Africa

Morocco: Marrakech to Casablanca by Train

Marrakech is by most standards a touristy city, but the size of the Medina (old walled town) allows you to comfortably avoid the other foreigners in the narrow alleys and quaint neighborhoods. Walk a few steps outside the highlights on the tourist map, and you’re practically the only foreigner there. The recent CIA warning of the high likelihood of ISIS-planned attacks in Morocco may have put a damper on tourism, and perhaps that’s why I got such a deal on accommodations.

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With India fresh in mind, Morocco appears as an orderly and modern place though there are plenty of shocking displays of humanity if you look for it. The Medina is a maze of narrow alleys, passages, mind boggling souks, homes, and people selling anything you want (and more often, don’t want). One of the greater challenges for a Westerner is avoiding the touts and pushy sales tactics. Even though I consider myself street-wise, I fell victim to a few low-stakes schemes, usually starting with an innocent friendly gesture. But the experience only cost me a couple of Dirhams, and I’m wiser for it.

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While many visitors choose to stay in more Western-style hotels, I had the pleasure of being housed in a traditional Riad, a traditional and unassuming fronted larger house with a courtyard. The experience was amazing — these homes are more or less insulated from the chaotic life and noise just outside their thick walls. An oasis, of sorts.

img_6257Entrance to my Riad.

Riad inside.

img_6305Jewish Cemetery, Marrakech

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img_6234Tannery, Marrakech. The stench was unbearable…

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Flying out of Casablanca, I boarded the day train from ‘Kech to ‘Casa, a beautiful 3-4 hour journey through the countryside. Compared to the former, ’Casa is a big, sprawling metropolis. While the city boasts an impressive array of French colonial architecture, it lacks the charm of ‘Kech. If you come here for a romantic movie throwback to last century, you’re out of luck — Casablanca wasn’t even filmed here, and Rick’s Cafe never existed. Nevertheless, the huge city offers a good contrast to the more cinematic Marrakech.

img_6354Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

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img_6388Mural, Casablanca

Casablanca Medina.

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With society here mirroring developments in the rest of the world, it’s a little harder to experience what one hopes to be uniquely Moroccan. But it’s there if you take the time to wander a little. I happened upon a funeral with the ritual of hired wailing women, experienced traditional cooking up close and committed a religion-related few faux pas, all committed to memory.

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Categories: Africa, Morocco

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