Casablanca is famous for the movie, and most espeically for Rick’s Cafe. I admit it – it was one of the first places I visited when I got there. At the time, I had no idea I would end up getting married in the Sahara… However, there is more to Casa than just Rick’s just as there is more to North Africa and Morocco than the Sahara Desert.
Casablanca is the largest and most important city in Morocco and one of the largest and most important in Africa. The King Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in North Africa and the third largest in the world. With a regional population of more than 6.8 million people, there are numerous embassies, consulates, shopping malls, and the widest variety of food choices anywhere in North Africa. Casablanca was a port of the Phoenicians and the Romans and today is home to the Mohammad V International Airport – so if you are flying to or from Morocco – chances are that you will be in Casablanca at some point. While the old medina in Casablanca isn’t as magnificent as that of Fez or Marrakech – it is still a lot more exciting than walking around most other places and you will get a great feel for Morocco as you explore it. The waterfront offers some amazing seafood and grilled meat options. There are fine hotels in Casablanca and then there are really overpriced ones and finally there are run of the mill, share the toilet with the other guests hotels. I’ve stayed in the hostel and stayed in some of the most expensive riads and frankly…the biggest difference was that the wifi was free in the hostel and the people were friendlier. Middle of the road, hundred euro a night is your best bet in Casablanca.
I didn’t realize this until a couple of years after I left Morocco, but I wasn’t the first Damitio to live there. There were Damitio’s brewing beer in Casablanca from the 1930s until 1956 when independence from France was gained. It turns out I wasn’t the first Damitio to live in Hawaii either – we seem to get around.
Here are a few pictures from this magnificent place.
We are back from Turkey now and in Morocco again. It is just a few days until Ramadan begins and we are going to celebrate most of it up in Sefrou with my wife’s family. It’s a mixture of feelings to be back- part sadness and part joy, for her anyway. For me, I always suffer a bit of a hangover when I get back from travels. This time, a part of it is because I’ve realized over the time I’ve been in Morocco, that I really don’t like being here, the good news is that we won’t be here for long but I’ll talk about that more in future posts, but for now, I want to start giving you the details of our trip to Turkey.
To find great flights to Turkey look at Flights.Vagobond.com
For Hotels be sure to check Hotels.Vagobond.com
We decided to make our first foreign trip together (and Hanane’s first foreign trip of her life) to Turkey for a couple of reasons. The first was that while it is difficult and expensive to get visas to most foreign countries for Moroccans, Turkey is just the opposite. Moroccan’s don’t need a visa for Turkey. For me it was a $20 visa fee on arrival and for her it was just a walk through the immigration line. Another factor was that I didn’t want her to suffer culture shock too terribly and I thought that since Turkey is an Islamic country with a secular government, it would be familiar enough to not be overwhelming and yet different enough to be mind expanding. Of course, I’ve always wanted to go to Turkey, so that also played a part.
Finally, and perhaps most decisively was the fact that we were able to book tickets from Casablanca to Istanbul for both of us for $767 U.S. which comes out to less than $200 per person one way. We found our flights through Air Arabia, a no frills discount airline which provided us with an affordable foreign vacation from Morocco, which isn’t necessarily the case for many other destinations. Since I’m certainly not a rich man, this made it possible. During our trip we managed to do just about everything we wanted to. We spent 17 days in Turkey, traveled thousands of miles both to get there and within Turkey, ate most of our meals in restaurants, did plenty of tourist activities, and bought souvenirs for Hanane and her family. Grand total including airfare was 1866 Euro including the trains between Fes and Casablanca and everything in between. When you subtract the airfare and put things in dollars, that means we were spending about $40 each per day when we averaged it out.
We had actually arranged to couchsurf for 14 of our nights but our hosts didn’t work out on a staggering 11 nights due to family illness, pregnancy, work, or other changes that life provides. This was disappointing to us since we both take committing to hosting as a serious responsibility, but we went with it. In total since we were spending an average of $30 per night for hotels and pensions, that would have saved us an additional $330 + which would have lowered our daily average to right around $30 each per day and probably lowered our food budget since we would have been more likely to self cater from grocery stores instead of eating lunch and dinner out all the time. I think if everyone who had agreed to host us had, we would have actually spent right around $20 per person per day. The good news though, is that since I worked my ass off and insisted that we scrimp and save in the months before we went, we had enough to cover ourselves and the freedom of hotel rooms was pretty nice for us and led us to some wonderful experiences we might have otherwise missed.
During Ramadan, if you fly from Casablanca to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen Airport, you can get a fare that is even less at just $109 each way with Air Arabia. Okay, so much for the airfare, airline tickets, and travel budget numbers…tomorrow, I’ll start detailing the trip itself.