We visited Morocco in 2009 and liked what we saw so decided, as it was not too expensive, to take a 10-day trip in the middle of May before the weather there gets too hot.
As usual, we chose Archers/Cosmos because our experience with them has always been first class. We were offered a transfer from our daughter’s house in the UK to the airport and whilst we were expecting a taxi to turn up, what arrived was a brand new Jaguar with a chauffeur, wearing dark glasses and looking like something from a James Bond movie. Once at the airport, we headed for the Aspire lounge which like the chauffeur was complimentary through Archers and enjoyed a good breakfast and drinks while we waited for our flight which was delayed an hour due to thick fog in the channel.
We finally arrived in Marrakech just 20 minutes behind schedule and spotted a man holding a Cosmos Archers placard. We waited with six others then travelled to the Zaalagh Kasbah Hotel where we met our tour director Graham who would accompany us for the whole tour. Feeling tired we had dinner then an early night before setting off the following morning for Casablanca.
Mention the name Casablanca and most people immediately think of the movie which wasn´t actually made here but in Hollywood. There is a Rick’s Cafe but other than that, the city is very different to that portrayed in the film. Today it is the economic centre of Morocco, very modern, it looks and feels European, and apart from a couple of things to see, it is hard to find a true Moroccan experience in Casablanca.
We piled onto our coach after breakfast and our local guide introduced the city as we toured the various areas. The highlight was to be the Hassan II Mosque, in truth there isn’t much else that is a ”must see” but the Mosque does make up for a lot – it is stunning.
Walked around the courtyard trying to get the best angle, but it looked fantastic whatever way you look. It is one of the few mosques non-Muslims are allowed to enter, and the dress code is very strict. Arms have to be covered and legs covered to below the knee. I had already anticipated this and wore a long sleeved top.
On entering the mosque, we had to remove our shoes, as we were straight into the prayer hall. It is huge and can accommodate 25,000 men on the main floor, above there is a balcony for 5000 women and children. At Ramadan when the Mosque is full another 100,000 people fill the square outside. It therefore doesn’t come as a surprise that it is the 3rd largest mosque in the Islamic world, after Mecca and Medina.
The roof opens in 3 minutes, and closes in two, there are 55 doors weighing up to 15 tons that automatically open and close, and there is a speaker system built into the pillars that you would never notice.
It is part of the Muslim ritual to wash before prayer so under the prayer hall is a room with 41 fountains. The tour was very informative, took us to parts that we didn´t expect to see and lasted just over an hour.
Coming out of the mosque, we headed for the seafront for doughnuts and freshly squeezed orange juice. Just to confuse matters orange in Arabic is called limon! We never did find out what Arabic for lemon was, but orange is definitely limon as we were told on several occasions.
We enjoyed Casablanca more this time than our first visit, although there is not a lot going for it apart from the King Hassan II Mosque. There are not many places I would say that about, and no doubt a few will challenge that view but I feel when compared to some of the other things that can be experienced in Morocco, Casablanca is somewhat lacking.