We jumped up on Saturday the 11th October
and walked to the train station for the 08:50, express train to Casablanca
some hour away. 34 Dirhams each, each way, about £2.50 on a very clean
train with an upstairs to keep skipper thrilled.
Casablanca ( Arabic: الدار البيضاء
ad-Dār al-Bayḍāʼ ).
the western tip of Africa, Casablanca is essentially the capital of
Morocco, an impressive city with a modern centre dominated by
skyscrapers. European in character. Arabic is the official language,
but French, English and Spanish are widely spoken. Casa Branca town
the Portuguese founded in the 15th century after the expulsion of the
pirates, it was flattened in the earthquake of 1755. Only its name
"White House" survives. Key highlights include:
- Hassan II Mosque - the third
largest religious monument in the world, second largest mosque after
Mecca, perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
– the centre of French colonial existence in the early 1900s when
Casablanca had a population of just 20,000. The French influence can still be felt in the wide
boulevards, public parks and Arabo-Andalucian architecture of soft white
lines and close detail.
- Nouvelle Médina – the newest
market quarter, rich with Morocco's most exclusive and elegant boutiques
Casablanca offers a wide range of
restaurants, many of international reputation for serving fish and seafood
dishes. Average summer temperatures rise to 26ºC
(79ºF) with winter temperatures rarely dropping below 13ºC (55ºF). It is
the country's most fertile zone and centre of its mineral
With a population of 3.1
million (3.85 million in the "greater Casablanca" (September 2005
census)), Casablanca is Morocco's largest city as well
as its chief port. It's also the biggest city in the
Maghreb and the sixth biggest city in the entire
continent of Africa. Casablanca is considered the
economic capital of Morocco because it is the heart of Moroccan business;
the political capital is Rabat.
Casablanca is the leading city hosting headquarters
and main industrial facilities for the leading Moroccan and international
companies based in Morocco. Industrial statistics show Casablanca retains
its historic position as the main industrial zone of the country. The Port
of Casablanca is considered as Morocco's chief
port and as one of the largest artificial ports in the
world. It is also the largest port of the Maghreb and
North Africa, busier than Marseilles. It is also the
primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy.
Casablanca since its formation has a
reputation for extreme poverty, prostitution, crime, social unrest and the
bidonvilles ( shanty towns ) that stretch for
miles seen each side of the rail track on the ride into the city.
Literally "tin-can town" in French, was coined in the 1920's. The
bidonville people are living in dread of being evicted and put into
high-rise flats which they regard as "the lowest of the low". They may
hold their corrugated roofs on with rocks, but, their satellite dishes
look firm enough.
Bear with Joe and
Michelle ( on the boat next to us, from Michigan been away sailing
for 7 years ). The old medina has been trading
since the late 19th century, it is now lapsing into dilapidation since the
opening of the new medina.
Hassan II Mosque was built between 1987 and 1993, it was intended for
the 60th birthday of former Moroccan king Hassan II.
On his birthday on the 9th of July 1980 the king said "I wish Casablanca to
be endowed with a large, fine building of which it can be proud until the end of
time... .. I want to build this mosque on the water, because
God's throne was on the water. Therefore, the faithful who go there pray, to
praise the creator on firm soil, can contemplate God's sky and sea".
The Hassan II Mosque has space for 25,000 worshippers inside and another
80,000 outside. As that is so many shoes, you carry them in a bag and hide them
in special bags behind where you kneel, each special bag holds about ten pairs.
The 210-meter minaret is the tallest in the world and is visible day and night
for miles around. Many Casablancans have mixed
feelings about Hassan II Mosque. On one hand, they are proud that this beautiful
monument dominates their city. On the other, they are aware that the expense
(estimates range from $500 to 800 million) could have been put to other uses. To
build the mosque, it was necessary to destroy a large, impoverished section of
Casablanca. The residents did not receive any compensation.
Bear under one of the
walkways, me with one of the entrances. The huge area on which the mosque stands. The surrounding
roads and avenues were supposed to be finished within a decade of the mosque
opening, sadly this has not been realised. A new marina is due to be built
nearby and much regeneration, maybe too much bitten off. Although Hassan II
Mosque was designed by a French architect, it is Moroccan through and through.
Except for the white granite columns and the glass chandeliers, the materials
used to construct the mosque were taken from the Morocco region. 6,000
traditional Moroccan artisans worked for five years to turn these raw materials
into mosaics, stone and marble floors and columns, sculpted plaster moldings,
and carved and painted wood ceilings. The mosque also includes a number of
modern touches: it was built to withstand earthquakes and has a heated floor,
electric doors, a sliding roof, part of floor is glass so worshippers can
kneel directly over the sea; and lasers which shine at night from the top
of the minaret toward Mecca.
One of the many chandeliers,
the huge area inside and me in the men's ablution room with 41 water
fountains to wash crouched around. Except at prayer times and Fridays you can go
on an hour long tour for 120 Dirhams. We were on a tour, not because I have a
thing about being photographed in the men's !!!!!! On the tour our 37 week
pregnant tour guide, told us that removing shoes has nothing to do with
religion, but like in their homes, it is to keep the carpets clean. Ditto
washing, is only for getting clean before prayers, not part of the Muslim
religion, something we both thought was the case. Below the ablution level are
two beautiful traditional pools ( hammams ) in separate rooms, for separate
sexes. Steam faucets to create the atmosphere of a Turkish Bath, the pools
gently sloping to a depth of 5 feet, surrounded by beautiful lighting and
wall cascades. The water temperature SHOULD be 33 degrees and the steam at
a steady humidity, sadly never been used or opened to the public ( Muslim
and non-Muslim ) as planned.
Cafe opened in the image of the one "used" in the movie Casablanca -
which was shot entirely in Hollywood. We got to Rick's just as it closed,
so as it was pouring with rain went to KFC aka Happy Food.
On a pretty ugly
street there was a tiny piece of beautifully kept
garden. Bear loved the screw shop. Amazing
to see a screw shop ONLY selling screws, just like the egg shop ONLY
We left the train station at 6pm and
thought 'hot cup of tea, nice cakes and a movie'. I decided we could cut through
the Sale medina as it may give us a bit of shelter from the driving rain. WRONG,
Bear recognised the jewelers area from our first visit, my gyro was not on and
we ended up twice the distance AWAY from Beez than we started from at the
station. We eventually escaped the medina and called a taxi. The taxi driver got
lost taking us from the where we found him, we got out of the taxi in the
building site ( marina extension ) next door, he was so concerned he kept his
headlights on until the guard met us at the bollards thinking it was a huge
joke, all for the princely sum of 60p. We were now not only wet through but
covered in mud. My new scarf proved not to be waterproof.
All in all worth going to see the
mosque, but that was it really.