Leaving Safi was quite easy, as the bus system in Morocco is quite extensive through CTM. It’s a modern service while being surrounding by completely unmodern dirty bus terminals. Luckily, it was an easy trip to Casa. The previous night since I’d had a fish dinner, I think it got my stomach into a bad situation, so getting up early to get to the bus station, I was concerned for sitting in a bus for 4 hours. Luckily, Imodium did its job, and I was able to make it all the way to Casa with no problems. However, there was a split second where after getting on the bus, I had to get off because it was hot and I started having hot flashes of really questioning whether or not I could endure the four hour trek to Casa. I calmed down and decided that it would be the better decision to get on to a more modern city like Casa in case the problem with my stomach was anything requiring medicine. I tell you, Colombia really ruined me for feeling like an upset stomach is just an upset stomach.
Pulling into Casa’s bustling city of dirty white buildings, it was like a scene from an old black and white movie, because all the buildings seemed to just have that white/black coloring, so the entire city seemed so dull. When we got to the CTM terminal, we passed by a Sheraton, and I thought oh this is perfect, I don’t care how much it is, it’s an American brand, and I’ll be ensured a level of quality with the room, restaurant, and bed.
Checking into the hotel, I was amazed that they were quoting a Sheraton as a 5-star hotel for over $200 for a room for one person. Again, I was in a desperate situation (or so I thought) and didn’t want to worry about being in a dirty place while getting over a stomach bug. So I bit the bullet, since I was at the end of my trip, and shockingly, when getting into my room, I entered the dingiest, old fashioned, worn out excuse for a Sheraton hotel. It was the most expensive stay in my entire 23 week journey around the world, and while I can’t say it was the worst (because I spent many a nights in shared facilities with questionable beds), it was by far the worst hotel. I was frustrated because I wanted to just go downstairs to the restauarant and have a simple soup or something. Nope. Closed. Both of the restaurants. I checked out the pool. Nasty, AND closed. At 5pm. So I had to leave the hotel to find a place for dinner, which I found a great little Spanish/Mexican type place just around the block. It was exactly what I wanted.
That evening, I kept it low key and caught up on some emails, CNN, and photo organization.
The next morning, I decided before checking out that I would check out Africa’s largest mosque, the Hassan II Mosque. I took a petit taxi over to the coast just about 15 minutes from the hotel, and once we got to the marina, you could see this impressive building perched right next to the seaside. It was truly beautiful.
The huge square that opened up in front of the building was impressive as well, and you felt so tiny being in the plaza, that the building almost looked like a backdrop to a set.
When I got to the entrance, I saw that they were giving tours at 9am in English, so I thought what perfect timing. I’ll check out the mosque and get a tour with it. I waited down in the corridor, and two other English girls showed up and we chatted a bit before our tour guide began showing us the various places in the mosque.
Walking into the main prayer area was truly awe inspiring. The height of the ceiling, the grandeur décor of such incredibly detailed and intricate work surrounding curved archways coming to a point in true Islamic flair.
Another interesting thing was the balcony. It was this hovering piece of real estate that had wooden carved walls that was basically like a really intricately designed cage. Alas, it was where the women could come in to pray as well, and they even had a covered separate entrance. It was really bizarre, as with other mosques, women always had their separate place in the mosque, however, this one was completely with an entrance that led to a curved stairway that led up to their area. It would be interesting to see what it looked like inside. According to our tour guide, they must stay separate so as to not ‘distract the male prayers’, which goes hand in hand with how I saw women looked at throughout the society as well. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the mindset for many reasons, but even the logical one of simply thinking, can you not just control yourself?
Anyhow, after the main prayer area, we continued on to other areas of the mosque and ended up in the ablution room, where they go to wash their hands and feet 3 times before being able to pray. It’s quite a process, and truly impressive that several worshippers have not only the dedication to do this 5 times a day, but also the time to do this every day. Through my travels, I have decided that Islam has got to be the most powerful religion of them all to be able to entice worshippers to do what they do to pray. I can’t imagine living in an environment where ‘God is Great’ is shouted out of loud speakers in a long karaoke like version from every mosque in the city, 5 times a day, including one as early as 4am.
After my educational trip to the mosque, I headed to the train station to get the train all the way to Fes. I decided to knock out Meknes and Rabat as I was ready to stay put for a few days, and the riad I’d found for Fes seemed quite nice.