A First Day in Morocco
09.09.2009 - 09.10.2009 85 °F
Usually you wake up and wonder if it's going to be sunny or raining. Yesterday, we woke to the sight of the Rock of Gibraltar. Quite a surprise. Caroline and I and the boys had breakfast at the ship's stern with the famous rock massively looming in sight.
Alas, that's as much as we'll see of the Mediterranean on this trip. Last night, as we slept, we made our way through the Straits of Gibraltar and back into the Atlantic and on to Morocco.
Casablanca turns out to be a grittier, more industrial city than Caroline and I had imagined. For the most part, it's a twentieth-century commercial city, with little old world charm, maybe especially in the rain. We went today on a five-hour guided tour that introduced us to the major sights, such as the king's palace in Casablanca.
The day's transition from advanced to developing world was a little jarring for the kids--the sooty air, the traffic, the poor housing, the general unloveliness of it all.
The amount of money and labor and material poured into the construction of the new King Hassan II Mosque was astounding, especially in juxtaposition with the poverty next door. Combining religion with royalty, its colors and designs and highest-minaret-in-the-world are meant to impress.
We lucked into a warm and funny guide, Najad, who's pursuing a PhD in linguistics. She explained to us the ritual ablutions before prayer in the lower level of the mosque.
Like most Moroccans, she's a Berber, and she shared delightful (somewhat adult) jokes, had all the women on the bus ululating in Berber fashion, and conveyed the easy and tolerant manner of the Moroccan people.
When we went to the colorful and lively market, the boys were a little horrified that they happened upon a calf being butchered, including its castration. We tried to suggest that every time they'd eaten a hamburger, a cow had met the same fate, but they vowed that wouldn't dissuade them from their carnivorous ways. Even with the gore, the variety of the fruits and fishes and olives at market was delightful.
Tomorrow, we rise early and take the three-hour bus to Marrakech. We're glad we didn't decide to spend all our Morocco time in Casablanca, though we're less adventurous than many of our shipmates, who have left the ship for camel-riding in the Sahara and sleeping in tents. Maybe next time.