The Bear is Back!
It’s been a while since I was last on the road. No, I was not hibernating over the winter like other bears, but was very busy with various projects in London. Finally, it is time to travel again, and this time my destination is Morocco. I was already here once, over twenty years ago, when I visited Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains. This time I am going to visit most of the things I missed first time round.
I flew into Casablanca, the biggest city and economic hub of the country, arriving in the early evening. My flight was on time, and almost empty, and getting through the airport on arrival took me only 20 minutes (which included investing in a Moroccan Sim card). I checked into my hotel and headed straight off to dinner at Rick’s Café, one of the city’s most famous nightspots. My first impressions of Casablanca during the walk there were not so positive – much of the city appears to be falling down or being rebuilt. A few sleek new buildings stood out from the debris of the rest of the city. Rick’s turned out to be worth the walk – it is a café designed in the style of the film set of “Casablanca” and served excellent food and drinks to the sounds of live jazz.
I headed back to my hotel and fell asleep quickly, aided by the glass of rather good Moroccan wine I had tried at Rick’s.
Next morning, the noise of the city woke me early. I decided to get up and explore, since I had only reserved half a day in Casablanca. First, I strolled around the centre, admiring some crumbling but interesting buildings from the 20th century…….
In the daylight, Casablanca looked much nicer than at night, especially in the smaller side streets where there was less traffic. I then took a taxi to Casablanca’s main (only?) tourist attraction – the Hassan II Mosque. It is the seventh biggest in the world and cost about 600Million Euros to build in 1986-9
The results were truly impressive – I’ve seen lots of other mosques around the world, some more extravagant than this one, but Casablanca’s stands out for its style and elegance. It was big enough to swallow the different tour groups that had visited, allowing me to admire the marble and richly carved marble and mahogany almost on my own.
A particularly beautiful part of the mosque is the room where people wash themselves before prayers……..
From the mosque I headed to the nearby Corniche, where there is a good view of the sweeping bay of Casablanca. I posed for a selfie on some railings…………
…..and then disaster struck. A gust of wind lifted me off my paws and blew me into the Atlantic Ocean. As you can imagine, teddy bears are not good swimmers – we have little arms and legs, and our fur quickly gets waterlogged. Fortunately, a passing Moroccan waded into the water to pull me out, and after thanking him I lay on the beach, trying to dry out a bit.
After this near-death experience, I decided to take it easy and walked back to my hotel through the maze of small streets that make up the medina. I am told that Casablanca’s medina does not compare to the ones in Fes or Marrakesh, but it still made for a pleasant stroll, with many glimpses of local life.
I had enjoyed a very full morning, and now it was time to continue my travels to the city of Fes. Morocco has a very advanced train network, and you can even buy electronic tickets online. Outside the station I stopped to enjoy a glass of fresh orange juice in a shady café…
…. before heading to the platform to await my train. Whilst waiting, I spotted one of Morocco’s al-Bouraq trains that run along the east coast up to Tangier and reach speeds of 230km/h.
My own train was not quite as modern, but was still fast, comfortable, and punctual. I arrived in the late afternoon in Fes, one of Morocco’s most ancient cities. Since it has already been a very eventful day, I write about Fes in my next post.