Many people had said not to bother with Casablanca and reports we had read was of to be a run down and not particularly nice city but we found the opposite.
State of the Art train station, tramways and many hotels like the “Sofitel” and very upmarket residences all along it’s coast. A mix of modern and old city and a large walled Medina.
Hassan II mosque was a most impressive building right on the seafront. Of course there were poorer areas on the edge of town but these were clean and tidy for the most part. “Camping Ocean Blue” was located at Mohammedia to the north of Casablanca on the coast but it was a rocky beach so swimming was not on the cards. We actually had another couple of French campers in the park.

We opted for a taxi to the train station about 15minutes the next day instead of trying to find parking in the city. The train station at Mohammedia was modern and very clean and a trip into town only took about 20minutes. The medina in Casablanca was an interesting one and quite different to the ones in Fes and Marrakech. We bought a couple of gifts where haggling was obligatory and we came across a lady and a sewing machine so she took in a dress that I had bought and only charged me 10dirhams or $1.40.

The city had both “Petit taxis” and “Grand Taxis”. The former were smaller Renault Dacia logans and the latter were all old Mercedes. They worked on a shared basis and you just had to hail a taxi, tell the driver where you wanted to go and he either said yes or no. We started with just us in a Mercedes and this swelled to six passengers along the way (a few needing a bath). In the middle of the traffic one got out and got into another car and someone replaced him. We knew how the sardines in the tin felt then. We were dropped off near “Quartier Habbous” a very nice suburb with government offices, lovely gardens and many streets with columned archways in front of their buildings. We bought a couple of things and the very nice shopkeeper walked us a few blocks to a very nice cafe/restaurant where we had a light lunch. We had to walk a fair way before a petit taxi picked us up and took us to a small museum which unfortunately was closed being Monday.

We walked again to the tramway where we wanted to just go for a ride to see more of Casablanca with it’s six million inhabitants. The last stop was on the coast where people were enjoying the beach. There were many umbrellas on the beach but no sun lounges only plastic chairs. Another taxi ride (they only cost a maximum of 20dirhams and mostly 10dirhams for two people) took us to the Hassan II mosque. The mosques in Morocco were very different from the ones in the UAE with square turrets rather than rounded ones. We walked some more kilometres to “Ricks Cafe” which was nothing like the original one in the film but even so very beautiful with stunning decor and some of the waiters wearing Fez. I was spoilt and had a gin and tonic (my first alcoholic beverage out since arriving in Morocco)and a very good glass of champagne (it wanted to be at $25) and complimentary olives and almonds. The atmosphere was wonderful and we felt like staying for dinner but it was getting dark and we had to catch a train and a taxi back to the campsite. We left and got a bit lost and ended up outside a massive construction site for new appartments and offices. The site offices didn’t look too bad but the worker’s dwellings were very basic shacks.

We asked for directions to the train station and as usual the replies were very friendly and always ended with “je vous en Prie” – you’re welcome. Such willing, friendly and courteous people everywhere and they were a happy people. We could see this by the way people greeted each other and the banter in Berber or Arabic.

We wanted to see the capital Rabat and it was on our route up the coast about an hour north of Casablanca. The entry to the city along the coast was being upgraded and planted with at least five kilometres of new palms and all new footpaths. The scale of it was incredible. It was another interesting but quite different city from the others in Morocco as it comprised two walled cities – one on each side of the river. The southern one was the more interesting one with a new city and an
old city and medina. The medina was slightly different from the other medinas we had seen in Marrakech, Casablanca and Fes but they all had their own style and way of displaying their goods.

Rabat also had a good tramway network so after parking the van in a large open carpark by the river we took the tramway up to the medina and walked around for a couple of hours and over to the Kasbah overlooking the ocean.
After lunch in the van we left Rabat and looked for an exotic garden which was mentioned as being 20 kilometres out of town near Sidi Bouknadel. We missed the turn off as it was not signposted out of town and was only ten kilometres from Rabat. We turned around and it was well worth backtracking to visit it. The “Jardin Exotique de Bouknadel” was originally a garden developed by Marcel Francois
who went to Marocco from France after the second world war. He was a horticultural graduate and in 1949 he landscaped many hectares into a wonderful garden which now had very tall trees and plants from all over the world. His house by comparison was very modest.

We went further up the coast to Kenitra and had a break and then on to Ouazzane where we arrived late about 8pm and spend the night at the camping area at the “Rif motel”. The next morning we saw two busloads of foreign tourists, mainly Australians who had stopped there for coffee.

We left and followed the rolling hills into Chefchouen (the blue city)passing many stalls selling a different variety of carpet and unusual straw hats with different coloured pom poms which all the country people were wearing. We wound our way up to a basic campsite which was in a wonderful position high above the town and only a ten minute walk down to the old town and medina via many steps. We set up and walked down to have a look around and have a coffee above the main marketplace
which had a strong odour of fish. There were strange little numbered wooden booths where the women sold the usual round bread in the mornings and numbered stalls for fruit and vegetables.
The blue old town was VERY blue and many shades of the colour. It was a pleasant small town and an afternoon was enough to see what the place had to offer.

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