To celebrate Mau’s birthday and Valentine’s Day, we decided to visit Casablanca. This was my first time going into the city and my visit was much overdue. Mau and I took the train from Rabat Centre Ville to Casa Port.
The trip took about an hour. We arrived and immediately took a taxi to the Grand Mosque Hassan II in order to catch the last tour of the day. All but two of the mosques in the country of Morocco are closed to non-Muslims. The only way to see the Hassan II mosque is with a tour. The mosque sits on the coast and has the tallest minaret in the world. Having come from Rabat, where no buildings are really that big, the mosque appears absolutely giant. The tour lasted a bit over an hour. Our guide gave us lots of time for pictures and in my case, time for general gazing in wonderment. Most, if not all, parts of the mosque come from national resources. The hand-carved cedar frames for the balconies come from the Middle Atlas, the marble is from Agadir, and the granite is from Tafraoute. The building was finished just in 1993 (it started in 1980) and the construction cost more than half a billion dollars.
First we entered the prayer hall. I was first amazed with the detail of the design. Every last centimeter is intricately carved, tiled, or painted. The wood of the balconies is incredibly carved and it’s amazing to consider that despite the meters and meters of balcony, all of the wood was done by hand. Everything was so intricately designed: the roof, the pillars, the tiled walls, the doors, and the floor. The reason I find mosques so beautiful is the same reason why they are considered to be restricted in terms of design. The fact that idol representation (via paintings, statues, etc.) is forbidden, forces designers to use simple shapes, carvings, and script for decoration. Usually when EVERY corner is highly decorated of a building it is tacky and over-the-top. But in this mosque, the simple shapes and carvings allows the design to be intricate and still tasteful at the same time.
After visiting the mosque, we headed to the Blvd de la Corniche, known for its beach clubs and restaurants. It looked similar to the coastal area of Tangier but generally less run-down. Mau and I were starving at this point, so we had a quick lunch and then flirted with the idea of going to the movies. Rabat has no major movie theatre that shows the big movies that come out of the US and Europe. The problem with the Casablanca movie theatres, besides the fact that you have to go to Casablanca to see something, is that they’re all dubbed. We opted not to see a movie and decided to go on a short walk along the coast (which actually means along the massive construction projects overlooking the coast). I was impressed with the cleanliness of the beach and wondered how polluted the water of Rabat really is if the Casablanca ocean water seems cleaner in comparison. After enjoying a construction-free spot to sit and watch the waves and the people, we went into town to look for a nice café to have a coffee. We took a taxi to the Quartier Goethier. Along a tiny street called Ibn Rachid, we found some cafés. This particular area reminded me a lot of La Condesa in Mexico City. There were a few nice cafés and one Irish pub all tucked into a residential area with lots of trees and tiny tiny streets. The parallel parkers of this area must be equally as skilled as those that frequent La Condesa and La Roma in Mexico City. After a coffee and a tea à la menthe (my drink of choice), we headed back to the train station to catch the 8pm train. I’m glad to have finally visited Casa and I am anxious to go again (the train ticket is less than $10 round-trip) to either see a movie or to go to a nice restaurant.