Posts Tagged ‘Casablanca’

Casablanca, Rabat, and Fes

May 3rd, 2008 at 2:08 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Now that I have a working (albeit oddly) working phone data connection, I find I can’t get a decent WiFi connection in my hotel in Rabat. Ah well.

We had an early start yesterday morning in order to be able to get to our hotel in Rabat, Morocco’s capitol, at a reasonable time. We got to Casablanca, Morocco’s center of commerce and industry after a few hours in our bus, stopping briefly at Mohammed the 5th Square. King Mohammed the 5th was the father of King Hassan the 2nd, who in turn is the father of Morocco’s present King Mohammed the 6th.

One of the things that really struck us in Casablanca was how many satellite dishes were all over the place on residential buildings. It seems that the satellite dish is the national flower of Morocco.

Another stop in Casablanca was the world’s largest mosque, named in honor of King Hassan the 2nd. The mosque’s minaret, at 200 meters high, has an elevator inside, and 20,000 can worship inside and another 100,000 outside. Due to religious privacy laws we were not permitted inside, however.

After a reasonable but late lunch at the La Mer restaurant, we drove up to Rabat and visited the Oudeya Casbah, with its great ocean view and narrow alleys, painted white and blue. Very reminiscent of Santorini and Mykonos in Greece.

We ended our tour of Rabat at the Mausoleum of Mohammed the 5th, which features the sarcophagus of the named monarch, as well as sarcophogi of King Hassan the 2nd and his brother, Prince Abdullah.

Arriving at our hotel in Rabat was welcome indeed, especially as it was past 6pm. At our 8pm dinner it was announced that while our ship had finally come out of dry dock, it was now doing sea trials, and there was no conclusion yet as to when we might be able to board.

We had an even earlier start this morning as the bus ride to Fes (same as Fez, but apparently Fes with an ‘s’ is the correct spelling) takes about three hours. We arrived in Fes at just before 11am, starting with a visit to a tile factory where tiles are still made by hand. Quite an amazing process (although by American terms it might be deemed a sweat shop), which produces some beautiful pieces of work.

Next up was the main reason for our visit – the medina of Old Fes, which is celebrating its 1200 year anniversary this year. Old Fes, with it’s 300,000 inhabitants and tens of thousands satellite dishes which bloom on the roofs like some sort of wildly spreading fungus, is a warren of narrow paths filled with shops of all sorts.

We went through the butcher’s section, where we saw sheep, goat, and camel parts, including udders, brains, and heads. We also visited various artisnal sections, like that of the leather workers, the bronze makers, herbalists, weavers, and more. Endlessly fascinating. We where also in the photographers group, in which we were joined by Massimo, an Italian photographer working for National Geographic, as our photography mentor.

Lunch (late) was a Morrocan-style meal (unfortunately serving lamb as the only meat – only Linda ate that) at the Palais Mnebhi featuring a belly dancer. We had a good time, especially as it was cooler than outside and we could sit for a while (photo above is from there). Even more welcome was the announcement made during lunch that our ship was finally en route and we would be boarding her in Casablanca tomorrow evening and having dinner on board. We had been semi-seriously joking about this becoming a bus tour instead of a cruise the way things were going.

After a bit more touring of the souks we now find ourselves on the way back to Rabat for dinner at a private home at 8pm tonight.

Tomorrow we are off to visit Meknes, known as the Moroccan Versailles, and the old Roman fortification known as Volubilis. And on Monday we should be in Portugal, finally, just one day later than originally planned. It’s a shame we won’t be able to go to Sark in the Channel Islands en route to England, but nice that we get to see Meknes and Volubilis, as we had read about both in various books recommended by Lindblad prior to our trip.


Change In Itinerary – More Time in Morocco

May 1st, 2008 at 7:01 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

My Internet connection is about to end so I need to write this quickly…

We just learned tonight that the National Geographic Endeavour has not been released from dry dock in the Canary Islands, so we don’t actually have a ship to board tomorrow.

This requires a change in plans, which means we are now going by bus to Rabat, with a lunch stop in Casablanca, and will stay two nights in Rabat. On Saturday we will go from Rabat to Fez to spend the day in Fez, and on Sunday we will be going to see the ruins of Volubilis (a Roman city), Moulay Idriss, and Meknez, and then hopefully will board ship on Sunday evening in Rabat.

This change in itinerary sadly means that we will not be going to Sark in the Channel Islands. Once we are on ship I will update the Current Itinerary page.