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Marrakech to Casablanca

December 6, 2021

I left my new friends at Dar les Cigognes with hugs and their pleas for me to return. Staying there was a wonderful way to slip into Moroccan life.

The drive to Casablanca is about three hours.From here on we’ll be chauffeured by Abdou’s friend Zachariah, who, as it turns out, is a very skillful driver. Finally free of the Marrakech traffic, we made it to Casablanca in time for lunch at the home of Abdou’s brother.In anticipation of our arrival, his wife and sister-in-law had been busy preparing the traditional Friday couscous, steamed with meat and vegetables for three hours. It was as delicious as it looks.

Four of his brother’s children were there, along with three cousins. They’re all beautiful, but the little ones (2 and 5) are too cute for words.

Casablanca is a chic, bustling cosmopolitan city, with sleek ultra-modern architecture — and paralyzing traffic. No donkey carts or tok toks, just big Beemers, Mercedeses and Land Cruisers and the ubiquitous scooters creating their own lanes as they zip down the boulevards. Casablanca is the economic capital of Morocco, and it shows. In my brief time here, I heard more French than Arabic spoken, testifying to its colonial roots.

After lunch we had a tour of the Hassan II Mosque, until recently the largest in the world. Its 600-foot minaret can be seen from virtually anywhere in the city, and is cloaked in intricate mosaics. It sits in the midst of a vast courtyard that accommodates 80,000 worshippers. Our guide told us 25,000 can fit inside. Pictures fail to capture the sheer size of the space.

All of the features inside are crafted from carved plaster, stone, marble and wood from Morocco, with a small area of the prayer hall constructed of Carrera marble from Italy. The ceiling is made of carved and painted cedar wood and slides open to the sky in less than five minutes and closes in two: a real feat, since it weighs 1100 tons. At the eastern end of the hall is a niche where the imam sits on a high stool to lead the prayers. 360 speakers amplify his voice inside and out. Women are seated in a sort of balcony area in the main hall, unlike the mosques I visited in Jordan, where women are relegated to the basement. 

In the center of the hall a glass inset overlooks the ablution hall on the floor below, where worshippers wash before prayers at marble lotus flower-shaped fountains; there is an area for men and an identical one for women. The washing ritual is repeated before each of the five prayer times specified in the Quran: wash right hand three times, left hand three times, face three times, right foot three times, left foot three times. Good way to keep Covid in check!

To bring me back to earth, Abdou took me on a brief walk to a nearby neighborhood, where two more modest mosques overlooked small gardens. One wonders at the need for two more mosques!

  1. What artistry! The pictures are beautiful but I am sure they do not convey the true majesty of being there!

  2. Mary Madden permalink

    Love your story. Thank you for sharing. Can’t wait to gidit

  3. David Taylor permalink

    Love the photos and the journal!!

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