After a warm sunny July in Cape Town, August brought with it erratic gale force winds and non-stop freezing rain. It lashed out and howled for days. Then out of the blue, a beautiful day. So with this schizophrenic behavior from Mother Nature in the Mother city, it was time to buzz off!
Wishes do come true. I was delighted when an invitation came from a friend to visit Morocco for ten days. I graciously accepted and got cracking on my packing!
Morocco has always fascinated me and so far I had not been to this exotic part of the world. So I was naturally excited about the thought of a completely new experience and felt privileged to see this beautiful country through the eyes of a friend.
Casablanca الدار البيضاء ed-dar el-Biḍa meaning “White house” is the hub of Morocco. It is the chief port and industrial centre. Besides being the financial capital of Morocco, Casablanca is also home to the third largest Mosque in the world; the Hassan II Mosque.
The prayer hall can accommodate 25,000 of the faithful, and outside the esplanade can hold another 80,000. It covers two hectares and has the world’s tallest minaret (200 m/656 feet). When it’s really hot and crowded a retractable roof is silently opened. The architecture, art, geometry and the amount of decoration, plaster and wood used to construct this mosque is astonishing.
Casablanca – famous for the eponymous movie – still holds a lot of mystery. It is only two hours flying time from Paris and easy access to the rest of Europe, with Spain on the doorstep. I noticed that Moroccans easily switch languages in mid-sentence, reflecting the cultures – Berber, Arab, French and Spanish.
I loved the Maarif market filled with fresh fish, fruit, spices and vegetables. Habous, the old town, was a walk through centuries of history. The souks are a major feature in Moroccan lifestyle. In the souk you will find exotic food items, traditional arts and crafts, shoes, and clothing. I was thrilled when I found my first Jelabah – caftan dress with the attached hood.
Marrakech is an ochre city, set in exceptional natural beauty. The desert, rugged mountain range and valleys contribute to the charm and intrigue of the city. It is about two hours from Casablanca by car and is visually more romantic, hypnotic and beautiful; basking in red clay buildings, tall palm trees and big olive trees.
The souk or the medina in Marrakech is a mysterious place night and day. Fortune tellers will attempt to read your palm, tame monkeys on a leash screech and bare their teeth at you as you go by. Snakes slither to the sound of a flute and I am convinced I saw a cross between a squirrel and a rat – or was I dreaming? An unusual character is the water-man in his colorful coat with copper cups dangling around his neck, offering drinking water.
In Marrakesh we stayed at the Royal Mansour that was built a few years ago by the King of Morocco. It is more than a luxury hotel. It’s a place of refinement, elegance and discretion where comfort is assured. Each riad ( traditional house built around a central courtyard) at the Royal Mansour is uniquely designed and furnished with silks, ornate tiles, and handcrafted wood and antique furniture. From our private roof terrace as the sun was setting over the Atlas Mountains beyond, I listened to the muezzin and experienced the traditional riad life in our own three-storey private villa. Those who have stepped inside the awesome bronze gates of the Royal Mansour know there is no hotel in Marrakech that can compare to this magnificent hotel that embodies Moroccan hospitality, architecture and lifestyle.
Casablanca “Play it again Sam.”
PS….I use Naturalmente hair products, because they are naturally the bestThe Royal Mansour Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti، زنقة أبي العباس السبتي، Marrakesh 40000, Morocco Tel: +212 52980-8080