Eight and a half years ago, I traveled to Casablanca, Morocco. It was my first international trip post-college, and I was visiting friends who were living there for a year after school. It was such a big trip for me at the time; I can still tell you how much I paid for that plane ticket! I spent a week and a half visiting Fez and Marrakech and doing life with the girls in Casablanca. My day in Marrakech is still one of my “top 10 life days,” and the whole trip is among my all-time favorites. I think it was the beginning of my love for Middle Eastern architecture, food, and culture. (And yes, my hair was longer then!)
At that time, I never would’ve guessed that I would be back to Morocco. Especially for work! But, if I’ve learned one thing while living here, it’s that anything is possible. A week ago, I flew from Geneva to Casablanca for my second trip to Morocco.
There’s only one flight a day from Geneva, so we had to fly on a Saturday to be able to set up the meeting room on Sunday for a Monday morning start. We arrived in time for dinner at Restaurant du Port de Peche for some fresh fish.
On Sunday morning, I snuck out of the hotel early to visit a hammam – a must when in Morocco! Of course, a trip wouldn’t be complete without some drama with a taxi driver. The driver & I had a nice chat in a mixture of French and Italian for the 15 minute drive to the hammam, but when we arrived, he tried to charge me more than 3x the right amount! Unbelievable! Let’s just say that he picked the wrong girl to cheat. I won the argument we had in French, and he got the appropriate amount.
Thankfully, I forgot about him quickly, because it’s impossible to be stressed in a hammam. Istanbul Spa & Hammam has private hammams, which I enjoyed along with a scrub and an hour long massage. Three hours of bliss for about $60 USD! Such a treat when coming from Switzerland where any kind of spa or beauty treatment is outrageously expensive!
My boss had more success with his taxi driver and picked me up from the spa in time for lunch. We went to La Sqala, which was AMAZING! Outdoor terrace seating, beautiful weather, colorful dishes, and delicious food!
After lunch, we walked about 20 minutes to Hassan II mosque. We heard a lot of different facts about the mosque from locals. According to Wikipedia and a couple of other online sources, here’s my take on the facts and the fiction:
- It’s the largest mosque in Morocco [TRUE]
- It’s the second largest mosque in the world [FALSE – one source says it’s the 5th largest; another says it’s the 7th]
- It has the tallest minaret in the world [TRUE – 210 meters high]
Beginning Sunday afternoon, the week was focused on leading a workshop, but on Tuesday night, the local leadership team took us to dinner at Rick’s Cafe. For those of you who’ve seen the movie Casablanca, you know about Rick’s Cafe. I even overheard the piano player playing “As Time Goes By” during our meal! (The restaurant was opened in 2004, and it is a recreation of the bar in the movie.)
Some of you have asked what I’m doing when I visit these other countries. Here are a couple of photos to show you what the rest of my week in Casablanca entailed…
[Store visits to see what the coffee sections look like]
[Group work during the workshop! It’s always amazing to watch the groups grasp new concepts and to get creative with their final presentations!]
[Smiles all around at the end of the week. Almost 45 people from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia participated in the workshop!]
Not sure if I’ll be back in Morocco any time soon, but if so, I know I will be welcomed warmly. This is an amazingly hospitable culture!