If the first day of our Moroccan adventure is any indication of our two weeks here it is going to be an absolutely unforgettable experience.
The day began at the Hassan ll Mosque in Casablanca. It is Morocco’s largest mosque and one of the largest mosques in the world, built right next to the Atlantic ocean. The vast main hall can host 25,000 worshippers and the broad expanses of marble, traditional geometric mosaics and decorative details are beyond amazing.
We then headed north to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, where our first stop was a brief walk to the perimeter gardens of the Imperial Palace, which was guarded by men in rather splendid uniforms.
The Mohammed V Mausoleum is dedicated to the first king of independent Morocco. On this site the king, returning from exile in 1955, gathered thousands of his people to celebrate their new independence. It too features traditional Moroccan decorative motifs and techniques. Once again the guards provided a wonderful richness to the experience. The Mausoleum shares the site with the Almohad Hassan Tower, part of an enormous, unfinished mosque, abandoned in 1199.
The Kasbah Des Oudaias, which was originally a fortified ribat, was an absolutely magical walk along cobbled pathways that wound their way through a very old residential area. What sets this area apart is the ubiquitous blue painted walls, doors, window frames and garden pottery. It was also the site of my first experience being ‘bothered’ by a local who grabbed my arm and hennaed the back of my hand. All at a cost of course!
We enjoyed a tasty lunchtime pancake outside the walls of the Kasbah then settled in for a 4 hour bus journey north. The urban sprawl gave way to rural scenes that almost seemed fairytale – donkeys working fields and carrying loads, a woman walking along the roadside with a huge bundle of sticks and twigs strapped to her back and lone herdsmen tending sheep and goats in remote mountainous terrain.
We were warned that the bus would not be able to get to our hotel and that we should be prepared for a 20 minute walk. We weren’t told that it was going to be an absolutely amazing experience – wending our way through narrow winding alleyways of shops and market stalls with every conceivable product for sale. Ancient Moroccan buildings towered above the walkways – their architecture, colours and character adding to the wondrous ambience.
The hotel, when we finally arrived, was the stuff of middle eastern fairytales. No photos – it was getting too dark so that’s the first thing on my tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list.
Til then ……..