Subtour 3: Around Casablanca in 20 Days, Day 01: Old Medina
Casablanca Travel Blog› entry 69 of 92 › view all entries
I have a bit of a dilemma: After a short 2 weeks in
Solution? Iâ€™m going to do a â€śsupertourâ€ť of
This is actually a project Iâ€™ve been wanting to work on for a long time for several reasons. First of all, Iâ€™ve taken many random half day trips to different neighborhoods of the city. Unfortunately the memories of all those trips get all scrambled in my head. I figure if I make it like one continuous trip-- picking up each day at the exact spot I stopped the day before, then it will stick in my memory betterâ€¦
But thereâ€™s another reason as well.
I think that thatâ€™s utter nonsenseâ€¦ there are tons of things to discover in this city-- you just need to have the right set of eyesâ€¦ and two very sturdy legsâ€¦
So this is my Official Guide to
(*NOTE: since I already explored and added Casablanca to my collection back in 2008 and I can only count each city one time, all these days of exploration are technically part of my upcoming â€śMediounaâ€ť adventure)
Day 01: The Old
April 13, 2010
Where do I start? Iâ€™ve been pondering that for the last couple of months.
But this morning, as I head out in the dim early morning hours to start my adventure, I know just where to start: Bab Marrakech, right smack in the middle of town.
Bab Marrakech (or â€śMarrakesh Gateâ€ť) is where the different faces of
I think we can safely say that Bab Marrakech is the heart of
I reach Bab Marrakech at about 6:15 AM. Everything is pretty quiet. Generally thereâ€™s a mishmash of middle class, lower class, vendors, hobos, glue sniffers-- maybe a few tourists or Subsaharan immigrantsâ€¦ Some people hurrying to or from work, shopping or just milling aboutâ€¦
But now everything is quiet-- which is fine with meâ€¦ Iâ€™d kind of want to start out my journey on a quiet peaceful noteâ€¦
Besides the typical, decorated gateway to the Old City, thereâ€™s a clock tower thatâ€™s has a distinctive design-- not quite Europeanâ€¦ not quite traditional North Africanâ€¦ which is what Casablanca is all aboutâ€¦
002 Place Nations Unis
At Bab Marrakech, thereâ€™s a now unused pedestrian underpass that leads to Place Nations Unis-- where thereâ€™s skeleton of a half globe-- I guess, symbolizing the United Nations.
Whenever I see that passageway, Iâ€™m reminded of
The uglier aspects of
I take a moment to ponder in what direction I should head firstâ€¦ North? South? East? West? The Old Medina seems like the best place to start my discoveryâ€¦ So North it isâ€¦
To step into an Old Medina in
Understanding this paradoxical marriage is the key to understanding
I mentioned earlier that
But now that Iâ€™ve lived in
People that Iâ€™ve asked have confirmed that â€świlad lâ€™medinaâ€ť (the sons of the
So the Old Medina is not really lawless-- they just go by their own laws and run their neighborhood in their own wayâ€¦ A sort of â€śbubbleâ€ť insulated from the rest of
I head down past the fried fish eateries on the right, and past a small but distinctive mosque, down the â€ś
004 The Back Alleys of the Old
The nice thing about exploring the Old Medina early in the morning is that itâ€™s easier to discreetly take a few photos of the back alleys. See, in
Personally though, I find the peeling paint, the decay and the gray feel gives this place a gritty charm. And then, tucked away you get little glimpses of elegance that shine like candles in a dark roomâ€¦ And then you have these old French lanterns and balconies-- the last vestiges of a bygone eraâ€¦
I notice the graffiti on the walls-- but itâ€™s not the typical expressions of hate and anger that you see in most urban areas. Most of it is themed around â€śWydadâ€ť and â€śRajaâ€ť--
The best-- and cheapest breakfast in the world is msimmen (a sort of greasy flatbread) and a glass of mint tea which will set you back 3 Dirhams. There are a bunch of these open already as I twist and turn my way through the old medinaâ€¦ Finally I find one with msimmen hot off the grillâ€¦ and enjoy a delicious and unforgettable moment, sitting at a scrappy little table in the middle of the alley, soaking in the vibe around me as the city slowly wakes upâ€¦
006 Zraktouni Park
The Old Medina has an oblong shape, and I follow it
Shady, good place to meet people, few troublemakersâ€¦ quiet except for the birds sometimesâ€¦
I actually have played here a couple of times. Once I made a video clip here with a couple of wannabe breakdancers and a fellow who could do cool vocal rythmnsâ€¦ Nice spot.
