Casablanca, Day 12: Heading South Once Again

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Blind Alley

Today I’m going the follow yet another main north-south boulevard out towards the edge of town again.


Discovery 098: 2 Mars Neighborhood


After 2 days of wandering around relatively ragged neighbourhoods, it actually feels nice to be back in a neighbourhood of new, well maintained “residence” apartments and classy little shops here near 2 Mars Boulevard. I wander around a bit, making my way east again, past the palace and back on Mohammed VI Boulevard, right up to where it starts, in Derb Omar which I explored a couple of weeks ago.  I have completely explored all the southwest neighborhoods, west of Mohammed VI… now lets dive into the east side.


099: The “Blind” Alley


My next objective is to explore the neighbourhoods between Mohammed VI and the next main north-south boulevard, Ouled Ziane.

Bus station
   At first this neighbourhood is a bit unappealing--  a mix of residential and industrial, will a lot of long walls and not much to see.


There are a couple of interesting spots though… The first one is “Egg Alley”, a street with nothing but egg warehouses and little trucks coming to load up with eggs to be distributed.


The next one is “Blind Alley”, I call it that because, if you walk down in the daytime, you’re at risk of going blind.  It’s lined with scores of little welding shops with piles of miscellaneous metal everywhere.  During the day it lights up like a Christmas tree and everywhere you turn you’ll be looking at a lit welding torch!


100: Ouled Ziane Neighborhood


I cross the train tracks again and continue south.

View from Sidi Othmane
  Suddenly the scenery changes from long drab wall an dilapidated warehouses to a very compact neighbourhood with little alleys in between rows and rows of typical upper lower class homes.  The alleys are bustling with activity and children head off to school, men head to work and women do their daily errands. 


I wander up and down the alleys--  it has a bit of an Old Medina feel, except that the alleys are all straight.  Right in the middle is a mosque, a tiny little square and a street market that hasn’t quite woken up yet… and of course, the typical breakfast crowd huddle around the mnsimmen shops.


This neighbourhood definitely merits discovery status--  and it just happens to be my 100th discovery!


101 The Ouled Ziane Bus Station  


This bus station is perhaps my favorite spot in Casablanca, because it is my connection with the rest of the country.

  Dozens of times I’ve shown up here--  sometimes with no idea where I want to go.  Each time it’s the same story: I get waylaid by a couple of ticket hustlers, I struggle to get to the gate trying to shake them off all the way… and find a bus that will take me to a whole new world of adventure and discovery… and go.


It’s not that bad a bus station as bus stations go--  I’ve seen better and I’ve seen much, much worse… The main thing I like about it is that, unlike Agadir, you don’t have to buy tickets in advance.  And you can show up any time of day or night and you’ll find a bus going somewhere--  maybe not to the place you want to go though, so if you want to go somewhere off the beaten path, you might want to have a plan B.


But today, I’m not taking a bus.  I’ve got some discovering to do right within walking distance.  South of the bus station I find a little square and sit down for a strum.


            Music Spot 51: Ouled Ziane, Rating***

            Not very shady, but met some cool guys here who offered to hook me up with a band…


I wander around what seems to be a rather desolate neighbourhood with huge open areas.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was the edge of town.  But no, it’s an area with a lot of cemeteries and undeveloped lots. I continue on south, across the freeway once again, back to the Outer Neighborhoods.


102 Sidi Otmane


Here a whole bunch of neighborhoods overlap, Ben M’sik, Sidi Otmane, Moulay Rachid… I’m not quite sure where one starts and the other stops… I’m going to call this Sidi Othmane.  Here Ouled Ziane (which changes names) goes uphill a little bit, giving you a nice view of the Hassan II Mosque, which looks a lot closer than it actually is.


This is a pleasant and compact neighbourhood--  not as lively as the area around Ouled Ziane, but plenty of little shops, and numerous little green spaces set aside in an attempt to spruce up the neighbourhood a bit. A beautiful mosque at the top of a ridge surrounded by trees catches my eye.  I find a spot that’s an appropriate distance from the mosque and pull out my guitar.  I’m soon joined by 20 or so Jr high school students who were studying for their tests not far away--  a very energetic, yet polite audience... I’m really liking this neighbourhood.


            Music Spot 52: Sidi Otmane, Rating:****

            Shady, nice crowd.


I continue on west a little ways to another boulevard with a little park in the middle. This one is mostly occupied by older guys.


            Music Spot 53: Sidi Otmane West, Rating: ****

            Fairly peaceful, but hard to find a spot in the shade.


103 Sidi Otmane Market


To the west is Ben M’sik, which I’ve already explored, so I head on north.  I soon reach a large, rather scruffy market, which looks like something fun to explore.  I wander through the lean to vegetable stalls… and on down the furniture alleys and mattress making shops.


A bit farther north, I reach Colonel Driss Boulevard once again and head east.  Here there’s a lot of wide open space that has yet to be filled in.  To the south is a vast “car and truck inspection” area, with scores of cars and trucks pouring into every minute.


One thing you’ll notice about these southside neighborhoods is that there aren’t a lot of taxis.  Instead people use horse buggies as taxis,  trotting up and down the main boulevards.  Since these boulevards are so wide, they don’t really slow down traffic.  Most of these buggies are fixed up quite nice--  like the ones in Marrakech… except these aren’t for tourists, these are used for real transportation, giving the area an interesting retro flair.


104 Colonel Driss Park


I come across a large, well maintained park and garden with no shortage of shady benches--  I haven’t seen a park like this since Murdoch Park near 2 Mars, so it’s quite a welcome surprise.


            Music Spot 54 : Colonel Driss Park, Rating : ****

            Would be perfect if not for a couple of shifty characters around.


Afterwards I head back east… hike for a bit further until I reach Hay Salaam, and decide to call it a day. I’ll explore this neighbourhood tomorrow.

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Blind Alley
Blind Alley
Bus station
Bus station
View from Sidi Othmane
View from Sidi Othmane
photo by: nathanphil