It was so unbelievable that in a matter of 27 days, Morocco was no longer a strange land to me. I could still remember the first time that I set foot in the country. Though I was excited, I was a bit apprehensive too. I did not know what was in store for me, but I was hopeful that this journey, that I had been dreaming about for so long, would be successful… and it happened more than I expected, it was not only successful, but it was also meaningful. I was able to visit the cities that I wanted to see and most of all, I’m no longer a girl, but a woman now. So, here’s the first part of my Maroc tales.
My first taste of Moroccan hospitality was in Casablanca. From Mohammed V International Airport, my Moroccan friend- Hind picked and brought me to her house which was 20 minutes away from the airport. It was also my first time to eat Moroccan dishes such as Couscous and Tajin. In my 3-day stay in her house, I really felt that I was being taken care of. Her family was so kind and generous. I also met his uncle Younes and he was so nice to me. He helped me a lot, especially whenever I got lost in Casablanca. When I left her house, I stayed in the school’s apartment in the city center, where I volunteered for a short time.
Casablanca was a quiet and a peaceful place early in the morning. Coffee drinkers and tea lovers were a common sight along the streets as cafés were the first shops to open at daybreak. Offices and other stalls opened in midday, so it was already a busy city by that time. Vendors and shoppers were everywhere, so I was always advised to take care of my belongings whenever I strolled around the city. Casablanca was very much alive at night, especially in the city center as there were street performers and concerts at the city square.
Saturday night bonding with the other guests in the apartment was something that I looked forward to when returning from a weeklong travel all over Morocco. Sometimes, I would have a nighttime walk with Ugne (my beautiful friend from Lithuania). She’s really nice and fun to be with. Whenever we walked on the streets of Grand Casablanca, some of Moroccan guys would approach us and would try to talk to us. Although they were all nice, we were still careful, especially in declining their invitation to have a coffee or tea with them. As a foreigner, it’s a rule of thumb to be careful when going out with strangers, especially at night.
Pubs and clubs were also available around the city, though I didn’t really try to party in any of those clubs. However, I visited the Sky 28, a very expensive bar in Casablanca because guests could get a 360 degree view of the city. Aside from Sky 28, I also went to The Irish Pub in the city. Thanks to my Irish friends who brought us there, I had a glimpse of Irish party culture.
Casablanca has a beautiful beach coast and big waves perfect for surfing. In fact, I surfed again after two year of not doing so. It was fun, although I fell down many times, but since I had a coach, I was able stand again on the surfing board.
- The most iconic landmark, perhaps all over the country, that a traveler should not fail to visit is the Hassan II Mosque or the Grand Mosquee Hassan II, which is the largest mosque in Morocco and one of the largest masjids in the world. Casablanca’s Old Medina is worth a visit as well as it is a distance away from Hassan II Mosque.
- Aside from private vehicles, Casablanca has different kinds of public transportation. There is a tramway that makes commuting around the city easier. There are two types of taxi, the white taxi and the red taxi. The former has a fixed rate, while the latter uses the meter to charge the passengers; however, sharing in a taxi is also available. On the other hand, the railway network connects Casablanca to Morocco’s main cities such as Marrakech, El Jadida, Rabat, Asilah, Meknes, Fes, and Tangier and to other small villages as well. Small buses that go around in some remote parts of the city are also available. Also, there are buses that go to different provinces and cities such as Agadir, Essaouira, Tetouan, and Chefchaouen. Since Casablanca is the county’s business district, expect to be caught in a traffic jam, a jampacked tramway and limited availability of taxis during the rush hour.
- Moroccans are helpful. It is easy to ask for help, especially in bridging the language barrier for most of them speak either in Arabic or French, but there are some who can also talk in English.
- It depends on the exchange rate of MAD to a certain currency, the price of food and beverages could be either expensive or cheap. Eating and getting food in Morocco is not that hard. Wet and dry markets, supermarkets and grocery stores are available everywhere. Food stalls and street food can be found anywhere too. Breads and other snacks like burger, fries, felafel are cheaper than McDonalds or KFC. However, it is also good to try some Moroccan food upon visiting the country.
- For Iglesia Ni Cristo members, there is a GWS in Casablanca. The brethren there is so nice and friendly.