Today I donâ€™t have any company except for a young fellow and girl who looks like a prostitute, chatting cheerfully not far awayâ€¦ I feel a tinge of sadness as a watch them, wonder what her life will be like 20 years from nowâ€¦
Later on, a guy, maybe 40 years old, drives up on a scooter, pulls out a slingshot and takes aim at the birds in the treesâ€¦ Iâ€™m not sure if he just really hates birds, or if heâ€™s just trying to relive his childhoodâ€¦ but it is quite a funny sightâ€¦
007 The West Wall
After my mini-concert, I dive into the Old Medina once again.
In Fes, Iâ€™ve had guys try to send me down a dead end so they can rob meâ€¦ but not here in â€śnotoriousâ€ť
Finally reach the West Wall and exit the Old Medina
The stretch along the outside of the wall is an interesting stretchâ€¦ On one side you have houses snuggled against the wall looking down at you, on the other, some rather grundgy looking cafes and snack shops-- itâ€™s a sort of â€śNo Manâ€™s Landâ€ť between the two worldsâ€¦
008 The â€śStripâ€ť on Avenue des F.A.R.
Finally I exit the Old Medina area into wide open space.
Usually itâ€™s crammed with folks selling t shirts and posters with their wares strewn out on the sidewalk, making it difficult to walk-- And itâ€™s a popular stretch for a couple of mentally ill folks-- who put on some pretty bizarre street spectaclesâ€¦ So despite the efforts, this strip doesnâ€™t quite feel like
I reach Bab Marrakech once again, and after another moments thought, I figure I should continue exploring the medina some more before plunging into another neighbourhood.
So I continue on east, down the palm tree lined boulevard leading to the port-- a pleasant little stretch. Itâ€™s also
I guess if you do want a souvenir, this would be a good place to look-- folks here arenâ€™t nearly as pushy as they are in Marrakech or
Along the way I notice the remains of a French Colonial building, which was probably quite beautiful once upon a timeâ€¦ with a giant skyscraper rising up in the background... I take a picture. I think one theme of this
Here I decide to pause for a second parkbench concert in the shade of the palm treesâ€¦
Too noisy with passing traffic.
010: The â€śEast Sideâ€ť of the Old
Back into the Old Medina for the third time, I explore the cleaner and quieter â€ś
Music Spot 03: Old
Another great, quiet shady spot.
Far away-- but Iâ€™d definitely go back thereâ€¦
I pass by the â€śHotel Centralâ€ť the hotel where I stayed with my family for a few days when we moved here two years agoâ€¦ I have mixed feelings as I remember the obstacles and uncertainty of that timeâ€¦
At the edge of the Medina, thereâ€™s a mosque and what looks like the tomb of a saint-- Iâ€™ll have to do research on this laterâ€¦
Outside, thereâ€™s a new little park thatâ€™s been built right outside the walls, right under peopleâ€™s windowsâ€¦ Itâ€™s clean and well maintained... I sit down for one last music session. There are two university students across from me-- one of them wearing traditional garb and the Islamic beard-with-no-mustache style. I figure he might not approve of my music, but decide to play it anywaysâ€¦ Within a few moments, they come over for a chat. Theyâ€™re studying Islamic Education and hope to continue their studies in
Music Spot 04: Old
Clean, safe, quiet, plenty of benches-- but very little shadeâ€¦
012: The Scrap Market
I continue on, following along the outside of the Old Medina wall past the new yacht marina thatâ€™s being builtâ€¦ past military marine facilities, with smartly dressed sailors heading out to their shipsâ€¦ passed rows of grittly little barbershops and furniture stallsâ€¦
Finally I reach the Tafilalet Entrance on the west side and a â€śScrap Marketâ€ť where folks sell scraps of anything you can think of-- a couple of rusty screwsâ€¦ an ancient transistor radioâ€¦ a shoeâ€¦ Always a fascinating place to exploreâ€¦
And from here I decide itâ€™s time to bid