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Archive for November 13th, 2011

Casablanca

Today is our final full day in Morocco. I always find this juncture in our vacations a little bitter sweet; did we see EVERYTHING? DO EVERYTHING? EAT EVERYTHING? But then again, I find some relief that soon I will be sleeping in my own bed, cooking my own food, and for the first while to be able to enjoy the mundaneness of auto-pilot of my life. And then we start thinking of the next adventure.
Casablanca is a three hour train ride; this time we bought our first class tickets the day before (apparently you can do this up to 6 days before). First class is about $10 more. We plan to have lunch at the train station, but leaving our Ryad takes a bit longer than expected. Hayat wants to come to say goodbye, but she is the manager at the other Ryad across the medina. We wait for her. Meanwhile the wonderful staff we have come to know quite well come by to give us hugs and wish us well. The Chef gives us a beautiful silver cardboard box filled with Moroccan hand made sweets! Hayat arrives, goodbyes are said, hugs and kisses. I will make the effort to remain in contact with her, with email and Facebook, one has no excuses anymore.
The car they hired to take us to Marrakech Train Station is lovely, although no seat belts! It has all if the original instruments in the dash! And the luggage can fit INSIDE! The driver proudly talks about some of the landmarks as we speed by. The train station is new, built in the modern Moroccan style – I don’t have an iPhone pic, but here is a link
We get there early enough that we can have a little lunch at an Italian style cafe (or McDonalds!). We ate delicious Ham and cheese panini sandwiches.
The first class car is simply compartments of 6 seats. The seats are upholstered in rich fabric, there is a curtain on the window to shield the hot sun and there us A/C. A little A/C. We are the second to arrive. The seats are numbered – someone has to leave my seat. There is a young man across from me, he speaks English, French, Arabic and a little Spanish. He is going to Casa to see some cousins, then back to University to study tourism. We are constantly mistaken for British tourist (no British accent at all). My only guess us that they don’t get many Americans, process of elimination. The young man is ELATED that we are from Canada; his favorite artist Justin Bieber is Canadian! He spares us the question if we know him. Nice kid, he helps us understand the announcements which are as garbled as the subways in Manhattan!
We arrive in Casablanca and another young man helps us with our luggage off the train just out of kindness (who’s great idea was it to bring two weeks of clothes?) it’s getting heavier every time we move it; and I haven’t been able to help much because of my stupid shoulder.
We find a cab and he drives us rather efficiently to our hotel. He honks his horn a minimum of 30 times! For some bizarre reason he lets us off across the street from the hotel. It’s a major street, like Broadway in Manhattan – 4 lanes each direction. There are traffic lights and what seem to be pedestrian cross walks marked by lines on the road, but did I mention, no one cares? We wait for a local to cross and we hold our breath (say a little prayer) and run like mad across the busy intersection dragging two weeks worth of luggage behind us. The hotel front desk staff remembers us; how was Marrakech they ask. Our room is efficient, same floor only two rooms down. The Royal Mansour Meridien is supposed to be a five star hotel. The bathrooms desperately need a makeover. Two nights. We were going to go outside for dinner but JT did a little recon while I was dolling up and found nothing really good. At least we know the food and service are great at the Meridien. We have drinks in a lovely bar where they give us beautiful little hors d’œuvres, olives and nuts, then we have a lite supper in the lobby restaurant.

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This is the bar. Sadly they allow smoking everywhere!

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Little hors d’œuvres.
Our waiter is intrigued that we are from Canada and not Great Britain, he says “Canada is my dream“. I am so touched and I’m reminded to be grateful to have been born there. He asks a lot of questions, but then he surprises us both, he knows the name of our Prime Minister! (hmmmm, I may have to do little quiz about Canada with a prize, of course!)
As a special gift, he brings us tea, made exactly the same way he makes it at home. Syrupy sweet, but the Moroccans love sweet!
Our first full day in Casa, we want to see the Mosque Hassan II. It is relatively new (1986-1993). Immensely opulent. Hand carved, hand made. It is quite a contrast to the crumbling city.

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Its capacity is 105,000 of which 25,000 are indoors and additional 80,000 on the Mosque’s grounds.
It’s only one of two Mosques that non Muslims are allowed to visit. It’s designed by French architect Michel Pinseau. The Mosque is built on reclaimed land much of it over the Ocean.
King Hassan II declared “I want to build this mosque on the water, because God’s throne is on the water. Therefore, the faithful who go there to pray, to praise the Creator on firm soil, can contemplate God’s sky and ocean.”

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The inside we were allowed photo without flash, although the German Tour group we were following ignored it. The lighted spots on the floor (there is a guy cleaning on the right) are windows to the spaces below.

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The roof is supposed to open, although I’ve only read it in their pamphlet.
Our driver waited for us here too! Next stop, Casablanca Twin Tower Centre
It’s a relatively new shopping centre in the central business area. We bum around until we stumble into, another grocery store! Woohoo! I buy non-instant couscous, eucalyptus honey and cashews! We ponder some snacks as our flight leaves at 7:30 the next morning (5am wake up call:(!)
Next stop is Rick’s Café, yes, the one from the movie! We’ve read that it’s pretty good. We have a tasty lunch. Not terribly expensive and the food is surprisingly good.

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We both have the goats cheese and fig salad.
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I had the eggplant parmigiana and JT has beef stroganoff! The eggplant wasn’t fried! It was layers of baked eggplant and tomato, a little basil pesto, olive oils and a little baked cheese on top! Delicious!

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We return to the hotel to begin strategically repacking and getting psyched up for our 5am wake up call. Dinner was a glass of wine in the bar (some olives and nuts!)

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