Tank Tops, Lady Drivers, and Pork. Where am I?

Our first week here in Casablanca has been quite nice.  Slowly but surely we are making our apartment our home and figuring out the city in increasingly larger concentric circles.

 Last Saturday our sponsor drove us around to get a sense for the city.  We drove through the Haboos, an "old city" type area with a mosque, a plaza, and traditional goods like rugs, leather shoes, olives and yes, even camel meat.  Evidently you can tell if camel is on the menu in the Haboos if a camel head is tacked to the outside of the shop.  Such was the case last week as we saw a camel head with a mouth full of mint  hung above the mantel.  Maybe on our next visit...  I expected the city to be as urban and gritty as it is, so I am always delighted to see more charming, traditional places like the Haboos.

We had lunch in the central market which is shaped in a square with shops facing into the square and a smaller square inside with shops facing the walkway between the two.  The central market and its neighborhood including Place Muhammad V are remnants of the French occupation that didn't leave Morocco until in 1956.  We didn't tour the area very extensively, but there is an old post office that was on the french route through Morocco during WWII and some other historical buildings of note and architectural substance.  We ate a fine lunch of fried calamari, sardines, and some white fish with lemon after a bowl of lentils.  I haven't liked sardines or calamari up to this point in my life, but they were so fresh and flavorful.  I think I might be changing my mind about many a fish dish here in Morocco.

We also drove past the flea market which was constructed mainly from tarps and crates and looked tres mysterious.  Casablanca experiences a very disparate distribution of wealth and little shanty towns called "Bidonvilles" have sprung up all over the city, growing in the cracks between pricey restaurants and new foreign investments.  There are actually a lot of new building projects fueled by foreign and local investments all over the city.  The new Casablanca Mall will be opening up in October (including a Gap and an H&M) and there are a few different projects taking place along the coast including a new aquarium and another commercial center.

Lastly we passed by the Corniche, or boardwalk area running parallel to the Atlantic Ocean.  The Corniche is a long walkable path sandwiched between two Mcdonalds - one of which was having a performance of some kind as we drove past.  Mcdonalds are a big deal in the Middle East - a big fancy deal.  We've had a bit of rain here and so we haven't taken a walk out there yet, but we will get there some day this week after work.  From the corniche you can see the enormous Hassan II mosque (and really, any place high up in the city I guess).   I am very much looking forward to touring it soon.

Other Observations
Left turns here are absurd.  Instead of lining up one at a time to turn left, all of the cars line up side by side, seven, eight, nine, ten, across and when the its time to go it's a race to see who can/will go first and the herd follows suit until they are back into one or two lanes of traffic.  Craziest thing I've ever seen.  

People don't eat dinner here until LATE.  We had heard this about Moroccans and so we prudently waited to go out for Indian food at the India Palace until 8:30.  We were the only people there for almost an hour.  Even the cooks were just staring out at us through the kitchen.  While it might sound kind of cool to have four or five waiters attending to your every twitch and head nod, it's actually mostly creepy.  
In one day Max and I saw men and women holding hands on the street, women in tank tops and short skirts, pork butchers, and a woman cab driver.  What country is this?  We heard it was more european than the rest of the Middle East, but we have been surprised to the level at which that is true.  I've never even had a female cab driver in America - land of the free and the progressive.  Morocco is nice.

Awesome Moment of the Week
There's no way to convey irony through a font I guess, but that last sub-title was meant ironically.  Last week a few worker men came to the house to take away my broken dish washer.  I was rushing home from lunch with Max because I knew they were waiting for me.  When I got inside I unlocked my multiple locks locked front door and put my bag somewhere quickly to show them to the kitchen.  These two men only spoke French and my French, unfortunately, has taken a hit over the last few months.  As they were carrying the dishwasher towards the front door the doorbell rang and their english speaking supervisor, whom I had met already, was waiting outside to facilitate communication between the three of us.  In my initial rush to get in the door I had unthinkingly placed my keys...somewhere...  and I couldn't open the door.

So, the two men holding the dishwasher are locked inside with me, asking questions in French while I run around and look for the keys and the english speaking supervisor on the outside of the door thinks something is wrong with the door and does he, perhaps, need to break in.

It was epic.

I found the keys after a few embarrassing minutes and all was well.  I'm just saying, these are the moments you miss when everyone speaks the same language and you have lived in your house for more than a week :)     


  1. There were female cab drivers in distinct, Barbie pink cabs when I stayed overnight in Dubai.

  2. Welcome "home"! I hope your settling in goes smoothly & easily...and I fully expect to get some good light-hearted reading here if it doesn't. =)

    Enjoy these first few weeks at your new post. I'm sure you'll be turning left with the best of them in no time.


  3. Darlin Girl - I have been locked in my own house too. I try to look at the bright side that it is better than being locked out! love you love you


  4. No way! Pink cabs? I guess we can't have men stepping into taxis with unaccompanied women in them, can we?

  5. Gap and H&M, and I don't have to fly back to the US to shop there? Dreamy. Don't worry, I've already priced flights for a trip. :)