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Published: August 1st 2014
Greetings from Casablanca! I can't believe that just yesterday I was in Europe and now I'm in Africa. After a very long and somewhat overwhelming travel day of switching buses (didn't make the direct bus to Malaga), taking a small plane, and guessing which Moroccan cab drivers were legit, I made it here in one piece. Let me explain....my new friend Josh told me a horror story right before I left Granada (out of pure concern). He explained that his ex-girlfriend took a taxi in Morocco that drove her to a Moroccan prison in the middle of nowhere--where men were hanging out the tiny windows of a run-down structure screaming & shouting. The cab driver threatened to leave her there if she didn't give him all the money she had on her. Don't worry mom--I made a lucky guess and arrived safely! I tell you this story in retrospect for a reason 😉
My cab driver Hammed could not have been sweeter. Fluent in Arabic & French, he made his very best attempt to communicate with me in broken English pointing out the sights as we drove along and showing me all of his favorite mansions by saying
"beautiful big house." Soon enough we hit a language barrier and I could not understand a word of what he was saying. I shrugged my shoulders, furrowed my brows, and bit my lip as to say, "I have no idea what you're saying and I'm really sorry." He just laughed and put his hand up for a high five. This became our little joke--I can't understand you but let's just laugh and high five! I explained to him that I knew very few words in French which basically entail: parle vous, merci, le toilette, pardone moi, oi, frites, formage, and Gerard Depardieu. The last one got a good laugh. I felt terrible because I really wanted to understand him. In any case, we reached a topic we could both communicate about--American Hip Hop & pop music. He lit up talking about Tu Pac and Notorious B.I.G. He even sang a verse from Tu Pac's "California Love" which quite possibly might be the highlight of my experience here in Casablanca thus far. He also lit up talking about Michael Jackson and leaned over to press play on his disc man. The first song that came on was "Thriller." We finally arrived
at my hotel and he so graciously escorted me inside. As we parted, he urged me to listen to Michael Jackson's newest track and with a thumbs up expressed how much he loves it. i told him I'd check it out on YouTube and he grinned and waved goodbye.
I entered my hotel and went straight to reception to check in. The young woman at the front desk spoke English very well and again I found myself fortunate that we could communicate and felt a bit guilty not knowing the languages spoken in this country. In any case, she was extremely sweet and funny when she said that American girls are so brave. I guess she was referring to the fact that I was traveling alone. When I asked her if she had any recommendations for nearby restaurants for dinner, I found it interesting when she suggested both Mc Donald's and KFC. Can't blame her though--Americans do love their fast food! I typically wouldn't go the fast food route but being that it was late, I was exhausted, and I kept seeing billboards advertising the McArabia, I had to check it out for myself. It's essentially a
Big Mac stuffed inside a pita.
As I walked along the streets last night and this afternoon, I noticed that there are cafés and tea houses everywhere--although they are filled with men reading the newspaper and drinking coffee. Occasionally you'll see a group of women at a cafe but never alone. I started wondering if I was an anomaly and how I was being perceived by others. There I was this morning--the only woman seated alone at the cafe reading and jotting down the occasional note in my journal. I randomly ordered an item off the menu (all in French) that seemingly included cheese and orange juice and I figured I can't go wrong with either. The waiter brought me what appeared to be a Moroccan version of the quesadilla, a glass of water, a pot of hot tea, and a tall glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. The quesadilla was sweet as if they added honey and perhaps a dash of nutmeg. It was delicious! This meal cost me 17 Moroccan dirhams which is equivalent to $2.04 USD.
After spending a fair amount of time people watching and drinking tea, I ventured off to
find a taxi that would take me to the Hassan II Mosque. Catching a cab was a bit of a task and finally my waiter came out to help me (I think he felt sorry for me). In any case, I was picked up by a cab driver named Farrad who not only drove me there but escorted me inside the mosque to purchase my ticket. He was also very kind and gave me his phone number to call in case I needed a ride after my tour of the mosque. I found my way back with another driver but was extremely grateful. My visit at the mosque was eye-opening and its structure and all the fine details were breathtaking!
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