Casablanca, First Leg Got Me To Morocco
I was always curious about Morocco for some reasons that I couldn’t describe by words. I didn’t even know exactly what it was. Maybe I was curious about the landscape of Mount Atlas. Or maybe about the Berber tribes living there in centuries. Or I just wanted to feel the sensation to ride onto the camel in the middle of Sahara. Perhaps all those could be the reason. Therefore, in one October, after getting approval from my chief, I took a bit longer RnR to visit Morocco in two weeks.
Casablanca became my first leg, of course, since most of airlines coming from all around the world would land in international airport located in this city. It’s the largest city in Morocco and home for industrial and economic activities. I didn’t have any difficulties while I arrived at the airport. As Indonesian citizen, I was not required to pay the visa to enter Morocco. I just required to bring my passport with me, and I was allowed to stay for 90 days after arrival sign stamped on my passport.
I went out of the airport, searched for the sign of train station that I heard is also located in the airport. Well, I was right. I found it. I would go to Casa Voyageurs, then continued with taxi to get me t to medina (the old town) where hotel that I would stay is located.
Once I arrive in Casa Voyageurs (the main train station in Casablanca), I took taxi to take me to medina. There are two types of taxi in Morocco. Petite taxi (small taxi) that operates within the city, and grand taxi (big taxi, normally they used old Mercedes benz) which can take passenger out of the city. Sharing taxi with other passengers is common thing in Morocco. So, don’t be shock while you’re sitting at passenger seats, the driver could stop anywhere to carry another passenger with you.
The taxi driver dropped me at the gate of medina. Car was not allowed to enter. Or, car couldn’t enter at all since most of streets inside the old town are such small alleys that could only being passed by motor bikes or walking.
I just booked one night room in Casablanca since I didn’t find any interesting facts in the city which fitted my interest. Casablanca, in my opinion, is just a typical of big city. People get rushed, and traffic jam could be found easily. In addition, this city is not so friendly for budget traveler. Finding hostel or guest house with lower price could be so challenging. So, one day is enough to see how the city is.
I stayed at Central Hotel. My room located at the third floor where I could see Casa port from small balcony attached to my room. Mohamed, the receptionist, a man in age of 50s, was a gentle man. He ensured that I stay comfortably in his hotel. He gave me some map, showing me how to get Hasan II mosque, as one of tourists attraction in Casa which is located not far from the hotel.
I was exhausted after having almost 14 hours flying from Uganda. What I really wanted to do was to get sleep immediately. But I didn’t want to do it since today is the only chance I had to see Casablanca. Tomorrow morning I will leave the city to Fez, where the real adventure began. Therefore, I forced myself to go to the mosque, where many travelers found as a place you must visit when you are in Casablanca. Finding the mosque could be so tricky. Especially I didn’t have any GPS application in my phone. However, finally I could make it.
The mosque itself is big. Some even wrote that its the biggest mosque in the world after those in Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Non muslims are allowed to enter during particular time. I arrived in the afternoon, so the time for visitor is over already. However, I still could enter the part purposed for women while I did my Ashar pray.
The mosque was built in 1983 and completed its construction in 1993. Commissioned by King Hasan II, the mosque was designed by Michel Pinseau, French architect who had lived in Morocco. The design of the mosque represents the culture and identity of Morocco. Most of construction materials were obtained from the country, including marble from Agadir, the cedar wood taken from middle Atlas and the granites came from Tafraoute. Inside the mosque, it can capacitate 25 thousands people while in the courtyard, 80 thousands people could be accommodated.
The mosque is not only a worship place for people living in Casablanca. It’s also the landmark, and a place to do some picnic with family. The place will be full in the weekend as I experienced. In addition, its location next to the Atlantic sea makes it perfect to spend afternoon with friends, relatives and the love ones while seeing the sun goes down.
I returned to the hotel after sunset. I was sleepy and hungry like a hell. Since Central Hotel didn’t provide dinner service, Mohammed showed me a restaurant serving Moroccon dishes, which not far from the hotel. However, he suggested me for not using my camera and taking some snaps in the street of Casa.
“You must be very careful, Nurul. Street boys in Casablanca could be so dangerous” he advised.
Well, perhaps you would have some question in mind as I had before departing to Morocco. Is Morocco safe for female solo traveler? My answer is Yes, as long as you follow the local customs and hear your common sense. Dress modestly, not walking around alone in empty street after dark, ask permission to the locals if you want to rake their pictures, and Inshallah you’ll be safe.