Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How We Became Tour Guides in Casablanca and Rabat (Nov. 2, 2010)

Casablanca is Spanish for “white house.” It is located in western Morocco directly on the Atlantic Ocean. While it is considered the economic capital of Morocco, Rabat is the official capital.

The day started out with a lurch around 6:30 a.m. when the Captain made a quick turn. There were quite heavy waves and we got caught in one without the stabilizers out. Everything on our desk went sliding to the other side and two bottles of wine hit the laptop and fell off. We managed to catch them just before they hit the floor. That’s the fastest we have moved all cruise! Up in the buffet, dishes went flying.  By the time we got there, the crew was still cleaning the mess up. The Captain made an announcement that he doesn’t like to put the stabilizers out as there is a chance they could be damaged in the shallow waters, but I think I could still hear the crew grumbling about that.

We didn’t realize that might be the start of our crazy day…

Lots of buses getting ready for passengers. It is a narrow dock and they were all jockeying for position.

We had a private tour to Rabat booked with Nancy and Joe, and Kersti and Rich. Our first clue that this might not a great tour was when the driver jumped in the van and took off without a “good morning.” This was followed by driving with no explanation of what we were seeing. By now we were all looking at each and mouthing “what the heck?”

Coke is international!

We passed by this mosque, but that’s about the extent of what we know.

It’s about 8:30 and people were scurrying here and there.

Our driver did explain that we were supposed to see this huge mosque in Casablanca before going to Rabat, but that it wasn't open yet. We stopped to take a picture of the mosque in the distance.

There is our “tour guide” off by the van.

Back in the van, killing more time. Seems like a nice place...

We arrived at the beach. We weren’t sure of the significance of any of this, but it was pretty.

This looked like an abandoned house and we could hear a dog barking inside. Now, I was bummed about the tour and sad about the dog! I hoped maybe it was a recording to keep people out.

Jim and Kim in Casablanca…

It was very pretty…

And now we’re at the mosque. Once again he dropped us off and told us to go inside for a tour. This is the high-tech Hassan II Mosque which was opened in 1993. It is the largest mosque in Morocco and its minaret (tower) is the tallest in the world. 

The little window about halfway up the minaret is where traditionally the muezzin would do the call to prayer, but in these modern times it is done by loudspeaker.

The yard is huge and 25,000 people can pray inside and 80,000 outside. Muslims pray five times a day.

The minaret is beautiful.

Lots of details on the wall. The mosque combines air, water and earth, so for the people praying outside, a fountain gives them the same aspects.

There is lots of detail, but I wasn’t blown away by the precision of the work. It took six years to build with 10,000 craftsmen working on it, and cost $800 million. You could see this pattern and colours repeated throughout.

Look at the size of the door! Jim and Rich give it some perspective...

This retractable roof is hand carved of cedar and is 100m x 34m. A retractable roof! Crazy!

The central aisle has troughs of water on each side to provide the water aspect for those praying.

The chandeliers are made of Murano glass and are lowered electrically for cleaning.

This beautiful wall is facing the ocean…

The women use the balconies for prayer…

This is in the absolution room where the men wash before prayer. There are 41 fountains and each groove has running water that one person will wash under. 1400 people can wash at the same time. You wash certain parts of your body in a specific order for your prayers to be answered. Anything that isn’t marble is covered with Venetian stucco that will not deteriorate under very humid conditions. It is made of sand, clay, egg and soap.

This is the ladies’ bathing area, but it is only for decorative purposes and isn't used.

Rich took some great videos on the cruise and was kind enough to copy them for me. Here is his video of the mosque. What you hear is the Islamic call to prayer which is done five times at day at specific times. It sort of sounds like wailing, but is actually repeating several phrases, several times.


Looking at the lighthouse where we started the morning…

After the tour, we jumped back in the van with our “guide” and headed to Rabat. It was about 90 minutes away. If we asked questions, he would mostly answer with a yes or no. By now, we had accepted that we would be our own guides and were fine with it. He had a book on Morocco in the front seat which we were tempted to take, but it might have been in Arabic!

