Appreciating Morocco

If all you have time to do is visit the souks and historical places of Morocco, do it! This is a beautiful country with a remarkable history, and any visit at all is worthwhile. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut when you are only spending a little time in the most touristed places, it’s natural to get a very skewed view of Morocco because it seems like everyone wants something. “Come look, just take a look!” can get very tiresome when you’ve heard it 300 times during an afternoon in the Marrakesh medina. The surface view is so exotic for many westerners that it’s difficult to see what’s under it in a short time. Continue reading “Appreciating Morocco”

I Can See Spain From My Hotel

Literally. While still in Casablanca, I created this title as a joke, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAknowing that Tangier is a ferry ride away from Spain and channeling Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin. But  we didn’t realize how close. When we entered our hotel room after the 5-hour train ride north, we were amazed; I can see electricity windmills dotting the Andalucian coast (not Don Quixote, however).

Tangier has an extremely shady 20th century history, borne of its time as an international zone. Writers, spies, artists and pirates from around the world have all spent time here. But that’s the past of Tangier (though the artists and writers do still come). Now, it’s a weekend vacation spot for Spaniards and Moroccans alike, and the main boulevard along the beach is full of high-rise hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs. The long corniche (boardwalk) runs the entire 2km length of downtown along a sandy beach, inviting visitors to stroll. Yet, Tangier is small enough that with good feet, enough hours and some self-discipline, you could go everywhere worth going in a day. Since I have a week, I can slow down and explore more thoroughly. Continue reading “I Can See Spain From My Hotel”

Casablanca, Architecture Edition II

Photos: Downtown and Environs

We begin at Mahkama du Pacha (Palace of the General), a building in Quartier Habous which is pretty nondescript on the outside, but beautiful on the inside.

Next we move to the medina. Then a couple of photos of cattle egrets for the birders out there, sitting right above me on a tree-lined street by the Parc de la Ligue Arabe. Another building nearby, and finally some shots of the downtown area along Blvd Mohammed V, famous for its protectorate-era Art Deco design.

Hover over the images to see the captions. Click on any photo to view them in slideshow format. Continue reading “Casablanca, Architecture Edition II”

Casablanca, Architecture Edition I

The Great Mosque of Hassan II

The mosque was constructed by over 6,000 craftsmen, took 6 years to build, and it features the tallest minaret in the world at 689 feet tall. This mosque may be the most beautiful building I have ever seen.

Hover over the images to see the captions. Click on any photo to view them in slideshow format. Continue reading “Casablanca, Architecture Edition I”

Here’s Looking At You, Kid

In my last post, I mentioned how Islam is woven into the fabric of life here. Back in the U.S., some people view the call to prayer 5 times per day as a ridiculously stringent requirement. But if you were a devout practitioner of any religion, how great would it be if 5 times a day, you were reminded to think of God for a few minutes? Here’s what I’ve seen in the cities of Morocco so far: When the calls of the imams go out (and many mosques have them so you hear it everywhere), those who want to pray for a few minutes go somewhere private to do so. Those who don’t work might take time go to the mosque if they want. But many people ignore the call; you can’t always just drop everything to pray at a moment’s notice.

On Fridays more people go to the mosque, or at least take time to pray. Yvonne was teaching a workshop last Friday and 2 women in the group went missing after lunch. They had gone to pray and everyone had to wait for 30 minutes until they got back, which was completely acceptable to the other participants.

We have now been in Casablanca for 6 days and I have pretty much seen everything a tourist would be interested in seeing. This city reminds me of of growing up in Manhattan, when New York was still dirty, polluted and full of dangerous traffic. Continue reading “Here’s Looking At You, Kid”

Nothing Is Free

As I write, I am on the train to Casablanca, where we will spend the next week. The rules around the vehicle in which Yvonne will be traveling prohibit me from joining her. So I am spending the hour-long ride writing. I bought a $7 first-class ticket and this car is as nice as anything you’d find in the U.S.

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Sometimes you find yourself in the right place at the right time 🙂

This morning I went back to the kings’ mausoleum to get a couple of better photos. One of the great things about this trip is that I have so much time and flexibility. I’ve now been there 3 times! It is an extraordinarily beautiful place. Continue reading “Nothing Is Free”