Day 12 - Casablanca
|Saturday, October 21, 2023: We arrived in Casablanca around 6:00 AM.
|The minaret of the Hassan II Mosque was lit up brilliantly in the pre-dawn darkness.
|We hurried up to the Lido to grab some breakfast and brought it back to the room, ...
|... before packing up our excursion backpack and heading down to the Ocean Bar to meet our tour group. We had another private tour with Viv today and almost the entire group was on time. We waited for the missing couple, but then when they hadn't shown up after a reasonable amount of time, ...
|... we all disembarked and walked down the pier to meet the waiting bus.
|Check out the design on this manhole cover. It looks a little like a snowflake, which seems ironic since it has probably never snowed in Casablanca.
|We walked through a building at the end of the pier, showed our passports to the security guards, ...
|... and then proceeded to our bus. It turned out that the couple we had waited for were already out here, looking for us. Well, one member of the couple was here, and the other one had wandered away to look elsewhere for the tour. After she returned, we were finally able to start the tour.
|As we left the port, we saw some modern and beautiful buildings.
|Our first stop was at Rick's Cafe, which is a recreation of the bar from the film "Casablanca."
|The entire movie was filmed on a Hollywood soundstage, but in 2004, a wealthy American decided to buy some space here and build a reproduction of the fictional bar. Even knowing all that, we all took turns getting our photos in front of the building.
|We left the photo stop at Rick's Cafe and drove the short distance to the Hassan II Mosque. We waited outside the gates until a security guard told our tour guide that our group could go in.
|The square outside the mosque is quite large. Our tour guide, who was also named Mohammed like the one yesterday, explained that the courtyard for the mosque can accommodate 80,000 worshippers.
|The minaret is 210 meters or 689 feet tall. It is the second tallest minaret in the world and has a laser on the top to show worshippers the direction to Mecca.
|The walkway and garden here are in front of the building that houses the school, library, and museum that are on the grounds.
|This is one of 80 fountains that are spread around the outside of the mosque.
|Look at the tile work on the walls next to the fountains.
|Our guide spent some time talking about the construction of the mosque and the materials used.
|Part of the mosque is built out over the Atlantic Ocean, which makes for a very beautiful view. The rough seas that we had experienced the night before were pounding against the sea wall surrounding the mosque complex.
|Here's a beautiful fountain that was on the square near the main entrance of the mosque. The jets directed water downward, and the pool in the very center drained between the gray petals to the outer part of the fountain. It must be absolutely beautiful when it is turned on. Behind the fountain are the main doors to the mosque, ...
|... and they have incredibly detailed tilework extending above them.
|We entered the mosque right around 9:00 AM, removing our shoes and placing them in green fabric bags that we carried with us. The prayer hall is very large, 200 meters wide and 100 meters deep, and can accommodate up to 25,000 people.
|The ceilings are ornately tiled with beautiful detail work on the columns supporting the roof.
|There is a mezzanine made from cedar that runs along both sides of the prayer hall. Mohammed explained that this is where women pray, and each side can hold up to 5,000 women.
|Look at the windows above the doors. Beautiful.
|The roof of the mosque is retractable so that on nice days and evenings, worshippers can pray under the open sky.
|The floor has troughs cut through the central access of the prayer hall. Mohammed explained that when the roof is open, they fill the troughs with water so that it will reflect the sky.
|The glass in the floor shows the ablution rooms below.
|Here's the view looking down to the floor beneath us.
|After lots of talking at various locations by our tour guide, we walked to the exit where there were benches to sit on while we put our shoes back on.
|We walked down the stairs at the base of the minaret, ...
|... to the ablution rooms, ...
|... where there were these mushroom-like fountains that are normally filled with water for you to wash before going upstairs to pray.
|Mohammed explained in detail how to wash before prayers, ...
|... and then we were free to go to the restrooms. Tom took this photo in the men's restroom, which was very large with no fewer than twenty stalls. The marble divider in the center is where you wash your hands. Debbie stood in line for ten minutes to use one of the six, only SIX, stalls and three sinks in the women's restroom.
|Women did get Western toilets, though. Men, not so much.
|We then went back to the bus, where we expected to leave immediately for our next stop.
|Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Two members of our group were missing, and Tino, Gene, and Sue all went to look for them over the next half hour. Their backpacks containing their phone and passports were still on our bus. After more than 30 minutes of searching, Mohammed left information with the security guards to help them get back to the ship if they turned up. We later learned that they got separated from the group, couldn't find the bus, assumed we had left without them, and got a ride back to the pier - all before our group even left the mosque, thus putting our tour even farther behind schedule.