We arrived in Rabat and he took us to the kasbah, which is the walled part of the city. Once again he just let us out and pointed in the direction of where we should go. Having been in the kasbah

We conferred in our little huddle and decided there were six of us, he probably wasn't going to murder us, and it was likely the only tour we were going to get. So we decided to let him be our tour guide. If he tried to direct us into shops, and we said “no” he would was more than willing to carry on.

What a difference between the two kasbahs. This one was all painted white and blue to match the sea and the sky. It was clean and more orderly. Our guide (I can’t believe not one of us got a picture of him) told us that many foreign diplomats live here from the US, Canada and Europe, as well as local politicians and bureaucrats.

He’s right about the paint matching the sky…so beautiful...

And so clean…

He picked a piece off this potted plant and gave it to each of us to hold when taking our picture. Not sure what that was about. He told us he was a painter, but we weren’t sure if he meant an artist or a house painter. We think an artist!

The walls of the fortified kasbah…

Nice beach…there were also people surfing…

And he took a group picture…Joe is not getting too close to us! We have concluded by now that Joe isn't crazy about having his picture taken! We paid our guide a Euro each and made our way out of the kasbah.

The city of Rabat in the background…

Once again, there is a lot of construction underway…

We arrived at the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. We don’t know much about it, but there is also a portion of an old mosque and a newly constructed mosque. 

A built-in birdhouse in the wall…

Guards don’t mind having their pictures taken. It must be a bit boring and hot…

Minaret from the old mosque and we never did figure out what the columns were for. We did ask our “guide” once we got back in the van, but he didn’t understand us.(Googled the columns and it seems they were part of the old mosque that was never completed.)

Going into the mausoleum…

Another boring job, but at least it’s a job!

Mohammed’s tomb and those of his two sons in the corners...

This little girl was adorable. She wasn't too sure what to make of us…

Beautiful ceiling…

We weren’t much further ahead about that whole experience, but by this time we didn’t care. We were seeing lots and having fun. Beautiful flowers…

It was time for lunch! He drove us here and…you guessed it…dropped us off. I think they were expecting us though.

We were the only people there…hmmmm….

They drink a mint tea which is very sweet. He was having fun pouring it into the little glasses.

These dishes are called tangines and the food is cooked in them. Jim looks happy!

A little Cornish hen with olives . It was really good. 

Our next stop was supposed to be the presidential palace. We arrived at the gates and our driver talked to the guard who let us in, but told us to pull over to one side.

The trees are gorgeous. The guard came back in a moment and told us we couldn’t go in because our driver didn’t have a proper permit. Nothing surprised us was pretty funny! So we took off.

We drove past part of the wall around the old city.

An Arabic stop sign!

Past the bank…

And what we think might have been apartments. By now, we were making up our own stuff.

Kersti and Rich were looking for some of the small glasses that we were served tea in, so our driver was trying to take us to a store that sold them. But the traffic was getting crazy by now. This motorcycle had the right idea and just did a U-turn to get out of a mess.

We did find the shop with some difficulty and he dropped us off. He appeared in the store while we were shopping and told us the van was at a hotel nearby. On the way back, he walked so fast, he lost us. All we can say is it's a good thing there were six of us. We figured out how to get to the hotel and he was waiting for us. All we were thinking was “get us back to the ship!”

Lots of different styles of dress for the women.

And we arrived back at the ship…a fun, but crazy day in Casablanca and Rabat. We were very much looking forward to the next three days at sea!

1 comment:

  1. Kim, that was interesting to see inside the mosque. When we were in Casablanca (briefly, on our way to Marakech) we were told that non-muslims were not allowed inside. Maybe that was a convenient excuse to keep us on schedule for Marakech which was a long (3 hour?) ride away.