Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Casablanca, Morocco

SUNSHINE and a rainbow of containers greeted us as we stepped out onto the promenade deck in Casablanca, Morocco. To avoid the inevitable and our not returning to the ship due to a camel replacement, we ventured out with the parents for the day in order that a male would be in tow (it was also really lovely to actually spend a day with them on holiday, obviously)!

After wending our way through the docks (why are they SO HUGE in Morocco?), narrowly avoiding cyclists, motorbikes, cars, lorries and trains (!?) as we crossed the roads, we arrived in the city and headed for the minaret towering over all other buildings. Says Dad ‘it looks quite close actually’... famous last words? It turned out to be one of those buildings that as we got closer, it got further away, and moved around yet another corner (yet it had initially appeared to be in a straight line from where we were heading, of course). Eyes up so we didn’t lose sight of it, goodness knows what we passed on our mission; I sort of imagine us looking like a Lesley Nielson leaving a trail of destruction behind us in our desperation to reach our goal. Nevertheless, we finally managed to get there, and it was quite a magnificent sight to behold – surrounded by the sea at most angles and possibly one of the largest, most imposing buildings I’ve ever seen standing alone in the same manner.

Once we had managed to walk most of the way around it and taken endless photos with various geological hammers, we headed along the way were presumably meant to come when we approached the mosque (we had instead chosen to slope through the back entrance past numerous barriers and guards; trust us) alongside beautiful walled gardens and fountains.

Our next goal was the medina, so again we ventured through areas that could only really be described as ‘off the beaten track’ where stray kittens, cats and children ran amok and chickens were sold very, fresh, shall we say? Shouts of ‘Bonjour! Holá! Morning! Welcome to Morocco!’ (they were determined to find some way to communicate!) echoed through narrow passages as we scurried along, our heads turning avidly about in an attempt to look carefully enough to take it in, but not so carefully that we looked like we wanted to buy anything.

Morocco is quite exhausting, so there were lots of bench stops, often spent dodging bouncing balls kicked by small boys who sparked debates about the Moroccan education system. Of course each bench stop was brought to an abrupt finish as a seller or two would make their advances and we would all spring into action right on cue to move on to the next stop.

After the medina, we took to aimless wandering down whichever street took our fancy. Through our aimless wandering we discovered pigeons en mass (just like Trafalgar Square, only a lot smaller but somehow with just as many pigeons), men in ‘traditional’ dress, a park or two, a couple of squares, a cathedral and a highly exciting post office (I really can’t decide why or how said post office ended up being the subject of a photo on all of our cameras?)...

The walk back to somewhere always feels that much shorter once you know where you’re going and before we knew it, the ship was upon us and waiting for our tired selves to collapse onto our favourite window seat where I promptly fell asleep for a good hour – why is it that holidays wear you out so much?!

When I awoke, it was time for dinner (how convenient):
Starter – chicken fritters
Main – roast turkey
Dessert – pistachio parfait

only THREE courses – you’d think I’d have been starving after the exhaustion that is Morocco, but clearly not!

We sailed away a little later than we had from the previous ports, so after dinner we were just in the nick of time to head out on deck to watch us cast off. The scene that we were met with was all very exciting and dramatic. Man in suit marching around looking very important while other men in fluorescent jackets ran up and down the port-side looking panicked. We managed to decipher that we must be running late, and all came up with varying back-stories as to why or because of whom this may be. The most popular story was one of the important looking man’s wife and/or mother who had been hustled into a dark and potentially dangerous corner of the medina on a seemingly innocent shopping excursion. The reality of the situation transpired to be something none of us had quite expected, as suddenly from the distance there emerged an entire coach load of passengers! Heads hung in shame as we all waved majestically from above them, tongue in cheek.

Captain Panaphapolopolis (or whatever his name was) was off at break neck speed, presumably to make up time, so we went to find somewhere we might feel a little less buoyancy and found ourselves in a show lounge and immersed in yet another quiz. This one did not prove quite so lucrative, but thankfully we enlisted the help of a friendly, single gentleman who turned out to be rather a quiz master (just unfortunately not marriage potential)!

As we sat playing cards after our honourable defeat, we suddenly realised that we were finally in for a proper sunset, so made our way onto the ‘sun’ deck, which by this point of the evening was incredibly windy, where we blew about trying to get some nice photos (apparently not the easiest mission in my heels on a deck covered in sea-spray)!

An early night followed; perfection prior to our late arrival into Cadiz the next morning. What a day!