Morocco – Casablanca to Meknes

We are doing a 15 day tour of Morocco with Intrepid travel. I have to say we are looking forward to having a break from research and booking things. We can just trust the guide and enjoy.

The flight from Madrid to Casablanca with Iberia was the scariest flight I’ve ever had. The plane looked OK but we went through some turbulence and the plane dropped suddenly and everyone screamed. The whole service cart leap into the air and the ice cubes came flying out of the hostess’s bucket all over the passengers nearby. The hostesses dashed to either ends of the plane and strapped themselves in. I was petrified and couldn’t stop shaking for awhile. Eventually the pilot flew low and it was calm for the rest of the way.

Immigration

The experience going through immigration was also a first! It took about 2 hours in a very slow moving and crowded line. Arguments and fights kept breaking out as people stopped those who were trying to push in front of the line. One guy in the middle of the queue just stepped under the line cord and went up to one to the immigration officer. They only sent him back when about a hundred people in the line started shouting at him. Another guy had to be held back to stop him having a go at him. For the next half an hour or so, half the people were fighting and the others were amused.

I particularly felt sorry for some of the local women traveling alone as some were pushed past. Eventually we got through immigration to work out how the taxis worked. We went to the rank haggled re the price …in a nice way…eventually just said yes got put into a car which drove a couple of km and then we were told the car had problems turned into a car park where another..nicer car was waiting. We changed vehicles and were driven the 30 something km into Casablanca. All a bit shonky but we got there eventually!

Most other people on the tour apparently had arranged for a hotel pick up. We were planning public transport and I’m so glad we didn’t! It was the first time we have used a taxi in our couple of months travelling and what a story to tell. Anyway the second taxi driver spoke French, was quite friendly and gave us a few tips about banks, etc. I wasn’t game to ask him too much about the car exchange!

Casablanca

Casablanca Town is about 37 km from the airport. We passed very dry landscape and lots of cars with the back seats full of sheep! We later found out that the next day was a special festival day and that many sheep would be slaughtered and every part of them would be shared out and cooked.

We checked into hotel Maamoura and were the last of the group to arrive. It had some lovely mosaic work. We dropped our bags off and went for a quick wander around the noisy, dirty and chaotic streets.  Then back to meet our tour guide Ahmed and the rest of the group – seven other Aussies, an American and a Canadian. All except one were much younger than us and Bruce was the only male.

We all went out to dinner and enjoyed our first tagine. One of many more to come. I tried a chicken pastille, a kind of pastry pie with sugar on top. It’s a Moroccan specialty but too sweet for me. In the morning we set off for the train station to catch a train to Rabat the capital of Morocco.

Rabat/Meknes

The train ride to Rabat was lovely and when we got there we had time to explore the city on our own. We set off as a group and went to the Kasbah Oudaias, a lovely walled residential area with little narrow streets with buildings painted in blue and white.

We climbed to a terrace area at the top with a lovely view over the ocean and somehow missed a garden that was said to be lovely. We continued our very hot walk along the waterfront to the Haussan Tower (built in 1196) and the ruins of the mosque, took lots of photos but the mausoleum was closed.

The train ride to Meknes was very different. We had to scramble over luggage and people with our very heavy bags in tow. We lined up in the corridor for quite a while until some people got off and made room. It was quite difficult for anyone to get out as we were all jammed in like sardines! Anyway all part of the local experience but I was pleased after a few stops when some people got off and we found a seat. Obviously don’t reserve a seat in second class…first in best dressed!

We got to Meknes at about 7:30 and out to dinner again. Seem to be continuously eating!

We had heard that it was a special day for Muslims. The most important day of the year called eid al-Adha. To celebrate sheep are slaughtered and the heads and feet singed on fires to remove the hair and then the rest is butchered. A third is for friends, a third for the poor and the family keep a third.

In the morning when we were checking out of the hotel, we noticed that on the corner of the street where we were staying, sheep’s heads and legs were being put on the fire. The locals were very friendly so we joined in…fouk chouia…..was the thing to say which means good fire/appetite…while another sheep’s head was thrown on the fire! Everyone driving past would join in and everyone was in a festive mood.

After spending some time joining in, we climbed into the mini van and set off towards Volubilis.

Enjoyed a panoramic view over the city…which soon became a bit of a joke as we would stop for many more panoramic views during the next 15 days!

Author: Pascale Zufferey

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