Morocco Casablanca 2001.01.24 - 01.25

Hassan II Mosque

There are several ferry options from Spain to Morocco. The most frequent is between Algeciras and Tangier. Several people warned us about hustlers in Tangier. Their aggressive ploys to extract "guide fees" from newly arrived tourists have a lasting negative impression in spite of the friendly helpful Moroccans found throughout the rest of the country. In Granada, we discovered a combination bus/ferry ticket by Linebus (schedule details here) between Spain and Morocco that completely bypasses the hustlers of Tangier. The price is a few 1000 pesetas more than separate bus and ferry ticket purchases.

Using Linebus, we traveled from Algeciras via Tangier to Casablanca. The bus, coming from Barcelona, crossed the Straight of Gibraltar on the ferry. We boarded the ferry separately at Algeciras and transferred to the bus at the Tangier port before customs. Never having to set foot in the town of Tangier, we completely avoided the hustlers.

Before arriving in Morocco, we read the Morocco Lonely Planet guide (a must) and planned a 3 week itinerary. The first stop would be in Casablanca to secure a flight to Nairobi. From there, we decided to loop around the Atlas mountains before returning to Casablanca for our outbound flight.

Guidebooks and travelers alike warn that Casablanca has little to offer. Even the Casablanca travel agent who sold us our air ticket advised that we move on to more interesting places like Marrakech or Fez. Yet, we enjoyed our brief stay.

The tour of the newly built Hassan II Mosque is an excellent introduction to Islamic life. In addition to showing the mosque itself, the tour explains pre-prayer washing procedure, prayer times, social functions of mosques, and Moroccan baths. Tours are conducted in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish. The duration is 1 hour and costs 100 DH (50 DH for students).

A good natured, honest, and reliable travel agent in Casablanca is Travel Agency Number One at 6 rue Aristide Briand, owned and run by Abidi Hicham (Tel: +212-22-223744, Mobile: +212-61-613810). The most eye-catching building near the travel agency is the McDonalds on boulevard Mohammed V. Payment is by cash only, but there's an ATM on the Plus and Cirrus networks about 200 meters down Mohammed V.

A good Internet Café with working floppy drives and FTP from DOS is Mondial Net at 47 Allal ben Abdellah in the "galerie". Mondial Net charges 10 DH per hour. Computers at many of the other Internet Cafés in Casablanca are slow and disable FTP and Telnet.

The exterior of the Hassan II Mosque on a rainy day. 6000 artisans worked day and night for 5 years to complete the mosque in 1993 in time for Hassan II's 60th birthday. The minaret (tower) of Hassan II Mosque is the highest in the world.

A section of interior ceiling woodwork. Most of the wood is cedar, chosen for its durability. Natural organic dyes are used for coloring.

The interior ceiling stonework is as detailed as the woodwork.

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