Our vacation is winding down! We traveled from Marrakesh to Casablanca today to stage our exit from the country, which if all goes well, will happen tomorrow morning. This gave us one day to explore Casablanca and get yet another taste of what Morocco has to offer.
From our hotel (the very impressive Hyatt Regency, made more impressive because they upgraded us to a stunning suite on the 10th floor!), we plotted a path to the massive Hassan II Mosque via the old Medina.
Compared to Marrakesh, the old Medina in Casablanca is tiny. But it had everything one hopes to find in a Medina: a friendly Moroccan who just wants to chat, yet eventually offers to take you to a today-only Berber market (I kid you not, this happened today too), an initial touristy section of town, followed by narrow alleyways that take you to more mundane shopping for the locals (need to buy a live chicken or sardines? We found the place to pick them up). It's all good fun, and we navigated it sans map, which means that we hit a few dead ends. Still, we managed to make it to the other side without an issue.
From there, we made our way to the gigantic Hassan II Mosque (the third largest in the world, according to our guidebook). I asked Shira how'd she describe the Mosque and her answer was: "Ornate but tasteful." That's way better than my answer: "big" and "impressive." It really is a site to see and as beautiful as any Cathedral or Temple as I've ever seen.
We're finally cracking the code behind the various market stalls that serve food. You need to spend a minute or two figuring out what they are actually selling by watching others order. A stall typically only sells one thing, so if you're not in the mood (like I wasn't for the snails that one guy was serving), you can safely walk away. Otherwise, jump in and start pointing. Tonight we had some fresh bread stuffed with cheese and chocolate and it was heavenly. Combine that with some sesame candy we bought for $0.30 and you had one delectable snack. The food hasn't always been perfect here, but we've absolutely found some treats that rival the best we've had anywhere.
Oh, and for the record, we did stop by Rick's Cafe in honor of my In-Laws. Alas, we arrived before they were open, so we couldn't go in. And besides, the location wasn't used in the shooting of the Casablanca movie. But still, I was glad to share this touristy moment in their honor.
Driving in Casablanca is definitely less chaotic than in Marrakesh (mostly because there are mainly cars, versus cars, scooters, mopeds, horses, donkeys and bikes to contend with). But they still have a remarkably laxed view of traffic laws. We saw numerous cars and buses stop at red lights, pause for a few moments, and then pull through. Cause you know, red lights aren't that important to obey.