I have always fantasized about going to Morocco. Fueled by dreamy images of Humphrey Bogart and the incredible Ingrid Bergman, with a soundtrack by Crosby, Stills and Nash (www.youtube.com/watch?v=_byEUwCzj3A), and stories told by an exotic housemate I knew briefly in college, the country was high on my list of places to visit. Geographically, Morocco is in northern Africa and is a short journey by water from the southern tip of Spain. Many tourists take the European route across the Mediterranean and make a brief visit to the port city of Tangiers. They say they’ve been to Morocco and then call it a day. I wanted more.
I flew from New York’s JFK on a direct flight to Casablanca. Typically, I don’t use a tour guide, but since I was unfamiliar with the language and customs of Morocco, this time I did and it was the right choice. If you leave a comment on any of my Moroccan blogs (this is the first of a series), I will email you my guide’s contact information. Mohammed was a friend, teacher, protector, and one of the most gracious people I have met. He went beyond what you would expect from a guide and devoted himself whole-heartedly to sharing the joy and love he has for his country.
Morocco unpeeled itself slowly and each layer was full of surprises. Let’s start with Casablanca, which I visited first. As you know if you’ve followed my blog, I’m from the Jersey shore. I never imagined Casablanca was a beach town on the opposite side of the Atlantic! Replete with a sandy beaches, cool ocean breezes, rides for the children,and makeshift tents to block the sun, as soon as I saw it I was at home. It had an oh so familiar feel! Moroccan families day trip to the beaches here just as Americans on the east coast do. The major difference was that Moroccan women cover up way more than western woman do. As gravity starts to play havoc with my own body, I for one wouldn’t mind covering up more.
The road stretching next to the beach is known as the Corniche. There is an endless choice of small cafes, restaurants, as well as hotels, and small guest houses with pools.
Most Moroccans are Muslim and therefore must pray five times a day. They take their religion very seriously; a topic I’ll blog more about in the future. There are two major religious sites in Casablanca. One is the enormous Mosque that was completed in 1993. I’ll share more about that in a blog to come. The other is on the beach and is called the Shrine of Sidi Abderrahmen. It is the tomb of Sidi Abderrahmen who is considered a saint and this site is quite holy and considered to be a healing place. Muslims make pilgrimages there to pray and to reflect on life. The water surrounding the site is what is supposed to have healing properties along with prayer. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the tomb, but can visit the outside. It is something of a trudge through pools of water and wet sand, but you can view it from the boardwalk and it is quite spectacular.