Casablanca, Morocco, October 2, 2007

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
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Trip End Jan 05, 2008


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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Casablanca is Morocco's largest city and to the English-speaking world its most famous largely because of the movie by the same name.  Casa is the country's business and commercial center and a mostly modern city with somewhere in the range of 5 million people.  However, it's a city with rather few sights for the tourist and wound up on our trip itinerary for the sole purpose of obtaining visas from the Mauritanian consulate there.  For us, though, Casablanca was a disaster.        &nb sp;      
Our ill-fated trip to Casa began first with getting lost while searching for our campground only to discover it had relocated to a distant suburb.  Thus, we went first to the Mauritanian consulate to get our passports and visa applications in, only for Dave to be told that as of the previous week the consular affairs section had been moved to the embassy in Rabat.  Since Mauritania required each of us to present ourselves in person for the visa this situation necessitated quickly returning to Rabat.  So, so much for spending a day or two in Casablanca. 
Before heading back to Rabat, though, we did find the time for a quick stop at Casa's premiere attraction, the Hassan II Mosque, one of the few working mosques open to non-Muslims to enter on guided tours.  Built in the 1990s along the seaside not far from downtown, Hassan II is said to be the world's third largest mosque and to have the world's tallest minaret.  The day's bad luck continued, though, as tours not running because it was Ramadan.  So we had to content ourselves with wandering around the outside of the mosque in a driving thunderstorm, one of the few precipitation events I'd experience in 3 1/2 months in West Africa. 
Despite Casa's reputation for interesting Art Deco architecture, I saw little from our drive through town on the way back to the expressway that was consistent with the romantic image created by the movie.  Beyond the modern bustle of Casablanca's commercial heart, the city looked like a large sprawl of sickeningly plain apartment blocks and industrial estates with a few affluent beach areas vaguely reminiscent of southern California. 
Back in Rabat about an hour or so down the road, we made it through more traffic chaos heading into town to get our passports and visa applications into the Mauritanian embassy just before closing.  Dave decided we all would continue on our way and leave Ben behind to collect the passports and meet up with us in Marrakech in four days.
 
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