|Gary volunteered to take responsibility for the missing couple's backpacks and then moved into their seats.
|We left the mosque and started the drive toward Rabat, passing this very cool copper car outside of an office building.
|There were billboards for McDonald's along the route, ...
|... and McDonald's restaurants too.
|Once we got out of Casablanca, we were on a modern divided highway headed to Rabat, ...
|... with toll stations ...
|... and towns ...
|... and police checkpoints.
|Tom attempted to get a picture of Debbie as she dozed off but she opened her eyes just before the deed was done. Here she humors him with his second attempt at a picture.
|As we reached the outskirts of Rabat, we passed the train station for the highspeed train that runs from Tangier to Casablanca.
|This section of Rabat was very new, with car dealerships lining the road, ...
|... and very modern apartment buildings, ...
|... and public art exhibits ...
|... outside the other highspeed rail station in Rabat.
|So many places to see.
|Thankfully, we weren't headed to the medina. We're good on medinas, thanks.
|We drove on through the streets of Rabat, ...
|... past the Moroccan Parliament building, ...
|... the local city train station, ...
|... and a high school.
|We turned and drove past the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern Art, ...
|... before arriving at our first stop in Rabat, the Hassan Tower and Mausoleum complex.
|There were ceremonial guards on horseback at the entrance, ...
|... and then we were inside the complex, looking at the unfinished mosque from the 12th century.
|In the southeast corner of the complex is the mausoleum of Mohammed V, who was king of Morocco until his death in 1961 and was the grandfather of the current king, Mohammed VI.
|There was a ceremonial guard at the entrances of the crypt. The detailed art work on this guard's rifle was beautiful.
|The inside of the crypt was gorgeous, with an amazing amount of gold and mosaic tile.
|Here's a wide shot showing the balcony that runs around the upper level, and the lower level with the tombs of Mohammed V, his eldest son King Hassan II, and his younger son Prince Abdallah. The seated man in the back right corner on the lower floor was there to read the Quran.
|Outside the mausoleum, there were views of the new Grand Theater of Rabat, ...
|... and the new Mohammed VI tower.
|This boulevard ran in front of the complex. There were public restrooms sunken under the lawn.
|Debbie got shaken down for money to use the toilets, and then there was no toilet paper, the water was at a trickle, just one little square of soap, and no way to dry your hands. But at least it had Western-style toilets.
|We reboarded the bus and headed toward our next stop, ...
|... taking in the sights along the way. The juxataposition of modern Morroco is stunning. Across the river you have the clean and modern Mohammed VI tower and Grand Theater built on a grassy valley, and on this side of the river it is bare mud littered with broken fishing boats and trash.
|We passed an organized soccer match, ...
|... and a Burger King billboard in a mixture of English and French, ...
|... before arriving at our next destination, La Capitale Lumière, where we were going to have lunch.
|Oooh. They have Coca Cola!
|We were seated at three tables on the rear patio, ...
|... and given menus in case we wanted to order something in addition to what we had pre-ordered through Viv for the tour. Drinks, for instance, were not included in what we had pre-ordered. We ordered two Coke Zeroes to go with our meal.
|We both got Moroccan salad as a starter, which was beets, tomato slices, corn, grated carrots, potatoes, rice, cucumber, lettuce, and perhaps tuna on top.
|Debbie had requested the fried fish, and the plate she received was enormous. There were several types of fish, and in a delightful surprise, there were calamari strips. Yay!
|Tom got the turkey skewer which came with rice and mixed vegetables.
|One of our tablemates, Stephanie, got the vegetable tagine, which came steaming and sizzling like a fresh fajita plate at a Mexican restaurant.
|For dessert, we got the frozen lemon pie and iced nougat. Everything we had for lunch was delicious.
|Gene ordered hot tea, and when the server poured it, she kept raising the pot until it was several feet over the cup. It was such as amazing demonstration that several people asked her to do it again so that they could take a picture. She never spilled a drop.
|After lunch, we headed back to the bus, passing these two adorable kids kicking a soccer ball on the playground nearby.
|We headed back over the river, ...
|... and along the waterfront, where kids were driving toy cars decorated with unicorns along the walkway, ...
|... toward our next stop, the Kasbah of the Udayas.
|It's built on a hillside along the river's edge.
|At the main gate, Mohammed explained that the kasbah was used in the filming of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." We added that to the list of movies that have been filmed in places where we've been and made a note to watch it as soon as we get back.
|Immediately inside the kasbah was a series of steps that were covered with cats ...
|... and the tiniest sleepy kitten. This little one would probably have fit in our pocket.
