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Published: September 19th 2010
After3 plane journeys, however many minuscule hours of sleep we have arrived in Casablanca, Morocco. I’m embarking on this journey from North Africa to the Mediterranean with my boyfriend and travel partner Bill.
We landed in Singapore Wednesday night and had the full next day to explore. I had been to Singapore about 7 years ago and back then I really didn’t enjoy it that much as Singapore seemed a more orderly version of Bangkok which part of Bangkok’s charm is chaos and market stalls. Up until a few years ago Thailand being the only Asian country I had visited until that Singapore trip and going there year after year to visit relatives the chaos and vivaciousness of Bangkok has stayed close to my heart. However this time around I was quite surprised with Singapore, perhaps the location we stayed at on Victoria St. There was a massive markets right near the hotel selling clothes and accessories which I had to really retrain myself in from purchasing too many things (although I couldn’t help myself and got some items of clothing and accessories). We ventured around Singapore by foot and MRT, figured we didn’t have time for the zoo and instead to for a ride on the Singapore Flyer the largest observation wheel in the world. After a full day of sightseeing, we prepared ourselves for the long journey from Singapore - Casablanca via Dubai.
We only discovered when we arrived at the airport that our flight was going via Colombo (Sri Lanka). But what to do, at least it broke up the trip (even though we just stayed on the place in Colombo and continued snoozing).
For those who find themselves transiting or departing Singapore’s terminal 1, visit Harry’s bar upstairs. The bar is actually located on the rooftop and has views of planes coming and going - it was awesome and I finally got to drink my Singapore Sling, Singapore’s famous cocktail. So after 7.5 hrs. of uncomfortable sleep we arrived in Dubai’s massive airport, so massive that most flights have to park far away from the terminal and have to catch a bus to the terminal building. And as the journey took around 15mins and the terminal was packed with passengers those transiting like us had to bustle our way through screening and dash from one end of the terminal to our gate which, of course is down the opposite end of the building. So the 1.5 hr wait we had between flights, because of the shuttle bus ride and queue that left us with around 20mins or so to find the gate and check into the new flight. Salvation however when we got there as Bill handed his boarding pass in we were advised we were upgraded to business class, which was a nice surprise as booking this trip back in January we paid dirt cheap prices! So the next 7.5 hours was spent watching TV in large reclining chairs and eating off white table clothes (ok that last bit was a bit too much but hey in was a nice and pleasant experience).
Casablanca. The airport was chaotic in the arrivals hall and our bags took absolutely ages to come, but when we managed to exit the massive queue of people and catch a taxi to the city centre it was only going to get better from there. Our taxi driver, lovely older Moroccan man in his beat up Mercedes (parts of the interior were missing and the odometer didn’t work) didn’t recognize our hotel nor the st but asked many people along the way and finally got us to our destination. Hotel Montparnasse - minimalist hotel but clean and had a nice breakfast French style. Because of past French colonial rule, everyone speaks French and everything is written in Arabic and French. Given that I had studied French all throughout high school and most of university this gives me a good chance to practice my language skills although I haven’t spoken any French for the last 2 years! But at least my conversational French for ordering food and shopping still works 😉 so we spent much of yesterday (Saturday) walking round and getting to know the city which is very compact and walking along the Atlantic coastline past the massive Hassan II Mosque complex (half a billion $ structure) and along Le Boulevard de la Corniche, which as we discovered today stretches for km’s long and given that we had walked around almost 10kms already we didn’t venture down that far to the (according to lonely planet) throngs if restaurants and nightclubs dotted along the coastline. 2 lovely places to east if one finds themselves in Casablanca Café Maure in an old medina which is part of restaurant Sqala and Rick’s café, owned by an ex-American diplomat and inspired by the old Hollywood classic Casablanca. A beautiful building on the onside we were expecting a funky café setting instead it was like an old French colonial coffeehouse complete with white table clothes. Now this made us feel a bit uncomfortable given that many Moroccans live on less that $2 US dollars a day and this place made us feel like bad French colonialist imperialists! None the less the food was great. For dinner the lonely planet recommended ‘best Moroccan food in Casablanca’ restaurant was set amongst a garden on banyan trees and a traditional looking Moroccan house. The place was lovely the food maybe not the best morocco has to offer (no spice, but yet I do have a very spicy palate so I can’t taste those very subtle spice!) and the staff dressed up in their traditional clothes and fez hats again made us feel very strange and like a French colonialists from back in the day waving our tourist dollars 😞 we’re aiming to go to local places now. I tell you what I keep smelling shisha around here, lovely fragrant apple tobacco mmmm. Now I’m not a smoker hate the smell of regular cigarettes but I’m hanging for a shisha which in this country it think women seen smoking shisha is frowned upon.
Casablanca is a lovely city, now since we’ve travelled through the Middle East before it is unfair to compare it to other cities, but it can’t be helped. Cairo turned out to be a nice city once you had taken the layers off and shaken off those touts whom you meet on every street corner (I take you to my perfume shop, looking is for free then wham the big one but you insult me and my family if you do not buy). Casablanca we have encountered one or two of these tout guys on the st a simple la shukran which doesn’t work in Cairo works here. Even the markets in La Medina Ancienne (the ancient medina) no hard sell. You don’t want to buy no problem. A bit of haggling when I bought a scarf in the Casablancan market but nothing as major as the salesman jumping into out van in Luxor, Egypt when I wouldn’t buy the scarf he was selling. All in all, Casablanca is cool but an industrial city so staying for more than a day or 2 you really have to scratch around to find stuff to do.
We’re in a new hotel about to meet out intrepid group that we are going to tour with for the next 15 days. I know I know what people think auurgh a tour, regular tours that have their own bus turn me off but really intrepid is alike a group people backpacking around. The leader is not a tour guide, but basically organizes everything for us local transport and accommodation (no hotel chains, 2-3 star places). The small groups are a bit big for me (this one has 12) but I really enjoy intrepid and this is my 5th intrepid trip. For travelling through regions that may be a bit difficult to get around on your own, I recommend intrepid. Ok enough plugging!
A la prochain (until the next time)
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