Eric: Casablanca

August 6, 2010

We woke up at 10 am today. You may not understand the significance of this, but I have not slept for that long since I came to Morocco. On weekdays I have to wake up at 7 am, while on weekends I am usually going somewhere or at somewhere that I just don’t get to sleep in. Feeling hungry and all that, we decided to check out the infamous Rick’s Cafe, which never would have existed in Casablanca had the movie not become popular. The city is very European, with wide streets and tall buildings, but not so much people and cars. The only hints of it being in Morocco were the signs for shops written in Arabic, next to French in large font. As we drove on, the Atlantic Ocean yet again revealed itself, behind a highly industrial harbor.

The exterior of the cafe was rather modern. Never seen the movie myself, I could only guess what it looked like in the movie. We were going to go inside and see if the price is as high as every one of our guidebooks reported, but it wasn’t open. For quite a few moments, we thought the cafe was just closed for the day, a Friday AND the Throne Day (July 3oth, the day Mohammed VI ascended the throne back in 1999). It turned out that we were just early and the cafe opened at 12 pm. Having not eaten anything since we woke up, we decided to go to a smaller cafe nearby for some breakfast. Now, I know I said this before, but I am going to say it again. Our group was catching everybody’s attention, as it was composed of one African-American, one Asian, and three Caucasian girls. Moroccans just don’t see that combination everyday, even though a lot of them sit in cafes doing nothing all day.

Next to the cafe is the biggest mosque in Morocco, Hassan II Mosque, also the third largest mosque in the world, after the one in Mecca and Medina. Its minaret is 200 meters high (~655 ft). The mosque itself can accommodate 25,000 people, and 80,000 more in the courtyard. The entire St. Peter’s Basilica could fit inside this mosque. It is also one of the few mosques in Morocco which non-Muslims can enter, though not today. Friday triumphs any exception to rules here apparently. The outside of the mosque already looked impressive, and my guide book also mentions that the floor inside the mosque is made of glass, so people praying will get the impression of praying on top of the ocean. When King Hassan II decided to build a mosque in Casablanca as its landmark, he was determined to have it built on top of the water, because according to the Qur’an, God’s throne was on the water. The mosque was built on top of a rocky platform with water from the Atlantic Ocean flowing underneath with a lot of labor and money contributed by the people of Morocco (some not entirely voluntarily).

Walking around the mosque, we heard the familiar singing coming from the minaret calling people to pray. I have grown so used to hearing them every single day, five times a day throughout my six weeks here. I haven’t learned enough Arabic to understand what the singing means, all I know is that it’s verses from the Qur’an. Like so many things I have encountered during my stay here, you don’t need to understand the language to appreciate the beauty of it. I am really going to miss hearing them when I am away from Morocco I guess.

The rest of the day was spent watching the movie “Casablanca” (how fitting), going to the beach to enjoy the sun and the water, and ate my last meal in Morocco. I am kind of sad that I will be leaving this wonderful kingdom, but I am also really excited to go back to Minnesota to see all my friends. It’s at times like these that I realized that there are so many things I still want to see and so many things I still haven’t seen in this country. Well, more reasons to come back…

! بسلامة مغرب

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