|We walked along the narrow and winding corridors of the residential area, ...
|... stopping every so often as our guide explained the housing situation in the kasbah.
|More corridors, more kitties, ...
|... more talking.
|This house had elaborate decorations with large potted plants and plaster flowers and butterflies.
|This cactus was the same one that we saw at the Cactus Garden on Lanzarote with deep burgundy succulent petals at the ends of long woody branches. Debbie vowed to find out what it is and get one when we get home. (Update: it's aeonium arboreum. Someone please get this for Debbie. Thanks.)
|We made it through the maze and ended up on an open air platform overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, ...
|... with a cemetery, boardwalk, and beach to our left.
|Here's a closer look at the cemetery.
|Debbie was there.
|There were stairs from the kasbah down to the beach and boardwalk. You can just make out the Mohammed VI tower in the distance.
|After our free time was up, we headed back in to the streets of the kasbah, passing vendors with their wares laid out on the street.
|Many of the door knockers were hand-shaped, and Mohammed explained that a common design is called "the hand of Fatima" after the Prophet Mohammed's daughter.
|Debbie spotted this manhole cover with Ville de Rabat stamped into it.
|We stopped at another square and this one had a cafe where we were given 15 minutes of free time.
|While we were taking in the view from the main square, we noticed a sitting area over to the right where the cafe's servers were also walking around. Let's go over there!
|We navigated the maze to get there, passing this ornately painted door along the way.
|We found a shady spot on the terrace to sit, and then took in the views of the kashbah back toward the ocean, ...
|... and across the river.
|When one of the cafe's servers came around with a tray of pastries, Debbie bought one of the coconut things on the top right and one of the ring things in the center. She saved them to eat on the bus ride back to Casablanca.
|Debbie talked with Jim about the multi-month cruises that he and his wife, Hope, have taken in the past, including one trip that involved three different cruise lines and five different cruises that he'd strung together. It was a fascinating conversation and gave Debbie some travel ideas.
|When Tom sat down, a kitty took advantage of the shade he provided so Tom snuck a photo of her.
|We walked back to the entrance of the kasbah, coming out a little further down the hill from where we went in, and reboarded the bus for the drive back to Casablanca.
|We took the scenic drive along the waterfront, passing a lighthouse, ...
|... the rugged coastline being pounded by waves, ...
|... and green spaces with families out enjoying the beautiful weather on this sunny Saturday afternoon.
|An hour after leaving Rabat, we were back on the outskirts of Casablanca. Hey! They have an IKEA here!
|A little before 6:00 PM, we stopped at our next destination, the Church of Notre Dame of Lourdes. There were four people in brightly colored outfits walking up the stairs of the church when we arrived, ...
|... which we understood when we went inside. They were members of the choir, which was just starting to sing as we entered. The church was decorated with gold, blue, and white balloons for a performance later that evening.
|There were huge columns of beautiful stained glass windows on both sides of the church.
|When the choir started to practice, we were stunned with how amazing they sounded. Absolutely beautiful music.
|We headed to our next destination, Mohammed V Square, to see the pigeons. It was quite the popular place, with vendors selling water dressed in bright red costumes and kids feeding the pigeons. After the long day and seeing how chaotic the square was, we decided to stay on the bus rather than get out the fifteen minutes of free time here.
|There was plenty to see from our comfortable seats on the bus, like this woman who walked by with a little girl asleep on her back, ...
|... and this little girl who was fascinated by a little boy pulling a toy rat on a string.
|There were lots of families out enjoying the evening.
|We stayed on the bus for the short drive over to our next stop, United Nations Square. We waited for about twenty minutes while the members of our group who got off at the previous stop walked here.
|This was a very large square, ...
|... with shops, offices, and cafes ringing the square.
|The Casablanca train station was also used in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol."
|At 6:30 PM, we arrived back in the port, ...
|... and fifteen minutes later, we were through port security and walking along the pier back to the ship. A spooky haze hung in the air.
|Back onboard, we went straight up to the Lido for dinner then, and then went to our cabin to watch what remained of the sunset.
|We brought dessert back to our room and ate it while we waited for sail out to begin.
|Around 9:00 PM, the ship started to move, and we headed outside, ...
|... seeing the different parts of the harbor, ...
|... including the container terminal, which is one of our favorite things to see.
|The roof of this building was covered in birds, and as the ship's horn sounded for our departure, they all flew up and scattered before settling back down.
|Today's LEGO daily calendar featured Debbie's recreation of a scene from the movie "Casablanca." The display was in black and white, of course, just like the movie.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy