Roches Noires

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    • Day 127

      Casablanca, Morocco

      April 27 in Morocco ⋅ ⛅ 57 °F

      It was a rainy day but that did not deter us. We visited the Mosque and then walked around old town where Stacy found the best bakery.

      The Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in Africa and the third-largest in the world. Its minaret is the world’s second tallest at 688 feet. Completed in 1993, it was designed by Michel Pinseau and built by Bouygues. Equipped with a 18-mile laser directed toward Mecca, the stately mosque was created in response to the Royal will to provide the Casablanca metropolis with a great spiritual monument so as to increase the presence of faith, piety, and tolerance within the urban financial center of Morocco. Located partly on the sea over nine hectares, the Hassan II Mosque is one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the world, a true masterpiece of Arab-Muslim architecture.Read more

    • Day 16

      Casablanca rest day

      March 8, 2023 in Morocco ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

      Quiet day today after yesterday's unwanted excitement. All we had to do was move hotels in preparation for the start of our tour tomorrow, so we had a sleep in, lunch locally, then caught a taxi to our new hotel near the train station.

      We purchased a new SIM card for Oliver's phone, had a relaxing mint tea at a cafe and a walk around the station precinct, before a shawarmer for dinner.
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    • Day 5

      Moving house

      March 17, 2023 in Morocco ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

      Today is time to leave my Ryad and move to a hotel to join the first tour.

      Before I left I found a post office and posted some souvenirs and an excess drink bottle back home......already!!!
      I've tried to pack light but still don't have room for any excess stuff. So as I had decided to post a box, I found another nice souvenir and actually found a lapel pin with the Moroccan flag. I collect one from every country so now I have the obligatory Moroccan souvenirs, so if I don't get anymore ( no room) I'll be happy.

      My lovely reception lady at the Ryad suggested I get the tramway to my next hotel. It's only 3 km away but a bit of a trek with luggage.
      Turns out it was a great suggestion as both ends of the journey are very close to the hotels. And only 8 dirhams or about $1 AUD. I had a very helpful tram assistant show me how to get my ticket. It's a cardboard ticket but must have a microchip or something in it because you tap on and off like in Australia. Felt right at home. Followed Google maps so I knew when to get off. Hotel Al Walid was right there.
      If I'd taken a taxi I could have ended up anywhere!!

      There's also a major train station here so went to Starbucks for a salad lunch. A bloke came in and looked at me twice and said " you were at the Ryad yesterday weren't you?" I looked at him twice and answered "yes, that's right you were at breakfast!" Nice to be noticed 😂 He's on his way on the train up to Tangier.

      Casablanca has been a cultural immersion for sure. Not just the cultural expectations but the fact the English is not a first language, it's probably a fourth. I was told that there are now more English speaking tourists than French ones now so that might change. English is taught in high school apparently but not high on their agendas.
      I feel comfortable pretending I'm a local and so don't tend to get picked on too much if I look like I'm "on business". Have learnt it's ok to be rude (with a smile) to the men who hassle you for a taxi ride or go into their market stall.

      When people ask where I'm from I show them my kangaroo key chain on my bag and say Australia!! Most people know the kangaroo. "You from Sydney?" Ummm, no.

      Traffic is chaotic with lots of horn bipping. There are many pedestrian crossings but driver's ignore them so crossing a road can be perilous. I generally go with the thought that there's safety in numbers so usually cross with others or if a car actually stops!

      I'm ready to move on and be a part of a group now.
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    • Day 128

      Port of Casablanca

      April 27 in Morocco ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

      Casablanca (white city) is the largest city in Morocco and the economic center. Population is 4.7 million. It is Morocco's main port and a significant financial center.

      I chose to go to a UNESCO World Heritage Site at El Jadida. It is an old Portugues Fortress with historic seawall, a cistern that was originally a grain storage area and old, sometimes crumbling buildings. People still live in this old area.

      In the more modern areas of Casablanca and El Jadida there is an architectural blend of art deco and Moorish styles.
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    • Day 129

      Port of Tangier, Morocco

      April 28 in Morocco ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

      Tangier, named after tangerines that were first grown here, is a delightful city. It is 12 miles south of Gibralta--you can see it across the sea. Notably it has a high speed railway that connects it to Casablanca and a new major port. Its population is over a million and growing rapidly.

      I chose to go to Asilah, a community of 135,000 about 40 miles north. It is another old Portuguese fortress, built in 1471, with an old town behind the fortress walls. Actually the Phoenicians first settled the area in 1500 BC. The town was in decline until 1978 when community resurrected itself into a minor visual and musical arts center with 2 major festivals a year. The old houses in the Medina have been refurbished into nice homes or vacation rentals.
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    • Day 130

      Cadiz, Spain

      April 29 in Morocco ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

      Cadiz is a small Spanish port on the Atlantic Ocean. It was originally settled by the Phoenicians, then the Romans, the Muslims and finally the Spanish. It was an important seaport until Seville developed its port facilities upriver. Now it is losing population as the youth move to Seville looking for better jobs.

      The most notable building is the Cathedral. Construction began in 1782 and it opened in 1832 even though the interior was not complete. It was built in stages as money became available so the exterior stonework varies in color. Unfortunately by its completion the town had shrunk so a cathedral this size was unnecessary.

      The old section of town was a warren of small streets and old buildings. The bricks were "oyster stone," rectangular stones cut from oyster reefs. These tend to disintegrate (probably due to acid rain) so some of the buildings were partially covered with netting.
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    • Day 130

      Casablanca, Morocco

      April 27 in Morocco ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

      We reached Casablanca with plenty of time before the ship's scheduled departure time. Our driver drove into the port area, spoke with a port official who gave our driver directions. We drove around a barricade narrowly missing a old tire which served as an additional barricade. We then drove a short distance and were stopped by another port official. Here, we were told that we were in the wrong area. The driver made a U-Turn and headed back out of the port area. We drove for about 10 minutes and tried to enter Casablanca's Port Area 1. Here we were stopped by a yet another port official. After much discussion, the driver told us that he could not drive us into the port area. He pulled over and had more conversations with the what was now several officials.. He finally came back to the van and confirmed that he could not drive us into the port area but other cabs drivers could. I need to add that the port area is huge. We could see our ship but knew that if we had to walk to the ship, we would never make it before the ship departed.

      Luckily, we were traveling with seasoned travelers. Dave had a copy of the Viking Daily which had the telephone number to the ship. He called and said that we were at the gate and the officials would not let our driver take us to the ship.

      As Dave was talking to the ship, we were told that we had to exit the van. So we gathered our belongings, exited the van and picked up our luggage.

      There was a very aggressive cab driver who said that he could drive us to the ship along with two other cabs. He began trying to grab our luggage to put it in his cab. We refused and walked over to the group of port officials. The port officials were all very friendly and jovial. I would have much preferred them to be efficient, helpful, and responsive to our plight. But at least they were not impeding us while we, loaded down with all our luggage and purchases from Marrakesh, made our way through the port gate only to gaze longingly across the vast port in the direction of our ship.

      By this time, Dave had received information from the ship that they were sending a shuttle to pick us up at the port gate. We waited several minutes. Finally, a huge bus pulled up to take only the eight of us to the ship. Just as we were about to depart, the lead port official boarded the bus. I thought, is he going to throw another obstacle in our way and will we ever get back to the ship? We later found out that he just wanted a ride to his duty station which was near our ship.

      Surely, we would now delivered to our ahip. But no, we were dropped off at a non-descript building. We entered the building and had to be processed by immigration.

      After immigration, we believed that we were finally home free. But as we exited the building, all we saw was a large, white ship that had clearly seen better days. We quipped that the Neptune had really aged in the short time we were away.

      The Neptune was parked in front of the first ship that we saw but it was docked a ridiculously long distance from the immigration building.

      We were so excited to see the Neptune that we stopped to take photos.

      After all the difficulties with the Port of Casablanca, we narrowly made it back to the ship in time.

      We had dinner in the restaurant with Jim, Lynn, Art and Donna. We commwntes that it was hard to believe that we actually had only left the ship yesterday morning. We packed a lot into a very short time.

      I NEED a Sea Day!
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    • Day 18

      Casablanca encore

      February 24, 2020 in Morocco ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

      Breakfast at the Passage Souimka - and 2 almond fourrie pour moi!!
      As delicious as I remember - I ask the clerk if he speaks english - his reply , very clearly
      'not very well' - lovely -

      Lunch at Venezia ice (includes ice-cream) on Zerktoni Blvd. --

      We go to olives and some spices - Deb some lovely Berber style earrings-we walk to my pastry shop Moulay Ismail - almond pastries not ready - return downhill for an
      avocado juice (forgot to say no sugar) / coffee -- return for pastries 1kg in 2 boxes - 170mad per kilo.

      Return to Hamam - Im surprised 2 people remember me and my name 'Valerie' how nice to see you - it's been a long time!!

