Last weekend, Luca and I went to Casablanca. We had planned this trip together with two friends who could not come in the last-minute. Indeed the trip had been mainly planned by them, so we found ourselves in the plane reading some papers trying to discover what was to be seen in Casablanca (“Casa”), where we were staying, how to get there and so on (by the way, now that I mention the flight, the two Easyjet flights were with 1 hour delay each as have been 90% of the flights I have experience with them… by far this is the least reliable airline that I have ever used). I normally tend to thoroughly prepare my trips, so this was an unusual experience.
Casa is not one of the seven wonders but it is a nice city to spend a weekend out, especially if you have never been to Morocco as was our case.
Out of the comfort zone.
The main attraction is the Hasan II mosque, which is huge, located by the sea and surrounded by a wonderful park. It is very nicely illuminated by night as well. When we got there, guided visits were just finished… but the odds where that we were asking about visits to the right person in the right moment… a worker of the mosque who apparently earns some extra cash by opening the doors discretionarily and making “private” tours at will.
There we were, together with some other 4 tourists, visiting the interior, making pictures and wondering how much this would cost. When we were getting out I left a 20 dirham (~2€) note in the guy’s hand, he saw it and looked at me with smiley face a bit tilted down like saying “Javier, come on, you know this doesn’t make up for it”… well, this was the first experience I can recall of such a situation. I didn’t have a clue of how much I was supposed to give (the official visit cost 120 dirham per person, 240MAD in total) or how much others had given; the only thing I knew is that in my pocket I only had one more note of 20MAD and some others of 200MAD… so I took the 20MAD one, place it in his hand and left without ever turning my head back.
The previous anecdote clearly put us out of our comfort zone. We were out there in some other situations as well. I would say that in many of them you have the feeling that someone out there wants to cheat you. So you end up negotiating for everything which hasn’t got attached a price tag to it. So there I was bringing down prices (in my poor French!): a pair of babouches down 15MAD, a funny camel down 5MAD, a taxi down 7 MAD, another taxi down 30MAD… so much stress, so much effort to save 57MAD, less than 5.7€!! At least you get to practice negotiation skills…
The low prices that make you mad when seeing the outcome of the negotiations, on the other hand, have the positive effect that you can easily afford dining in very good places such as La Fibule and La Sqala, both by the sea; and both culinary experiences being part of the highlights of the visit.
Sightseeing. The other two main attractions for us were walking through the Medina Habous and the Ancienne Medina. We liked it more the architecture in Habous, though we had a deeper “cultural” immersion in the Ancienne one. Before going for dinner the first night, we decided to have a walk around, so we went into the Medina and took one street left, one right, then… we found ourselves walking without any sense of direction, in some crowded streets without any single tourist.
I then made the comment “it feels so safe to walk here without having read in a travel guide that we should not walk here after certain time and in these not well-lit streets”. As I said we hadn’t read anything in advance, and only now I have checked that indeed some sites make the point of it being a dangerous place by night… well, sometimes it may be better not to let that fear get into you by reading such things in advance.
There were plenty of other mosques that you may not visit, but that you notice especially when all of them call for the prayer time at once. Hear their choir recorded from the great terrace that our hotel had at the rooftop.
Finally, we also visited an old Christian cathedral that now is used as an art gallery.