A day in Morocco

February 3, 2009

What I saw while wandering Moroccan streets

What I saw while wandering Moroccan streets

Today was the scariest and most exciting day of my life. Spain was my fun, cultural welcome to international traveling port. Morocco was a trip to a different planet. Everything I’ve taken for granted was smashed into my face here. I’ve never had a more awakening experience than in the past seven hours. I am back at my room now taking time to decompress.

 

 

 

 

 

 I am not sure exactly what I expected to see, maybe some camels and desert. Yes, I know, dumb stereotype, but I have never been taught anything about Morocco. Based on what everyone on the ship knows, I doubt many of you reading this blog have any idea what goes on here either.

 

The first thing that hits you in Casablanca is the putrid smell of rotting vegetables and raw fish. Then you see what is considered sidewalks; cement ravaged with holes and covered in mud. My white shoes I wore out are now black. The houses and apartments lining the streets are more rundown than the worst ghettos in America. Their paint is peeling and structures are deteriorating. Apparently washing machines are nonexistent as most windows were decorated with clotheslines.

 

 

 

Many inhabitants are adorned in traditional Muslim attire, with veils over there heads and long robes covering their bodies. My whole group kept commenting on how shady everyone looked. Anyone looked capable of robbing us.

 

I had that strange feeling of being watched. Many sets of eyes followed our group of ten Americans and I could tell they were talking about us. I was constantly vigilant and watching those around me. My sweaty palms rarely left my pockets for fear of thieves. My fear would later prove appropriate. The unfriendly scowls I received quickly taught me to avoid eye contact. The lesson was reinforced when I glanced at a man and saw a brain deep puncture where his eye should have been.

 

 Despite the surroundings, I was starving for some authentic food. My stomach seems to guide much of my life. Unfortunately at 9 am, like Spain, all we could find was coffee and croissants. We decided to give it a shot.  Our weak American stomachs can’t handle Moroccan water, but we figured the scolding water from the coffee and tea was good enough to drink. We’ll see if that comes back to haunt me.

 

The tea was real, not the crappy bagged stuff we get in America. There was a pile of leaves inside of lamp that looked like it could be rubbed to release a genie.  The tea was intensely minty and by far the best I’ve ever had. The croissants were buttery and their flakes crumbled with each bite.

 

Getting the bill and having them split it up was nearly impossible. We could not communicate at all with the employees. Spain was a cakewalk compared to here. I have only two or three Arabic words on a piece of paper and no clue how to pronounce them. For example, hello is ssalamu ‘ledum. Since we can’t even understand how much something costs we carry a piece of paper and write down the cost we want. Directions are also really tough, we just point to stuff on our map and have them point and grunt.

 

After leaving the café, we set off to find the famous Mosque of Hassan II. It’s the 2nd biggest temple in the world that non-Muslims can visit. We could see it from the other side of town. It was an immense marble building whose beauty rivaled the Gaudi Sacred family Cathedral in Spain. The marble was etched with carefully designed blue and green patterns. Greeting entrants was a smooth, white stone plaza surrounding in all directions. With all the dirt and poverty we had seen earlier it was a remarkable contrast. Thousands of Muslims swarm it for prayers at certain times.  Once again it was extravagantly large, but at least it was a functioning place of worship, not just a monument like the ones in Spain.

mosque

 

My tour provided a newfound respect for Islam. We had to take off our shoes before entering (I can see why, mine were caked in mud). We learned how they wash themselves before prayers in one of the 72 fountains and face Mecca in the East while praying. I had a newfound respect for Islam afterwards.

 

I am now leaving to explore Casablanca by night. We will stick to well lit streets and be going with a big group of guys so I’m sure it will be ok. I can’t just sit on this boat while we are in port. Sorry if this post is sloppy, I have not time to edit. Just wanted to get this up so guys could all have a taste of Morocco.

 

A bunch of other crazy things happened to me that I will probably finish writing about when I return from Marakesch. I experienced so much and have only described the first hours of my visit here.  My day ranged from being the victims of an attempted crime at the market to an obscene anti-American gesture that left me running home to shower. You guys just cannot understand.

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3 Responses to “A day in Morocco”

  1. Mom said

    Don’t know about the coffee drinking. Careful with the tea. A long time ago, I let a drop of water from a cup of tea touch my lips. Was deathly sick for 3 days while touring Morocco. It was not fun.

  2. dad said

    The most essential word I learned in Casablanca was “LAA!” which means NO! I also learned “policia” (which means nothing in Arabic but police in Spanish).

  3. dan mettenburg said

    I just spent the last hour at work going back and forth actually working and reading your blogs, cant wait to see some of these pictures, hope you are safe!

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