Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fish, lamb, chicken turtles?

Casablanca, Morocco

My family (Mom, William and Ian) and I arrived here yesterday after taking a direct flight from JFK. As we were checking in for the flight we were amazed at how much baggage we were checking, and were rather amazed when all of ours managed to get here. Then we were picked up from a guy from the hotel at the airport, and somehow all four of us and our large 6 bags managed to fit in his mid-sized car (with the help of a broken bungee chord). On the roads, Morocco is no different than Egypt and slightly worse than Turkey. There was no point in painting lines on the road. And pedestrians beware! - the car or motorscoter always has the right of way.

We're staying in a hotel in the newer French section of town. When they became a colonial power in Morocco, they decided they didn't like the small windy streets of the medina, so they built the ville nouvelle. We've done a lot of walking around, and it has some very impressive art deco buildings. They also built a huge art deco cathedral. Now it's used for plays, concerts, and currently a modern art exhibition. As usual, Ian and I, after being told we could, climbed the staircase to the roof of the church. The stairway was full of 50 or so years of pigeon guano, and there were some pigeons roosting at the top. The view was great - we could see all the way to the ocean. When we got down, the caretaker laughed at us, and poured the contents of his water bottle over our hands to rinse off some of the guano. We also saw a strike by the postal workers that was in progress. The old post office has a very impressive tiled front.

We found our way into the market - fish, turtles, lamb, whole chickens complete with feet, lots of amazing fruits and vegetables, and fish restaurants. Nothing is better than fish that is freshly caught about a mile away, freshly cooked, and eaten with one's fingers.

While drinking coffee, we realized that if we were going to see the big mosque in Casablanca, we had to do it right then, because the last tour was starting in 20 minutes, and the mosque would be closed tomorrow for Friday prayer. The mosque is the third largest in the world, built in the late 80s, and I think it would have been better if the king had used the money to feed his people, but the building is impressive. It can fit 25,000 inside and 80,000 outside. It reminds me of the vatican in that way - room in the courtyard for thousands that can't get into the main building. We walked back through the old city, past lots of shops, and the garbage dump. Crossing the major street back into the Ville Nouvelle, the difference was clear.