Grand Africa voyage – Casablanca/Marrakesh

21 October 2022  Casablanca to Marrakesh, Morocco, by Barbara Cummings

About 6am I heard the ship sound like it was docking.  The phone alarm rang at 6:15am, and my day started.  Set out a bag of laundry.  Posted feedback on the HAL Navigator praising Bo, who leaves today.
The TV bow camera shows the lights of the dark port of Casablanca.  Photographed the TV map with the reliable clock.

7am breakfast  in the Lido was bacon & eggs, fruit, orange juice, and coffee.  Brought back two raisin buns to take in my travel bag today to Marrakesh.  
I am supposed to meet my private Cruise Critic tour with Mary Anne at 7:45am, but Cruise & Travel Director Jeremy keeps announcing that we are waiting for the health clearance.  (Hoping that we do not have to all take rapid Covid tests again this morning) It was 8:26am when the ms Zaandam was cleared for passengers to go ashore.

I left the ship and got photographed in my Singapore dress to visit beautiful and magical Marrakesh.  It was a long walk to the end of the dock, where Mary Anne was busy loading people into her “Across Africa Tours” vans.  Today is her first day of freedom after Covid isolation.

I boarded bus #2 and sat in the back seat between Xliblablady Susan & Jerry McClung.  Plus one empty seat.  19 seater van. 
Osama is our tour guide, and Medi is our driver.  We started driving to Marrakesh at 9am. Osama told us that Marrakesh is the fourth largest city in Morocco.  It is a blend of Berber and Arab cultures.

The land was mostly dry and flat.  Irrigation produced a few green spots.  I saw a few donkeys, sheep, and a cow.
At 9:30am we stopped at a rest area.  Men were selling fragrant herbal necklaces for $1, and I bought one.
We drove closer to the Atlas Mountains and saw orchards of olive trees.  And palm trees, which are protected here.  It took 3 1/2 hours to reach Marrakesh, and another 30 minutes to reach the Medina / Old Town, which consisted of the Mosque, the Jewish Quarter (from the Spanish Inquisition), and the Souk / market.  Osama rolled the R’s in Marrakesh when he spoke, just like Spanish.

We drove through the new part of town, where most women covered their heads. 
When inside the Old Town / Medina, we shopped at the “Koutoubia Mosque, completed under the reign of the Almohad Calip Yaqui al-Mansur (1184-1189).”  Osama told us that this minaret is copied from the Gerald’s in Seville, Spain.  (Time for sunscreen)

Drove to the center of the Old Town / Medina, then walked through the “Jewish Quarter (mullah), where this district’s architecture is different.”  Wished that I could have taken more photos, but it was hard for me to keep up with the group.  I walk so slowly.
Friday today, so we heard the loud call to prayer outside and also the Imam’s loud broadcast sermon.

Our lunch was in a lovely restaurant.  We sat at circular tables, surrounded by Islamic art, tiles, and a huge chandelier.
First, water was poured into our glasses, and bread was served.  Five or six plates of dip for the bread were passed around.  Maybe bean, lentil, carrot, apricot + ???
Then the impressive ceramic Tangine was delivered, full of beef, prunes, & almond Tangine.  Delicious.  Couscous was delivered and passed around the table.  This was a feast.  Dessert was a delicate flakey cream dish.  Then came hot tea and a rich cookie.
A musician entertained us, and a glittering lady danced around with a brightly-lit chandelier on her head.  (Not exactly a belly dancer)

We returned by foot to the center of the Old Medina, surrounded by shops.  About 80 degrees.  I was so hot and tired, that I asked Osama to let me sit down and wait in the shade for them to return.  I was heartbroken to miss out on what was supposed to be a visit to the Souk / market, but I knew when to stop.  My chair was between a leather shop and a restaurant hawker.  This young man was studying English, Spanish, and French in college, and I heard him use all three languages in his attempts to lure customers.  He worked in Marrakesh and lived with his parents in The Sahara.  I gave him a Port Angeles postcard, which he plans to put on the wall of his room. 
I watched the horses and carriages.  Restless horses in the hot sun.  One kind man poured water on the backs of his horses.  

It was 4:40pm when we left the old fortified Medina to drive back to Casablanca.  I was surprised that Osama stayed in his hometown Marrakesh, while driver Medi drove us back. Susan sitting next to me loves to visit.  She takes lovely photos and knows how to use the iPhone and iPad.  She was surprised that she could not change the time on my iPhone and Apple Watch. Assured me that she changed nothing.

In the van, Susan told me that I had not missed out on shopping in the Souk.  There was not enough time, so they went to Jena el Fnea, the busiest square and market place in Africa.  No stopping for shopping. I was not the only one who needed to sit and rest.  And there was also not enough time to visit the planned hidden Saadian Tombs or Majorella Garden.
What we did see was wonderful and magical.  Truly memorable.

We made a 15-minute rest stop at a Winco gas station / snack shop /small store.  It got dark, and we returned to port at 8:25pm, just before the 8:30 All Aboard.  Officers and staff welcomed us back.  I got to see Guest Services Mgr Joanne Valerio from the 2018 ms Volendam Japan cruise two times, morning and evening.  It had cooled down, and I felt much better.  Sail away was scheduled for 9pm, but we left at 9:15pm. 

Back in my room, my morning laundry was waiting to be put away.  Two dark chocolates were with tomorrow’s Daily Program.  I was too full of lunch to want to eat.  What I needed to do was send and label photos, write in this journal, and send this email.
Unfortunately, neither my text message nor an email managed to go out to Jack on the iPad.

Quote of the Day:  “Travel is still the most intense mode of learning.”  Kevin Kelly

Photo Gallery

Note: Since this posting contains so many images, I have decided to post them gallery style. to see a larger image, just click on the image and then you can side scroll through the rest of the images. JWC

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