“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
One of the many famous lines told by Humphrey Bogart of the classic 1942 movie “Casablanca”. It’s only fitting that I begin this post with a sense of vintage nostalgia, because that’s where we are headed to next: Casablanca, Morocco! And what in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca? My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters. The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert. I was misinformed. In all seriousness, I’m only visiting Casablanca because the flight there was cheaper than flights to more upbeat towns like Marrakech or the capital city of Rabat. It didn’t hurt that I had relatively high hopes of Casablanca because of how acclaimed the movie is. Was there really a gin joint? I wanted to find it! We took a seven-hour direct flight from Dubai to Morocco and landed around noon in Moroccan time…or at least we think we did? The timezone is different but everyones clocks seems to be the correct time (whatever time that was) or an hour off for some odd reason. Not only is it noon but it’s also one o’clock in Morocco! It could also be 11 am! Makes perfect sense!
Once we landed, it took us forever and a day to get through customs and find our luggage. The guy at the customs desk in our line hated his life and took his sweet old time stamping visas while all the other lines moved at a considerably faster pace. It was one of those moments that if I moved from this line into one of those faster lines, with my luck, my new line would become the slow line and the guy stamping visas in my old line would suddenly become The Flash for no reason. Once we made it through customs, we had to wait even longer to get our luggage. There were a lot of passengers on our flight so there was a lot of bags to sift through. Once we got our bags, we exited the airport. Where were you headed? I have no conviction, if that’s what you mean. I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Southeast Michigan. However, I did do a bit of research about the taxi’s here in Morocco. I read to avoid hiring a driver who is directly outside the exits of the airports. They are generally younger and will rip you off like no other! Instead, walk a few minutes further and look for an older driver with a ragtag, beat up car; he’s your winner! Most of the drivers we walked by assumed I was Moroccan and shouted to me in French and Arabic with ridiculous prices (just like I read). Instead we found an older gentleman further down who gave us a lift for a much lower price (also just like I read). I asked him to take us to the Medina of Casablanca which I imagined is the most happenin’ part of the city.
Surprisingly (or not surprisingly if you know me at all), I have never seen the movie. But what I imagined Casablanca to look like in my head was nothing like what it actually revealed itself to be; a big, crowded city filled with maniac drivers who spammed their car horn, heaps of garbage bags spilling over into the avenues, and hordes of cat gangs roaming the streets in search of mischief. There were little markets and such along the major roads and the citizens of the town were all either in a rush to get somewhere or casually lounging around speaking Arabic amongst their cohorts. The city had an interesting life of it’s own and it was certainly something to see. But still there was nothing “Casablanca” about Casablanca. At least the part of the town I seen. To be fair, I never saw the movie and all judgement aside, this is exactly what I wanted. Our driver dropped us off in front of the accommodation I booked called Hôtel Central, near the ship port. It was more like a hostel than a hotel.
The guy at the front desk gave us a key to our room which was near the top of the building and the only way to get up there was to lug our bags up a winding flight of stairs. The room was pretty basic: two beds and a bathroom. Boom. That’s all we really needed. Especially since we were only going to stay in Casa for the day and head to Marrakech tomorrow morning.
I heard a story once — as a matter of fact, I’ve heard a lot of stories in my time. They began with the sound of a tiny piano playing in a parlor downstairs. My stories usually begin with me falling ill to some random sickness during one of my many global expeditions. Fortunately, I broke my personal record of not getting sick this whole trip thus far. Unfortunately, I saw my streak coming to a bitter end. I had slight sniffles. It ALWAYS begins with slight sniffles. My slight sniffles almost killed me on top of Mount Kilimanjaro last year. It didn’t bother me at the moment but I knew it would turn into something monstrous. It always does. But in order not to cater to whatever mystery illness would evolve from this, Chris and I decided to go out into the town and look for some
authentic Moroccan food McDonald’s. I spotted one on the way to the hotel and I knew exactly where it was! We also picked up a Moroccan plug outlet that uses the dual-pin style prongs.
As we were walking getting the scope of things, we walked by the market area where a local came up and started talking to us. Since he was there, I asked him if it was better to book our train to Marrakech today of if we can just book it on the spot tomorrow. He told us that we’d be okay booking it tomorrow and that we should follow him to his store. I wasn’t prepared to haggle or buy anything today but figured there would be no harm to go to his little store. He showed us all of his oils and arabic clothing including tunics and scarves. I didn’t want any of it at that moment but his white tunic with black laces he showed me looked pretty cool. I ended up doing a bad job of haggling and ended up buying it anyways. His partner wanted to take me upstairs to show me his rugs he had for sale. What the heck am I going to do with a rug? “We can ship it to you easily” he said. One thing is for sure, never ever trust a person on the street when they say they will ship something to your country if you buy it. I politely told him no thanks and we went on our way. Back at the hotel, we went up to the rooftop and gazed across the city. In the background we could hear a loud arabic chant. I think he was praying or summoning people to come pray with him. Appropriate for the occasion nonetheless and I completely welcomed it. I sat over the edge of the roof and no matter how dungy the town was, it still made for some pretty awesome views from up top!
Casablanca didn’t have too much to offer, but then again we didn’t stay long to investigate. I couldn’t find any gin spots like Humphrey claimed there was, but that’s okay! We wanted to wake up early enough to catch a four-hour train to the most popular city in Morocco called Marrakech! Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake. I don’t know what you mean, Miss Ilsa. Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By.