Magical memories of Morocco, of our one day trip to Tangier during our honeymoon, have always stayed with us. The carpet in our living room is also a memento of that visit. So it was with great anticipation that we arrived in Casablanca to commence on our African travels.
Our friend Larbi welcomed us with Moroccan hospitality at the airport. With a few hours of daylight left, we headed for a coastal drive along the Boulevard de la Corniche.
Soon we came upon the Phare d’el Hank, a lighthouse of almost 49 meters high. Although it is not an official tourist site, Larbi persuaded the lighthouse keeper with a few Dirhams, and we climbed the 256 steps to the top for a high vantage point of the city.
Standing on the tower’s balcony, we could see Casablanca spread before us; the Mosquée Hassan II in the distance, directly below, a bidonville (shanty town), and the surrounding Atlantic.
The next day, from the Facultés station, we took the Tramway to the city centre. An extension to the tram line is ongoing, and a second line is in the works. On board, we observed a blend of European and Arabic cultures; many of the riders wearing Western-style clothing, and the majority of the women wearing the hijab.
Born and raised in Casablanca, Larbi spoke highly of his city as he played tour guide for the day. Walking around the Habous Quarter, we glimpsed many highlights and the splendour of a bygone era. The French colonial past reflected in the old city’s neglected architecture. Buildings once white are not so white anymore, but still, maintain their glorious past.For lovers of olives, in the same neighbourhood, you’ll find the Souk Zitoun tucked into a small courtyard with a variety of marinated olives and aromatic spices. We sampled and left with a small selection, then made our way to an outdoor café.Similar to other sites throughout the city, the Zevaco Dome at the United Nations Square needs a bit of love.Still, modern-day Casablanca is experiencing an urban boom. Throughout the city, the streets were buzzing with construction activity, and billboards advertised the Grand Casablanca Development Plan.
At Place Mohammed V, a Grand Théatre is nearing completion. It will be interesting to come back in a few years to see the progress.
In the Old Medina, glittery objects distracted Ginette for a short while. We passed men sitting at outside cafés lingering over mint tea, others simply rested.
Later in the afternoon, we headed for the Port de Pêche and watched the commercial fishing activity in the harbour.Then joined the port workers for fresh fried sardines, shrimp omelette, and Khobz bread. The round Moroccan bread is a staple of every meal and often replaces forks and spoons.
At Larbi’s home, we savoured traditional Moroccan cuisine, better than you will find in restaurants; Moroccan bread drizzled with olive oil, homemade orange marmalade, Harira soup, tender Mechoui Lamb, vegetable Tajines, and other tasty food. The table always set with a selection of dates, figs, mandarins, and olives.
We spent a relaxing day at the seaside town of Oualidia, the family’s holiday destination when the children were young. The weather was cool; maybe it was the nostalgia of Larbi’s summers learning to surf here or the thought of going back to the Canadian cold that made him take a dip in the water.
Along the beach, fishermen were lined up, eager to sell and prepare their catch of the day. Our hosts selected an assortment of seafood, bargained a price and we were served a grilled lunch while watching the waves crashing against the shore.This elderly fisherman prepared sea urchins for us to taste while we waited for our meal.
A few days after our arrival, it was time for us to carry on to discover more of this hugely diverse country. We said goodbye to our kind and warm hosts and boarded the Marrakesh Express.