Marrakesh (Charming Cobras in the Square.)

Marrakesh is a trading center, a vast walled city at the foot of the Atlas Mountains.  For many coming on the caravan trails it was the grandest city they would ever see.  The main attraction of Marrakech, for me, is watching the walls and minaret of the main mosque glow pink in the light just before sunset.  We’ve walked to the gate closest to the hotel to watch the transformation for two nights and can also see it from our hotel window. The main square, the Djemma el Fna makes Marrakesh different from anyplace else.  There really are “charming cobras … Continue reading Marrakesh (Charming Cobras in the Square.)

Take the Train from Casablanca going south. (The Marrakesh Express)

I’ve never heard a train song I didn’t want to ride.  I’ve ridden the Rock Island Line and the City of New Orleans.  Some songs I can never ride.  The Super Chief and Phoebe Snow are 30 years gone.  But you can still “take the train from Casablanca going south.”   We rode the Marrakesh Express.  The song is more about anticipation than the ride, but the ride, while crowded, is worth it.  You clickety clack from the coastal flats through rolling hills and dessert.  There are settlements of brown adobe brick, circled by a wall, looking like they grew out … Continue reading Take the Train from Casablanca going south. (The Marrakesh Express)

Rabat Morocco

From an October 2007 letter:  We’re in Rabat for a Pan-African Community Radio meeting.  In the evenings Suzi and I are free and wander Rabat.  Suzi says “we could live here.”  Rabat is a walkable city, relatively clean, French art deco, relaxed without the hassle (or excitement) of Casablanca.  A teenager grabs Suzi’s hand and starts doing henna artwork before she can protest.  I, of course, have to pay for it, a temporary souvenir of Rabat.  She is the only really aggressive tout we’ve encountered.  It is so unlike Cairo, Casablanca or Marrakech. On Friday we had only morning meetings … Continue reading Rabat Morocco

King Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

The only way to get into the King Hassan II Mosque, if you are not a Moslem, is on a guided tour.  It’s worth it.   The mosque is more than two football fields long and one wide.  I think St. Peters in Rome could easily fit inside if the roof were retracted for the dome.  It has a carved wooden roof of cyprus that is retractable so in good weather you can pray outside.  There is a glass floor under part of the mosque, which is built on and, in parts, over the Atlantic.  The floor gives us a glimpse … Continue reading King Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

Sacré Coeur in Casablanca.

The French Cathedral Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart Cathedral) is at the heart of French Colonial Art Deco Casablanca.  It was built in 1930, abandoned for Catholic worship in 1956 on Morocco’s independence.  It sat derelict for years and reopened as an art gallery just before I got there in 2005.  It is built in a mix of Gothic and Art Deco styles with Islamic touches.  The stained glass is set in cutwork geometric patterns much like the decoration in a mosque.  Paul Tournon was the architect for this church turned art gallery.  It serves its new purpose well.  For more … Continue reading Sacré Coeur in Casablanca.

Casablanca Art Deco

Who wouldn’t want to visit Casablanca made famous by the Bogart film?  Of course that movie was shot in Hollywood, not North Africa.  Some current guidebooks tell us that Casablanca is good as a portal to pass through on your way to more interesting places like Fez and Marrakesh.  One book said that aside from the Grand Mosque of King Hassan II there is not much in the way of ‘sights’ of interest to the tourist, unless you want visit made up sites, two bars designed after the movie set, “Rick’s” and “Casablanca.” My work took me to Casablanca three … Continue reading Casablanca Art Deco