After we arrived in Casablanca at the airport, at about 6:30am local time, we set about doing our errands, perhaps a bit haphazardly, because we had hardly gotten any sleep during the flight from JFK. We changed some dollars for dirhams, at a rate of about eight dh to the dollar, and Tali got a preloaded sim card for our cellphone without incident. So much for the simple tasks!
Then I set about finding the Dollar Car Rental shopfront. I got instructions from various helpful Information Kiosk ladies and policemen to walk first all the way to one end of the terminal, then to walk all the way to the other end, but it was all to no avail. No Dollar anywhere.
If I had looked carefully at our reservation, I would have seen that we weren’t scheduled to pick up the car until hours later, at 10am, so the agent just hadn’t shown up yet! Still, we made calls to Ireland, to the main office of the Internet rental company, using enough coins to fill our pockets to bursting, and just generally got a bit flustered! The Dollar agent did wind up meeting us on time, and we picked up our brand new Suzuki (with the plastic wrapping still on the seats!) with no further incidents.
Tali also tried to get our mobile Internet sorted, but the agent at the Maroc Telecom kiosk at the airport was not successful. After driving easily to the Hyatt, with the aid of our Garmin, we checked in, then collapsed for a snooze until mid afternoon. What a pleasure to have an afternoon nap in a comfortable bed!
We then went out and walked over to the Zen Telecom store, whose agent quickly and skillfully got us completely sorted for the Internet, with sim cards for our iPads and a stick for our laptop. While we were in the store, a quartet of musicians started playing across the street some traditional, percussion driven Moroccan music – fantastic! I have always loved the music of North Africa, and I hope to hear a lot more before this adventure is over.
Our next stop was for a fantastic tagine at Manhattan restaurant, just a block or two away. We sat in the outdoor courtyard of the restaurant, sipping our mint teas, waiting for the tagine to be prepared fresh. It was really superb, just vegetables, potatoes, and olives in a hot and simmering sauce, a wonderful introduction to Moroccan cuisine.
Afterwards we took a walk in the Medina, the walled-in old city of Casablanca. There are five elements to every medina – a hammam, the public bathhouse with cold, warm and hot rooms, a Koranic School, called a madrasa, a boarding school for the study of Islam that is open to moslem and non-Muslim students alike, a mosque, a fountain and a bakery – and we did at least see several bakeries and a mosque on our walk. We also sampled some delicious caramel candy from one of the many, many food stalls.
We took a brief additional walk down to the piers, which are under major reconstruction, before returning to the Hyatt for the night. Tomorrow, we begin our journey proper, by driving north, by way of the coastal road, to Rabat and Sale, it’s sister city.
With best wishes for your own exciting adventure,