June 27, 2007 at 5:30 pm 1 comment

Mustafa met us at the airport with a 60’s vintage Mercedes that had a trunk not quite large enough for the huge amount we were carrying. Mustafa used a broken bungee cord to close the trunk enough to make sure our stuff stayed inside. The rest rode inside the car with us. The forty-minute ride into Casablanca was exciting. Rides from airports reinforce how little I know about new places.

This is clearly the fast part of the learning curve. I have seen prickly pear cactus all over the American southwest, I have seen palm trees of various kinds in California and Florida. But this morning was the first time I had ever seen the two side by side. And the first time I have ever seen the characteristic square North African-style minarets. We passed cinder block homes that seemed large enough to hold the smallest of families (at best) and large estates that Mustafa explained with what seems to be a universal sign for rich people. I asked Mustafa whether he had music, and he tuned the radio to a channel that first played some Euro-pop, then switched to something that sounded like an effort to update Moroccan “folk music,” followed that with rap in Arabic, an American 90s style pop song, and ended with American rap just before we hit the center of town. Eclectic. (I photographed a local McDonald’s sign for course use: it advertises a halal sandwich called the McArabia.)


The landscape, the flora, the buildings, especially the red curved tile roofs, made Ian ask about when the “Moors” attacked Spain: the place reminded him of Ensenada, in Baja California. So, in my sleep-deprived state, I got to muse on the Talavera pottery in Mexico that looked remarkably similar to Ottoman designs, and think about the number of times people have asked me about the clash of civilizations.

Like Turkey, Morocco could save huge public expense by no longer painting lane markings on roads. Drivers use whatever space is available, and Mustafa was no exception. We arrived at the Gyanmer with only a few near misses, no injuries.

We checked into a small hotel in the center of Casablanca, which we seem to be sharing with a group of Basque bikers. They rode in on their Harleys wearing leathers and T-shirts noting that they were from the Basque Harley-Davidson Owners club.

We bought a Moroccan sim card and walked, down to the busy port and back through the old city. The old city is surrounded by walls–I suspect my traveler predecessors would have called it labyrinthine. The French quite preferred straight streets and regular city plans, and nearly surrounded the old city with a newer one. And William wasn’t lying all those years–people here really do grin at him and call him Ali Baba.

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On Leaving Casablanca walks

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