If you left New York City and sailed straight across the Atlantic, you would hit Morocco, a country which also borders the Mediterranean to the north. While Morocco is Muslim, its long relationship with Europe causes it to be a congenial version of this religion. Many of the Arabs who lived in Spain for 800 years moved here when they were kicked out during the Inquisition, and then Morocco became a Portuguese colony. Most recently Morocco has been a French colony and today it is a kingdom with a parliamentary government system.
While we saw many women with head coverings, a significant minority wore clothing a lot like mine. We saw women walking alone and women shake hands with men. Billboard advertising photos had pictures of people that could easily be found in the US. However, the landscape is peppered with mosques, whose minaret towers first catch your eye from a distance. Five times a day recorded voices calling the people to prayer blare out from the these towers and people respond accordingly, pausing at the door of the mosque to remove their shoes. The most significant building we saw in Casablanca, the Hassan II Mosque, can hold up to 80,000 people on the complex grounds. Equally significant was the forest of satellite dishes and TV antennas we saw on even the most hovel - like buildings. These people must love to watch TV!
Last time we were here it was during Ramadan, a thirty day period when the devout fast from sun up to sun down. Although our guide tried to be congenial, we could tell that his hunger and nicotine deprivation did not have a positive effect on his disposition. Ramadan ended yesterday and it is Friday, the holy day of the week, so many stores and businesses were closed and people were celebrating big time for the start of a three day weekend. The streets were full of family groups and we were joined by locals from our of town when we made our major site seeing stops. They seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them and some seemed honored to be included in our pictures and wanted pictures with us in them as well. The streets were jammed with cars and buses. Casablanca cannot build a subway because the water table is too near the surface. Our guide said a car without a horn is no car, but the driving appeared civilized.
Our guide said that the major export of Morocco is phosphate followed closely by young people, since 50% of the population is under 22 years of age. A bit later he took us to some Roman ruins where many storks had built nests and were also in the family way. Coincidence?
We left Casablanca, the second largest port in Africa after Durban, South Africa and drove an hour to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Well over half the people who live there are employees of the government - sound familiar? The king has a huge palace complex there and over 2,000 people live within its confines, working hard to give the king a kingly life. The tomb of his grandfather, Mohammed V, was also a spectacular collection of marble, tiles, and brass and a popular tourist spot for the locals and us. Most picturesque was the casbah, a warren of twisting whitewashed streets and homes with decorated doors. There we were served mint tea, a cure for whatever ails you.
As is often the case on a cruise, our day in Morocco only gave us a taste of this country and it is on the list for a longer return visit.