Forget your images from the movie CASABLANCA! Rick doesn’t live here anymore and in fact never did. The entire movie was filmed on a Hollywood sound stage and even the B-roll was shot in Tangier, not in Casablanca. Yes, some entrepreneur has built a “Rick’s Cafe” where tourists can congregate which really doesn’t make sense in this day and age.
Aside from some showers, our day in Casablanca and Rabat was peaceful and happy. Since there had been a bombing at a popular tourist cafe in Marrakesh several days previously there was a little concern and the tour I would have liked to have taken to Marrakesh was cancelled.
Our guide, actually the same fellow I’ve had as a guide in Morocco on two previous visits, was excellent and goes to great lengths to explain Islam and the differences between Suni and Shiite Muslim groups. Morocco is mostly Suni, and a very liberal Suni at that. Mostly you see women in either Western dress or the traditional long Moroccan dress, but rarely in the birka with only their eyes showing through a black slit. The beach is like any beach in the world, and early morning along the beach front there are women jogging in Spandex. Morocco produces something like 31 million liters of wine each year, and 90% is consumed by this 99% Muslim country. Islam is very important, our guide explained, but life is short and to be enjoyed.
The olive harvest had recently been completed and the Olive Market in Casablanca is a colorful wholesale market. These olives taste like nothing you’ve purchased on the store shelves, or even from an “olive bar” in a giant, trendy, upscale super market at home.
I was on one tour bus and our excellent videographer, Steven from Canada, was on another. So when the buses happened to be in the same place we had to meet up for a few moments and shoot some commentary for the collection of 30 DVDs that guests on the world cruise purchase to remember their epic voyage. 30 DVDs is a lot of video! “Would you like to come over for wine and cheese and to see some pictures of our trip?”, takes on a whole new meaning!!
Anyhow we met his wonderful fellow in his show in the souk. He spoke excellent English and did a cool interview with me for the DVD collection showing me these amazing boxes with hidden locks. This shop was started by his grandfather in this same souk and he is the third generation to run it.
One of the highlights for me on this trip was to be able to get inside the mosque built by Hassan II. 2,500 men worked day and night from 1986-1999 to build this massive structure that accommodates 25,000 inside and a total of 80,000 if you include the exterior courtyard. At the end of Ramadan 250,000 people jam into Casablanca in the area in and surrounding the mosque. The roof is retractable and can be opened, stadium-style, in 3 minutes! It is said that St. Peter’s in Rome can fit inside this beautiful mosque built solely of marble and stone from Morocco.