Marhaban! (Transliteration of hello in Arabic)
I flew into Morocco yesterday with my mother and my youngest sister. A while ago I found out that they were planning on going to Morocco. Fortuitously things worked out that I was able to go too, so here I am. Ben’s staying home to take care of Bandit and make money so I can spend it.
We landed in Casablanca in the late morning, but by the time we arrived in the capital city of Rabat it was the mid-afternoon. We got some late lunch and then slept because we were so exhausted from the long trip. For the first time in my life, I’m doing one of those tour groups. You know, the big crowd of fat Americans being herded around like sheeple from one tourist location to another in a giant tour bus.
It’s actually not that bad. The guide is very knowledgeable and I’ve been learning a lot about the history of Morocco (did you know that the official name of Morocco is Kingdom of the Far West?), the political structure (constitutional monarchy with a king who has a doctorate in political science and married an engineer who is a commoner), Islam, and the culture. Morocco is a bilingual country, so I’ve been having fun speaking French.
Anyway, it’s not my preferred form of traveling, but I’m doing it because I want to spend more time with my family. I don’t get to see them as much as I would like, so it means a lot to me to spend two weeks with them.
Our first day was in Rabat. It’s a large and clean city. The traffic is busy, but cars stop for red lights (not for pedestrians though). In the morning we went on a tour of the city. We saw the Royal Palace and the gardens, where the storks like to build large shaggy nests on top of walls and towers. They’re very noisy birds. They like to chatter by rattling their bills. At one point, our guide was unable to speak over them.
We also went to Kasbah des Udayas, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kasbah means fortress and in the north, it’s basically the fortified walls surrounding the city. Kasbah des Udayas is a small “city within a city.” The charming white buildings with bright turquoise paint on the lower portion make for a picturesque scenery as we strolled through. We got to visit a public bakery, where families bring their bread to be baked for a small fee. In the morning, the children drop off the bread to be baked, and at noon, the children go back to pick up the bread to bring home for the noon day meal. Lunch is the most important meal of the day. We got to taste a freshly baked bread, warm from the wood fire. The bread looked like a disk. The exterior crust was thin, but crispy, and it readily gave way to a fluffy interior. We all stood around saying, “Mmm. . . mmm. . .”
We also ate some Moroccan cookies. There were various different kinds, many made from almonds. We picked out a few. My favorite was a lemon cookie covered in powdered sugar. We washed down the cookies with hot mint tea served in tiny Moroccan glasses with copious mint leaves. As we were eating, ladies were walking around offering henna tattoos to any interested, or not so interested, women. One lady grabbed my sister’s hand and began drawing designs on it without asking her consent. She asked my sister for money and she stubbornly refused to pay because she didn’t want one in the first place (plus, she also had no money on her because I carried all of the money). When we walked away, we muttered, “I hope she learned her lesson.”
We had the afternoon free, so we walked all over Rabat. We wandered through a souk. We visited a cemetery that had all sorts of interesting headstones and tombs. We went to the beach to see the waves crashing over the rocks and breakers. The surf was particularly high today, so it was impressive to watch. We even got doused by a rogue wave when we walked out on the breaker wall.
We had a good first day. Can’t wait to see the rest of Morocco.