Thursday, August 13, 2009

Moroc and Casablanca

Our visit to Morocco consisted of 4 days in the country. On the first day I did a city orientation trip of Casablanca (our port city), then I went on an overnight to Marrekech and the Ourika Valley, and on the last day I had a field trip for my International Business class to the Coca Cola Plant.

The city orientation was a really good trip. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco and is the second largest city in Africa behind Cairo. There are 3 million people that live here and is much more modern and clean than I expected. The movie Casablanca was not actually shot here, it was filmed in Hollywood, but there is a replica of Rick’s CafĂ© in the city. During the orientation we visited the Hassan II Mosque which is the world’s third largest mosque. It was built in 1993 by the president Hassan II and is gorgeous.  The minaret is the tallest in the world and stands 689 feet tall. There is a sliding roof that opens on nice days to allow for air circulation throughout the mosque. Half of the mosque lies over the Atlantic Ocean. As is stated in the Qur’an “The throne of God was built on the water” so Hassan II wanted the mosque to replicate that statement. Part of the floor is glass and allows for 25,000 worshippers to actually pray over the water. There is a large courtyard and 80,000 additional worshippers can worship outside the mosque. The mosque has about 3 levels under the area of prayer. Theses floors have baths and wash rooms for the worshippers, similar to the Turkish baths.

The religious breakdown of Morocco has mostly Muslims, but there are 7% Chrisitians and 2% Jewish people. However, there are 200 mosques, 8 synagogues and only 4 churches throughout Morocco.

After the mosque we drove around Casablanca. We drove past the area of Anfa where Churchill and Roosevelt met for the Casablanca Conference during World War II, as well as the Ain Diab Corniche which is the beach road where all the clubs and restaurants are. There are also public and private swimming pools on this road that go right up to the ocean. We visited a few palaces and the mechouar bazaar in town.

The first night I went out to dinner with Amanda, Lucas and Matt. We walked around town and finally found a French Restaurant. The primary languages in Morocco are Arabic and French and there is still a heavy French influence from the days of colonization.

The next day I had my trip to Marrakech. It was a 3 hour bus ride south of Casablanca. When we got to the city we had lunch at a local restaurant located in Djeema el- Fna Square. This square is the center of activity for the people. There is a market with fish, fruits, spices and goods that is the center of people’s lives. The square also has snake charmers, henna tattoos, acrobats and monkeys. After lunch we visited the Bahia and Dar Si Said Palaces and the Majorelle Gardens. The Gardens were absolutely gorgeous. It had bamboo and desert plants everywhere and there were brightly colored pots and buildings within the garden.  We also visited a spice place that was a tourist trap the tours bring you on. They showed us many different spices and oils that help with different ailments etc. I did buy oil that is supposed to relax you and help you sleep.

That night we went to a Moroccan dinner with a folklore show and horse fantasia at Chez Ali. It was a much touristier spot than we expected but we had a great dinner. The horse show was a lot very cool and they shot off fireworks at the end. The horses and their riders were doing tricks throughout the evening.

The next day we visited the Ourika Valley and a Berber village. The village was nestled among the Atlas Mountains and we had a short walk throughout the village. The visited a Berber home and the lady of the house made us mint tea. It was a very neat experience that I wouldn’t have gotten without being on an SAS trip.

After the Berber village we went back to the Square from the day before.  I got a henna tattoo on my ankle which I think is really cool, and we went back to the same restaurant for lunch. I walked around the square with Lindsey and Rachel until it was time to head back to the bus.

On Wednesday I had a field trip to the Coca Cola plant. We got to see the process of making Coke and then the bottling process for glass bottles and plastic bottles. After, we went to lunch with local business owners from America that had been living in Morocco for many years. It was interesting to hear their perspective on American businesses in Morocco and how the business worlds differ.

One of my best friends Julie left us in Morocco. She will be graduating in December and doesn’t need the credits from SAS classes and decided that she didn’t want to be on the ship for the next 9 days across the ocean. I knew she was thinking about this the night before but it was still sudden. It was really hard to watch us pull away from the dock and we are going to miss her a lot. It did get us all talking about where our reunion is going to be though.

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