A Travellerspoint blog

August 2009

Andalusian Gardens in Rabat Morocco

Capital of Morocco

Rabat, like most other cities in Morocco is complex and contradictory. The capital of Morocco, Rabat is the official home of the royal family. Rich with historic sites, a medina, and industrial modern buildings, Rabat is also home to one my favorite places in all of Morocco: the Andalusian Gardens. Wander through the lush and peaceful gardens and occasionally catch a fragrant whiff of something almost familiar. Gardenia? Jasmine? As you wander the paths, take time to explore the plantings and the hidden treasures such as urns, doorways, and the traditional archways so characteristic of the architecture here.
Andalusian_Garden.jpgDoorway_in_the_Garden.jpgArchway_in_the_Garden.jpg

After your garden walk, stop at the nearby café. Sit and have a drink. Mint tea is the drink of choice for Moroccans. Although it seems counterintuitive to drink a hot beverage on a hot day, Moroccans swear by it and have it several times a day. I became a convert. It’s hard not to be since it is such a leisurely, lovely custom. And yes. It does cool you off!
Cafe_Maure_Rabat.jpgCafe.jpg

Posted by teethetrav 06:37 Archived in Morocco Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Sites You Must See in Casablanca

(No, Not Rick's Cafe!)

Driving along the Corniche in Casablanca, it is striking how much the Atlantic Ocean beach front could be my Atlantic Ocean beachfront. Only on the opposite, western side of the shoreline. From now on, I will always keep Joseph in mind when I gaze at the ocean from the New Jersey coast where I live. Joseph is a Berber guide we met who told me to always remember I had a brother standing on the shore across the Atlantic. All the Moroccans we met were warm, friendly and became your friend for life. The people we met were the most endearing feature of the country.
But Casablanca is more than just a beach town. After driving around the Corniche, a quick stop at United Nations Square will give you a glimpse of a lovely garden and some local atmosphere. Bring a few coins to pose with the colorful water carriers in their traditional costumes. Don’t actually drink their water.
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Next, drive past the massive Royal Palace. The family is not usually here since they have many palaces all over the country. “It’s good to be King,” was a favorite saying of our guide. You are not allowed inside, but the property is impressive and the Imperial guards are worth seeing.
Casablanca.._Mosque.jpg
I saved the best for last. The tourist site the city is most proud of is the Hassan II Mosque, standing like a gigantic white palace teetering on the water. Named after the former King and built to honor his 60th birthday, it is the second largest Mosque in the world and one of the few that allows non-Muslims inside. 5_000_craf..dt_this.jpg It is capped off by the tallest minaret in the world from which Muslims are called to prayers five times each day. Ten thousand craftsmen, twenty five hundred workers took six years to build this place of worship and once you are inside, you’ll see why. Hassan II is light-filled and gorgeous. The huge prayer hall is visually stunning and your eye doesn’t begin to know where to look first. The light from dozens of Murano chandeliers bounces off of sparkling marble floors that are kept immaculately clean. Intricate tilework fills the halls and when you see the thousands of tiny pieces of mosaic tile you begin to understand how it took so many people to construct this wonder. It was worth it. Carved_cel..es_open.jpg
The hall is stadium-sized and the entire ceiling opens electronically so that prayers can be said with nothing but sky overhead. Muslims wash frequently as part of their rituals and there are two hammans—men and women pray separately—which are surrounded by arch after arch and filled with 41 fountains. Do not leave Casablanca without a visit.Hamman.jpg

Posted by teethetrav 09:20 Archived in Morocco Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Casablanca: Where to Stay and Where to Eat

WHERE TO STAY AND WHERE TO EAT IN CASABLANCA

Most of Casablanca is surprising. Modern buildings and businesses line the streets of the city. There is traffic, noise and there are many lovely, ultra-modern hotels in Casablanca. There are also small guest houses along the water. I stayed in the Hotel Royal Mansour which is quite luxurious, although I do not usually opt for extravagant hotels. I like comfort, but I don’t spend that much time in the hotel so if I have a clean, comfortable bed and an ultra-clean bathroom with a shower that has a strong water flow and hot water, I am usually happy. The Royal Mansour is a Starwood hotel. Royal_MonsourHotel.jpg
This hotel left me more than happy. It was an oasis with marble, lush décor and a restaurant with an indoor waterfall. The obligatory mint tea set-up was complimentary and inviting. Ready_for_tea.jpg There is a large lobby with cushy, comfortable sofas to hang out on. The rooms are large and the bathroom was marble, marble, marble.
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Dining in Casablanca is easy. There are many fine restaurants. Most of them are located in the better hotels. There are many small cafes including the mandatory Rick’s American Café. Here are a few more places to dine:

1. Ibis Moussafir Casablanca
2. Hotel Kenzi Basma
3. Golden Tulip Farah Hotel Casablanca
4. Melia Riad Salam
5. Club Val D Anfa
6. Barcelo Casablanca Hotel
7. Idou Anfa
8. Crowne Plaza Casablanca

Casablanca is, at most, a two-day stop unless you are just going to come for the beach.

Posted by teethetrav 15:27 Archived in Morocco Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Casablanca, Morocco: A Beach Town on the Atlantic

Casablanca
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.
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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.
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Posted by teethetrav 06:49 Archived in Morocco Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

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