Friday morning, we said our “goodbyes” to Marrakesh, and continued our 3-4-hour journey back to the coast and the “White City” of Casablanca. On the outskirts of town, we pass one of the city’s soccer stadiums – part of where the country’s hopes rest for hosting the 2030 World Cup. We get into town a bit before lunch, and we stop at the Women’s Solidarity Association in Casablanca. Founded in 1985, by Aicha Ech Channa, this non-profit organization provides professional experience to single women, mothers, and victims of abuse by training them to develop the skills needed to work in restaurants, bakeries, and hammams. There we spoke to the Association’s leader, Whabea, who explains to us that the children who are born out of wedlock, and their mothers, are generally not accepted into Moroccan Society, and are often cast out by their families, leaving them no way to support themselves or their child. The Association provides skills and services for about 50-60 women that helps them support themselves and navigate the social and legal complexities of their situation. They also provide childcare, and sexual education to local girls and schools to help in reducing the problem. After a lively question and answer session, the Association serves us a lunch of traditional cuisine before we depart and drive through downtown past the Mohamed V Square where the Theater, French Embassy and Military Court all are located. We note the modern Tram transportation system that crisscrosses the city, and take note of the Post Office, Central Bank, Royal Navy, and the famous “Rick’s Café” modeled after the famous location from the movie “Casablanca”. Finally, we reach our next destination – the towering Hassan II Mosque built partly into the Atlantic Ocean. This mosque was built in 1985 and is the largest in Morocco, 3rd largest in the world, and boasts the tallest minaret in the world. It can hold 25,000 people on its main floor with another 5000 women in the balcony, and 75,000 more in its courtyard. It took 10,000 craftsmen and 3000 laborers working for years to complete and is currently staffed by 200 daily workers who provide security and clean. The inside is supported by 300 Italian marble pillars and is lit via either its movable roof or its 57 Italian chandeliers. The 25-ton door takes 3-minutes to electrically open and is only used by the King and President of the country. We took the 1 1/2-hour tour of the mosque to admire its marble columns, intricately designed dome, and mosaic tiles. After touring the main floor, we made our way through the washing stations downstairs before exiting to the courtyard and touring the museum.
We departed the mosque for a brief drive to our hotel, the centrally located Radisson Blu, where we checked-in and received our room assignments for the next two nights. Next, we both had our Covid PCR tests taken which were necessary to enter back into the United States. Then, Julie and I checked out the local Tram and shopped at the local grocery store for a few snacks and a bottle of wine before having dinner and calling it night.
Saturday morning, the rest of our group left for home, but the two of us stayed on an extra day to explore more on Casablanca. After meeting our guide for breakfast, we received documentation of our negative Covid tests, bid him goodbye, and then bought tickets for the Tram. We rode it to United Nations Square where we transferred to the Tram line that would take us to the beach south of Hassan II Mosque. Once reaching the beach, we walked 1 1/2-miles further south along the boardwalk to the Moroccan Mall – the largest Mall in all of Africa. The 3-story tall mall houses all the famous shops and is anchored by a huge, towering aquarium that is home to Atlantic fish including several species of sharks and rays. Here we shopped and explored until taking a seat for an iced tea at Starbucks and beginning our journey back to the city center. When we reached our transfer point at United Nations Square, we decided to try the local McDonald’s for lunch before strolling the rest of the way back to the Radisson Blu. After straightening out a mix up in rooms and having to move up 5 floors, we enjoyed a light fruit dinner and packed for our trip home that would begin early the next morning.
Sunday morning, September 12th, we were up at 4am for our taxi to the airport and our Air France flights home, again with a connection in Paris de Gaulle. The flight was comfortable, but uneventful, as our paperwork was all in order, and our trip home after 17 days was welcomed.