09 July 2014

Morocco day 2: Casablanca

As our Intrepid Travel ‘Best of Morocco’ tour didn’t officially begin until our first group meeting at 6pm on Sunday 22 June we had the whole of Sunday to explore Casablanca further.

And what better way to start the day than with breakfast at a sidewalk café just across the road from the old medina, where we could enjoy our omelettes and orange juice, olives and bread and mint tea, while indulging in some very entertaining people-watching. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

I can’t help but think of the Bogart movie when I hear the name Casablanca so it seems appropriate to stir a quote or two from the movie into the mix. The one that seems most appropriate to me is: “I think this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship” – and here’s why.

After breakfast, we headed into the hustle and bustle of the old medina, with its narrow passageways and winding alleys, to discover another world – a world of intoxicating smells: exotic spices and smelly fish guts, refreshing mint and newly tanned leather; a world of vibrant colours: bright yellow turmeric and lipstick pink slippers, multi-coloured robes and brightly painted doors; a world of friendly faces and beaming smiles.

Julie and Andrea make friends with the locals

To be perfectly honest, I was surprised at how open and friendly the local men were, as I had expected some reluctance to communicate in a Muslim country. It seems, however, that Morocco has always shown a high level of tolerance for other religions and cultures, which, combined with the country’s strong Western connections and its King’s progressive attitude, is reflected in the warmth and friendliness of its people and their willing interaction with foreigners.


Though the women were mostly reluctant, the men happily posed for us, even asking to be photographed and for us to snap their sons and workmates, then laughing and poking fun at each other when they saw the results. I suspect they also enjoyed the banter and the hint of flirting with my two younger companions though Julie and Andrea weren’t the only ones to get an expected hug and harmless peck on the cheek that day!


After a couple of hours, we moved on, via a local taxi, to the Habous area and the new medina that had called out to our shopping genes the day before. We lunched first, curb side, under the welcome shade of a huge tree, with half the local male population also enjoying the shade and a cup of tea and a gossip. How is it that men have so much time to just sit and chew the fat while the women are nowhere to be seen?

Amazingly, none of us bought much in the new medina – I bought nothing at all! This was, rather, a good chance to see what things we might buy at some point in the following couple of weeks: rugs and lanterns, clothing and scarves, ceramics and jewellery, woodwork and mirrors, as well as all sorts of touristy souvenirs.

Andrea became fascinated by the local bakery and made friends with the man who was carrying the freshly baked goods from the bakery to the shop across the alley, which resulted in us being given some still-hot and mouth-wateringly good cookies to try. We couldn’t resist buying a selection to take back to the hotel as they were divine!

It was soon time to head back to meet the other Intrepid travellers and our team leader, Issam. We were a group of 15, hailing from New Zealand, Australia, England, the USA and Singapore, ranging in age from a 15-year-old travelling with his parents to a 60-something woman, and seemed a merry, well-travelled bunch.

After Issam briefed us on what to expect during the coming two weeks and what would be happening the following day, most of the team headed off to dinner together. However, Julie, Andrea and I had already decided on a meal in the famous Rick’s Café, so we taxied off to enjoy a superb dinner (my swordfish was exquisite!) with excellent entertainment by a world-renowned jazz player. What better way to bring our brief stay in Casablanca to a close!