Casablanca

Saturday, Aug 7th.

We took a city orientation tour. We visited the Central market, then a public square, one of King Mohammed VI’s palaces, a cathedral with some awesome stained glass, the King Hassan II Mosque, drove through a “rich” neighborhood, and visited the seaside Corniche. Whew.

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy. The King holds vast executive powers including the power to dissolve parliament.  King Mohammed VI ascended the throne in 1999. King Mohammed VI is part of the Alaouite Dynasty which first came to power in 1631! Morocco is across the Gibraltar Strait from Spain. It is the northwest corner of Africa with coasts on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

It is bordered by Algeria to the east and the disputed territory of Western Sahara to the south.

The market was nice. Fresh fruit, nuts, flowers, baskets, honey, meat, fish… The vendors were relaxed, lot’s of locals shopping. We made a note to get back here to do some shopping. No time on our run through with the tour group. Next stop, King Mohammed V square. Lots of families strolling, feeding seeds to the pigeons. Pigeon is a delicacy food item here. They raise them on farms and serve them either in a pie with a sweet and savory flaky pastry, or stuffed with spices. We failed to try this dish on our visit.

Next we visited the “royal district” where the King has his palace. You can only visit the outside of the building compound but the front courtyard and the façade are very pretty. And they have these funky green streetlights that look like large plants. There were lots of guards with guns, but the mood is very relaxed.

We visited the Cathédrale Sacré-Cœur de Casablanca. This Catholic church has some amazing large stained glass windows. While Morocco is 99% Islamic, there is a small Christian population and a small Jewish population.

Next we visited the King Hassan II Mosque. Reportedly built to attract tourists (which it does), it is advertised as the 3rd largest mosque in the world following Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) of Mecca and the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Prophet’s Mosque) in Medina, but Wikipedia lists 6 mosques with larger capacities. Anyway, it is big. And it is built on landfill. Wikipedia also has this to say about the mosque…

“Built on reclaimed land, almost half of the surface of the mosque lies over the Atlantic water. This was inspired by the verse of the Qur’an that states “the throne of God was built on water.” Part of the floor of this facility is glass so worshippers can kneel directly over the sea”

Well, OK, but the small glass panels in the floor reveal the ablution rooms below where worshipers perform ritual cleansing, not the sea. And they are “kneeling directly” over landfill, which granted is where the sea used to be, but it isn’t really there any longer.  Still, tourists (like us) ask “where is the part where you can knell over the sea?” Kathy’s guide said, “Oh, that part is currently closed.” My guide said “Oh, that’s just a lie they tell tourists.”

Under the mosque is a hamman (bath) which we visited, and a large parking garage which we did not. Neither is in use due to security concerns.

The Corniche in Casablanca runs along a long private beach, fronted by a series of resort hotels. You can buy a day-pass and swim in both the ocean off the beach and in the hotel’s pool.  There are lots of folks out strolling, lots of restaurants, clubs, street food vendors.

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