A Travellerspoint blog



A visit during Ramadan

72 °F
View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

Rabat’s perch on the Atlantic coast is dominated by the Kasbah, a walled neighborhood of large blue and white stucco houses, also walled. We wandered by their ancient doors, by orange juice vendors, one of whom displayed a photo of Morocco’s beloved King and his family. We looked into pottery shops, as the sea breezes blew across the landscape. Many of the winding streets in the Kasbah look scruffy, in need of paint, but that is just their public face. Inside those doors are fabulous courtyards and grand rooms.

May 7 was the first day of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, so almost no restaurants were open. Our guide asked whether we would like to keep touring or stop for a coffee (she, of course, wouldn’t drink any) before we returned to the ship at FIVE P.M. We pretended to ponder the question and then gently said that we thought we’d like to have lunch. Lunch! ... she took out her cell phone and called around, then announced that she had found a restaurant, but it was a restaurant, not a café, so lunch would take an hour and a half. That was too long, so she suggested stopping at a little snack place on the highway back to Casablanca. We took off, and after half an hour, we pulled into the parking lot of ..... McDonald’s! The golden arches rose over a sign (in French) saying that McDonald’s cannot in any case be held responsible in case of infraction of Ramadan laws. We ate our Big Macs; the guide and driver waited outside.

Back in Casablanca we went to the Hassan II mosque. Built in 1993, it is huge – the largest mosque in Africa. The worship space holds 25,000 and another 80,000 in the surrounding plaza. We think this means 105,000 men – because the women’s gallery, surrounded by lattice, hangs 6 feet above the floor. You can see the gallery in the photo below; what you can’t see is the 200 feet of space above it, rising to a retractable, yes, retractable roof that opens to the skies. Speaking of skies, the mosque’s square minaret (almost 700 feet tall, tallest in the world) holds a laser beam that shines for 36 miles through the night skies to Mecca. A photo from the ship is below.

Finally, we can conclude that Moroccans don’t hang fuzzy dice from their rear view mirrors; they hang fuzzy fezzes.

Posted by HopeEakins 03:35 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)


Casablanca and Rabat

sunny 65 °F
View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

We have been sailing up the coast of West Africa, stopping at ports in Senegal and Ghana and The Gambia, poor countries whose poverty is in the air and in your face. The region around The Gambia is known as the Smiling Coast, but the people don’t smile much. They and their neighbors are hungry and without much hope that their country can break the cycles of poverty and corruption that beset it. The unemployment rate is colossal in West Africa; enterprising folks can do little more than be bumsters who hassle you to buy their wares.

Today we rounded Africa’s northwestern curve and arrived at Casablanca. We are out of West Africa and what a difference there is!!!! We are relishing, enjoying, and delighting in the marvelous country of Morocco. We expected dunes and camels, maybe some snow topped Atlas mountains, and here we are in a coastal plain with wheat waving in the fields, the Atlantic Ocean sparkling blue, in a city with its own stock exchange and not even a little bit of garbage in the streets. The highways are landscaped with a beautifully designed boulevard of wildflowers blooming in their center strips and carefully arranged plantings on the verges. We have fallen in love with Morocco.

We left Casablanca at nine this morning to travel in a small van to Rabat, the capital city. We had four companions from the ship, one of whom arranged the day perfectly. Our guide was Miriam, a well-educated and kind commentator who introduced us to the country she loves. And so we drove through the countryside and learned Morocco’s complex history; we arrived in Rabat and Hope had her old, old question answered: what is the etymology of the term “rabat” for a clerical vest? Miriam was stumped until she recalled the Arabic word for something tied or attached with a cord: rabat.

We went first to the Presidential Palace which looks almost like a shopping mall (Buckland Hills?) at the edge of a huge parking lot. This is because the open air spaces must be large enough to hold the worshippers who come to the mosque to pray and the patriots who come to presidential speeches, etc. Maybe 80 - 100,000 Moroccans at a time gather there in flat areas surrounded by beautifully landscaped specimen trees. Next we were off to the mausoleum of Mohammed V, father of the beloved current King. The “tomb” is actually rather small, with 4 guards in the corners and 4 guards at each of the doors; their presence fills the place with reverence so it feels far different from a tourist attraction. At the exterior of the site, horsemen mounted on matched pairs of steeds stand watch. The tiles were fabulous – walls, ceilings and floors. The courtyard held 354 12th century pillars open to the sky, symbols of the 354 days in the Koranic calendar.

We heard much about Morocco, about its hallmarks of flexibility and tolerance, about its excellent education for all young people, its fine health care, and the love of its people for their monarch. After West Africa’s chaos and difficulties, we were very very delighted to be here. Tomorrow we will send you news of our afternoon at the Kasbah in Rabat and the mosque in Casablanca.large_1145c640-71dc-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_942ea720-71dc-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_00988f20-71dd-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_3bdb2700-71dd-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_8a6385c0-71dd-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_aee73590-71dd-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_f3212ea0-71dd-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_2e2a18e0-71de-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_36175d10-71de-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpglarge_37340d20-71dd-11e9-aeb4-dfd55787ef4f.jpg

Posted by HopeEakins 14:44 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

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