      Home to hotel we are happily relaxed and ready for a quite evening - Deb says the hamam maybe her 'highlight' ..we both had gummage she an additional massage - we are both very clean, relaxed.

      ...mmm seems I've lost my beloved red-hat -- I like it and everyone I travel with likes it because they can find me!!

      February 25
      Tuesday morning - breakfast again at the patisserie and I buy 2 to bring home then we
      walk to the Central Market - although it opens at 7 - there is little activity - shops just beginning to open..we buy spices, organic (huge) dates, walnuts and navel oranges to bring home. We ask for one v.large orange to be weighted 650g!!- didnt buy it.
      Oranges are 12mad per kg...about 1.50cad so about the same price as us - we're about
      We've also had two tastes of fresh strawberries about 8mad for 500grams - they were delicious and red all the way through!!

      Our car is ready at 1.30 off to the airport - tickets say Terminal 2 but of course we are
      at Terminal 1 - long walk - 300mad trip to airport.

      It's been lovely much as I remember and I did remember some!
      - much cleaner than I remember, including the medina
      - blue sky clear and goes for miles or kilometres!
      - food delicious
      - one squat toilet in 3weeks!!
      - people helpful and friendly and appreciative of a word or two of arabic
      Hamdalilah - thank God for a wonderful visit!
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    • Day 6


      April 29, 2022 in Morocco ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

      Der Frühsurf bot Benne und mir eine neue Challenge. Direkt vom Felsen der Insel in das Lineup springen. Bei jedem Wellental ein, zwei Schritte vor am Riff. An der Kante angekommen muss man auf eine geeignete Welle warten, die am Stein bricht, einem die Füße umspühlt und freundlicherweise den Meerespegel auf ein erreichbares Level hebt und dann nurnoch abspringen und so schnell aus der Riffzone rauspaddeln wie möglich. Augen zu und Sprung. Wie immer enttäuscht uns der Pointbreak nicht, dennoch wollen wir auch in ein neues Abenteuer weiterziehen:
      Casablanca. Schon alleine der Name dieser sagenumwobenen Piratenstadt weckt viele Bilder in unseren Köpfen von großen bunten Märkten und einem wunderschönen Hafen, an dem sich tausende Händler unterhalten und gemeinsam mit einem tiefen Seemannslachen die nächsten Routen planen. Dieses Traumreiseziel Nummer eins von Kreuzfahrtschiffen können wir nicht auslassen. Ins Navi tippen wir nur schnell Hafen ein und es leitet uns geradewegs in die schmerzhaft genaue Realität der Stadt: zum Industriehafen.
      Casablanca. Eine 3 Millionen Einwohnerstadt, in der statt zu Blinken gehupt wird, dieses Konzert der Disharmonien nimmt einem den Kopf in die Greifzange. In welcher sich dreimal so viele Menschen als in Köln auf engsten Raum einen Platz suchen. In welcher der Smog schon sichtbare Schlieren vor der nächsten Hausreihe zieht und dich große traurige Straßenbabyaugen angucken. Tausende Autos auf sechsspurigen Straßen hupen sich jede Sekunde ihren Weg frei. Die Stadt wirkt noch fremder, da durch Ramadan keine Cafés oder Restaurants geöffnet sind, wir Bahnen uns hungrig den Weg weiter in die Stadt. Und dann kommt der Königspalast. Eine riesige Fläche die keiner betreten darf nur für die Auffahrt. Eine Fläche der Größe eines Gutshofes nur für einem Mensch inmitten dieser überlaufenden Stadt. Haushohe Bourganvillen und Hibiskuspflanzen ranken sich ihren Weg an der Fassade hoch. Bäume, Blumen und Springbrunnen bilden einen umzeunten und bewachten Park der Ruhe. Gleich daneben ein kleiner Markt unter prunkvoll verzierten Torbögen, in welchem schöne Roben und Kleider dich in allen Farben schimmernd anleuchten. Straßenbäume, die mehr Orangen als Äste tragen. Und auf einmal diese Ruhe, die anscheinend nur für Reiche langt. Genug gesehen von Casablanca.
      Als Ausgleich suchen wir uns einen Spot außerhalb zu welchem man nur über Sandwege gelangt. Direkt am Meer und so wenig Bebauung wie möglich. Hier ist es fast wie Urlaub von der Stadt. Wir machen Dünenweitsprünge und warten über die von der Ebbe aufgedeckten Riff Landschaften, während die Sonne schneller als zu Hause am Himmel herunterfällt.
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