Our first day in Morocco! Given that we are here for a long long time, this first dip into Casablanca was all about pacing ourselves. There is a lot of Morocco in Casablanca but not a ton of tour. That means that while you can go out and try communicating, seeing, eating, smelling, tasting and touching, there are only a few tourist areas to visit and neither of us had an agenda for the city. Which is really nice.
Breakfast is included with the room and the breakfast room is lovely, so we came down in our own time (a little late) and enjoyed breakfast. I blogged. We lingered. Some coffee. Some eggs. More coffee. Some tasty Moroccan pastries and some yogurt. Life is good.
We headed out and immediately outside the hotel we tackled the tramway. If Toronto had a tramway system as nice as this we might be able to stop talking about that g*damn Scarborough LRT or whatever that fat man was babbling about. It was lovely. And easy to use. And clean and quiet. So nice.
We took the tram to the place where Laura said we should get off. (She had studied the map while I was blogging. We all have our jobs to do). From there we walked. While we walked we tried to decipher why every direction people offer is by taxi in this city. In Europe you just get out on your feet and go. Here not so much. I think its the heat. We walked a long long way yesterday but it was 23C and breezy so while a bit humid and definitely warm, it was manageable. We ambled along in the general direction of the Minaret at the big attraction in town, Hassan II Mosque. Its a giant Mosque and one of, if not the only Mosque in the world that allows non Muslims inside. We walked over there and took some photos.
On the way to the Mosque, (sounds like the start of joke or something), we happend upon Ricks Bar which is the Ricks Bar of Casablanca the movie fame. I will post those photos later as they are on my camera and I need to wifi magic them off there and onto something else. Somehow.
We sat at the bar and had a beer. And some almonds and harissa olives. It was lovely. The nice man came over with the bill. I looked at the bill and it said 132 dH. Ok. Laura asked how much the bill was…and the nice man, giving us a french lesson, kindly said “cent trente deux”. I was thrilled to have actually remembered my numbers and understood that this equalled 132. Apart from having just seen them. Amazing. Over to the right, in Laura land, having NOT seen the bill yet, trying her best to work it out, she shouted, hand in the air in a triumphant wave of victory SIX HUNDRED AND TEN! Such a confident proclamation. But then – ooops. No. That’s our room number. Honestly though, the girl is out there trying her best and doing a damn good job of communicating. We’ll get there.
Then we ambled over to the Mosque down some back streets, past the naval academy, skirting the medina (we will see enough Medinas this month, we don’t need to visit this one).
The Mosque is beautiful. At this point we were in a bit of a rush to get started on our journey to Dar Bouzza and Jen’s school so we didn’t tour. Just stuck our head in the smaller Ladies entrance and left.
We met with a couple of cabbies at the curb. The instruction – take a petit taxi (red) to D’Azamour, then get a grand taxi (white) to the George Washington Academy. No problem.
Two drivers got involved in the negotiation. I got mad after one insisted on going to the school and I said, NON MONSIEUR – D’AZAMOUR. We agreed on the price and the nice driver stayed behind while the old crusty one took us to our destination. Which was not at all our destination. Just “near” it. He dropped us in the middle of the route and left. Jerk. He knew perfecty well where we wanted to go. We walked towards the taxi stand. In the wrong direction. Then walked back and so that was about an hour of exercise to keep up busy and to give us a strong understanding of our various GPS apps.
Finally we get to the Hay Hassani market from which you can “hail” a grand taxi. OK. So I need water, by the gallon and I need it now. Off I go to the vendor for a litre and half bottle. I hand the man a 50 dH bill and he waves me off and says something that sounds like 60. So I say “Pardon” and hand him another 10. We’re even yes? He gives me BACK the 50, plus 4 more coins. It was 6 dH, not 60 dH. “So”, I said to the nice man in English, ” thanks for not ripping me off like you so clealy could have”.
At the white taxi “stand” we tell the man “George Washington Academy” and he says “l’un ou 6 plus?” somehow I knew that he was asking if we wanted to wait for a loaded cab or pay and go. The difference was rather large. “chump change” to us, but its not polite to tell something that a months salary to them is chump change to us, so we did not comment on that. I somehow, choosing the wrong option intially, convinced him that we wanted the local experience. We were sent to “bleu chapeau” and off we went to the field with cars and the goats and approached the man in the blue hat. He pointed at a car, and we went there. All the cars appeared to have some number of people in them but ours was just us, so we got in the back, doors open for air and just waited.
Eventually after a lot yelling and hand waving and Chinese fire drills everywhere, it appeared we were settled. The man beside Laura got out to let a Muslim woman in between he and Laura. Laura was up on one thigh for the entire 11 minute drive squished between me, nice lady and man. 4 of us in the back seat. IN the front, two ladies appeared. Not small ladies. One got in, the other got in, they both got out, one got in, the other got in again. Now we go said the driver in half french half dirija (Moroccan Arabic).
It was fun ride. It cost 5 dH each. (75 cents). 11 minutes. He dropped us in the middle of traffic circle. And by middle I mean – middle. And off we went to walk up the hill. During our drive the man kept pointing to the sky? roof of the car? And exclaiming “mon Dieu” over and over. I thought he was swearing at us, but he’s also a very holy man so that didn’t seem right. At one point we were all exclaiming “Allah” and nodding in agreement. Not sure if we are converted now, or if we agreed to meet at the Mosque. Or the Church. Anyway you look at it, thank God and Allah that we made it there in one piece.