh.
Next, we were ushered into a store for some mandatory shopping. Some people went upstairs for the carpet demonstrations, some stayed downstairs among the stalkerish sales staff and the items with no price tags, and some of us went outside and avoided the highly aggressive street vendors. There were two highlights of this stop: the clean restrooms and the two female vendors having a little catfight on the street.
Good to know that you can get a bucket of chicken -- Kentucky Fried Chicken -- in Morocco.
We did more walking, ...
... passing this lovely fountain and building, ...
... and more shops, ...
... and some sort of herbs/greens store, ...
... and this plant store.
We got to a square but psych! It's not the one we're headed for. Still more walking to do.
It was a little bit like being boiled slowly, ...
... as the streets got narrower and more crowded, ...
... eventually turning into narrow hallways filled with people and shops.
And we're here!
This is Jemaa El Fna Square, a busy square filled with performers, food stalls, kiosks, street vendors, and beggars. Here's Orchy.
This was our meeting point, and every table at this cafe was filled, so those of us who didn't want to walk around milled about in front of it.
The square smelled of monkeys and horses and food and gasoline, and the sound of snake charmers, street dancers, and motorcycles was relentless. There are monkeys in the left side of this photo and cobras on the right.
While beggars and vendors (including young children) approached us every minute or so, Creepy Guy from earlier in the day showed up to sell his photos to our group.
Finally, everyone in our tour group eventually showed up, and we were off, with the Koutoubia Minaret in the distance to show us the way.
After successfully dodging the endless horse-drawn carriages (and the evidence that they had been there), we got back on the bus, affectionally dubbed Mobile America by us, but not before a few last-minute sales were made by the street vendors who followed us.
It was a three-hour drive back to the ship and we enjoyed the sunset out our window.
Casablanca was looking particularly beautiful at night.
Look at the lights dancing off of this Pizza Hut sign.
This is Rick's Cafe, a restaurant created specifically for fans of the movie "Casablanca," who want to feel like they actually visited the Casablanca in the movie. The fictional movie. That was filmed in Hollywood.
We were back on the ship 12 1/2 hours after we departed, so we were tired and had missed our dinner time. In addition to finding our completed laundry, nightly towel animal, and turndown service chocolates, we found that Holland America had left us two room service trays and a nice note saying that they expected that we were hungry after our long day, and that we might want an immediate snack and to head to bed.
They were right. We wolfed down the fruit, sandwich, cookies, and brownies, ...

... and called it a night shortly after leaving the port of Casablanca.

Day 11 >


Spain/Morocco 2011: [Day 1 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 2 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 3 - At Sea] [Day 4 - Gibraltar] [Day 5 - At Sea] [Day 6 - Funchal, Portugal] [Day 7 - Tenerife, Canary Islands] [Day 8 - Arrecife, Canary Islands] [Day 9 - Agadir, Morocco] [Day 10 - Marrakech, Morocco] [Day 11 - Seville, Spain] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Barcelona, Spain] [Day 14 - Andorra]

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