Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Casablanca: We're not in Cape Town Anymore!

We arrived at the Moroccan International Airport today at Casablanca. No driver appeared as we had hoped. When I called the hotel they told me that the driver had a 'very bad problem with the police', so we were directed to take a taxi and not spend more than 280 Dirham. The driver got 300 out of us. It was a long drive and during the last half hour wound slowly through narrow inner city streets. After being in Cape Town, Casablanca it very scruffy. Everything is dusty and quite a bit of garbage lying around. We finally reached the hotel, a once fairly opulent hotel with the classic Arab tiles, and ornate wood trim and moulding. We were starving so begged the hotel restaurant to open a bit early for lunch. I had my first Moroccan tagine, fish with olives backed in a very flavorful sauce in a clay pot. Quite nice.

Everything appeared clean here but it looks like they don't believe in using bleach. In the well dressed restaurant each table was formerly white linen but now is a dull off-white with assorted stains.
The hotel is Hotel Maamoura.  It has a pretty good Trip Advisor rating.

We took a walk around the neighborhood. It consists of four story buildings with storefronts on the first level and likely apartments above. After about 1pm the street vendors came out and lined the shady side of the street. Each block or half a block was dedicated to a certain type of merchandise. For example you might find a half a block of just baby stores or a whole inner passage that had a dozen lighting stores, mostly all selling the same items. Most people don't know English and of course we don't speak French so it is challenging. I was trying to find needle and thread to do a little repair. I found the sewing needles but no thread. We searched for blocks. We found an inner passage way that was dedicated to large spools of silky thread and fancy embroidered floral appliques...all the thread you'd ever need but not in small spools for an individual seamstress. Weird. I wonder if these large spools were for industrial machines, that's all I can imagine. We also found the date seller where a nice looking gentleman read our body language of 'we'd like some dates but don't know how to ask'. He knew English and directed us to the sweetest most moist variety and told the vendor what we wanted. We also discovered a vendor who make a white nougat taffy that tasted like it was flavored with jasmine tea, this is one of the small reasons we like to travel and experience new cultures.

There is such a huge contrast between Cape Town and Casablanca. Cape Town is modern, extremely clean and visitor friendly.  Casablanca, very dusty, run down and not particularly easy to navigate as an English only traveler. But we are not in Cape Town anymore! Tomorrow we take the train to Marrakech.

12th Feb, 2014

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