Completing my mission in Casablanca

Completing my mission in Casablanca

One of few concrete personal goals I have is to visit 30 countries and all seven continents before I turn 30. This May I’m officially 50% of the way there after visiting my 30th country: Morocco, by way of Casablanca. This little gem on the Atlantic coast came to my attention mostly because it was the cheapest flight to Africa from Portugal, and I did not want a European country to be #30 for me. It also seemed to be a low commitment in that I wouldn’t feel cheated if I only did a weekend trip, and I was correct.

Hotel Gauthier hosted me for three nights, my first 4-star vacation hotel experience! The hotel is situated by the Arab League Park and is fairly quiet when the restaurant is closed. Really my only complaint is that the toilet seat was unnaturally high. I’m a tall woman with a 33” inseam and I was swinging my feet sitting on the toilet. Fun fact: this is not the best position to do your business in.

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Silversmithing my name on a necklace

While I don’t trust Airbnb for lodging, I’ll vouch for them for their experiences every time. My first day I signed up for a silversmithing class in which I learned how to saw metal! I left with the coolest silver necklace in which I cut my name in Arabic. It’s the perfect size and has a great story behind it! The instructor was also a delight, and we even walked around and had tea and ice cream after the lesson. This activity from start to finish was a great reminder of why I like traveling so much: to learn new things and connect across cultures to different people.

not sure if it’s the right way but imagine it is

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Hammaming it up

The misadventure in finding a hammam was entirely my fault. I should have made a reservation, but thought I might be able to wing it and find a good place on the ground. As it turns out, Google maps cannot be trusted and calling/messaging ahead is the only way to guarantee a place is even still operating. Still, I managed to get scrubbed within an inch of my life and massaged at a spa only 5 min from my hotel. To be honest, this didn’t heavily differ from my experiences in the US, Portugal, or Ethiopia.

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Casablanca ~at night~

I and one older (maybe 60s) American man signed up for the night tour of Casablanca. I did not realize the tour would take place in a car and would be so intimate. The tour guide was knowledgeable, though I sometimes missed some things due to the slight language barrier. He also seemed quite new to guiding, and was a bit offended any time we seemed to not be paying attention. He was clearly very enthusiastic about his city though, and definitely showcased its charm and beauty.

After the tour, I signed up for the dinner and show. The music was great, as was the belly dancer, but the restaurant itself was magical. Millions of dollars were poured into its construction and it showed in the intricacies of the walls, lights, ceilings, railings, and even the support columns. The view of the city from the roof was also nice. The restaurant also surprised me when they busted out “happy birthday” in three languages with a cute AND delicious dessert.

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Casablanca in the sun

A rude awakening for a 9 am tour abruptly ended the leisure of the prior day. Fortunately, I had a delightful tour partner—another American, also older but not elderly. As an aside, traveling and meeting older people makes me thankful to have the privilege of traveling so young. Our skilled guide and two-person group meant we had all the space to ask questions and even stop for some sweet treats that beckoned us with their smell. Our tour concluded with a drop-off taxi ride, which I took advantage of in getting a ride to my next activity: a cooking class.

striking a pose

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Casablanca in the kitchen

Sometimes I worry that I’m being judgmental when I don’t like some basic foods like salad or meat dishes. This cooking class taught me that sometimes I’m right, because why the hell would you peel and squeeze the juice out of the cucumbers and tomatoes and also use 0 vinegar or lemon juice because of the “acidity”? While this is technically correct, I’ve learned that this is where the flavor lies. Salt, fat, AND acid are essentials! To be frank, I would not recommend Casablanca gastronomically speaking. I can’t explain why, but I also didn’t like the standard bread. It was closer to Wonder bread in taste.

The cooking class was very authentic in flavor and company. The anthropologist in me jumped out in fascination at the dynamics that played out in this authentic Moroccan family. We so rarely get to observe external families intimately, and the psychologist in me was fascinated by dynamics that I will not go into here for their privacy. I will say that it added an interesting level to the experience.

One thing that I was maybe a too bit excited about: riding a train in Africa! The class was 2 minutes from the metro of Casablanca, and I got to add to my collection of global public transport tickets. I also got to watch a boy race (?) the tram.

I think he won?????

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Closing out country #30

During my breakfasts, I sought out shakshuka (chakchouka.) A seemingly impossible search left me disappointed, but no more than when I thought I found one and I ended up with scrambled eggs. I closed out this mediocre trip in one of the worst lounges I’ve ever been in, mostly because it was in the basement with a subpar selection of food/drink.

Even though a lot of this post is judgmental/borderline complaining, I’m very thankful for this trip proving that I do indeed have standards when traveling. Due to a series of excellent travels, I was beginning to think I was settling for any trip that I took. Traveling offers different perspectives, and I think we’re defined as much by our dislikes as our likes. Cheers to Casablanca, I’ll see you when I see you.

spilling the tea in and on the city

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