A whistle stop tour of Casablanca and falling in love with the blue city

So I arrived safe and sound in Casablanca on Wednesday evening and I was met by my concierge and driver from the Odyssee Hotel, both very welcoming and friendly too. My driver took me the scenic, coastal route to the hotel so I got a chance to see the very busy beachfront, the magnificent Hassam II mosque and the palm lined wide streets which made me feel like I was more in LA than Morocco. My driver also gave me lots of tips on where to go, where the African souk was etc. He was very helpful.

Odessee Hotel

This was a fabulous hotel to stay in, really close to the African souk, plenty of restaurants and just up the road from the meeting point for the tour also. However if you’re looking for traditional Moroccan accommodation then this wouldn’t be for you, if you’re looking for modern and good comfort then this is your spot. I had a lovely falafel burger for dinner and even sampled some of the mint and lemon water and sugary marshmallows which were complimentary, a lovely touch.

Casablanca in one day

So after an early night I awoke refreshed and ready to take on Casablanca. The buffet breakfast had plenty to offer but I of course chose all the sweet things, I had two different types of pancakes, a random ham bun and a delicious orange bun. I loved the little touches in this hotel, there was a little note on the breakfast table with the phrases Bismallah (which you say before you eat) and hamdoullah (when you’re finished), similar to a grace before and after you’ve eaten. They also had a card in the room filled with handy phrases in both French and Arabic.

Off I strolled towards the mosque, passing by the African souk, random pretty doors and of course Rick’s cafe also. It took me about 30 minutes to walk to the mosque and that was taking into account a little detour around some road works. It costs 120 dirham for the entrance with the tour.

I really enjoyed this tour, the guide was very informative and she had a great sense of humour too. We just had to remove our shoes and carry them around in a canvas bag. We were brought all around the inside of the breathtaking mosque, which took only 6 years to build with workers working day and night to get it finished. The majority of the materials are from Moroccan except for the Italian glass and the titanium used for the windows. There were so many beautifully patterned sections on the ceilings, the walls and downstairs in the baths also. But my favourite part were the gorgeous lanterns, so pretty. If I could take one of those home with me I’d be happy out, don’t think they’ll fit in my backpack though.

On my way back to the hotel I walked past the African souk from the other direction and wandered in a little bit to have a look around the markets. I bought some fresh orange juice from a very welcoming local and took a selfie with some locals who were selling water in traditional dishes.

I had a Lebanese wrap and some mint tea back at the hotel, where the waiter also showed me how to properly pour the tea, from a height. I walked up to the hotel where I would meet the group later, Moroccan House Hotel and I checked into my room. I got a petit taxi down to the Moroccan mall and browsed the shops down there, all the usual high street shops from home. I also walked around the massive supermarket where I spotted some of the gigantic watermelon I had seen on the side of the road yesterday. They have lots of dried goods; rice, pasta, cous-cous etc set up in containers and you fill up paper bags and get them weighed, pretty simple idea. So many different spices there too of course.

Once I was back at the hotel, which was much more traditional than last nights stay, I met the G Adventures tour guide, Said and the rest of the group, there’s 14 of us all together from the States, Canada, Australia, Belgium and a good few teachers from Ireland too of course. We went out for dinner in a restaurant down the street. I had the chicken tagine with veg and we had some warm crusty rolls and olives to start, all delicious.

Tangier

After an early breakfast of pancakes and a mini omelette we all got on the G-adventures bus and headed to Tangier, 5 hours later (with a coffee/toilet stop halfway) we arrived in Tangier where we met a local Tangerine guide who brought us around the high fortressed city. We passed by so many tiny little alleyways, pretty doorways and I loved all the lovely smells from different kitchens we passed, making me even more hungry.

So it was perfect timing when our guide Said showed us the common oven, that the local women use to bake their bread and we of course had the chance to taste a fresh loaf, yum. We wandered through the markets where the smell of fresh olives hit me straight away and there were so many different types of olives. There were also lots of different dates too, just a feast for the eyes.

And a feast is exactly what we had for lunch, we were given more tasty fresh bread to share along with an aubergine dip, a pepper and tomato dip and a seriously delicious harissa dip and some very tasty olives. For starters we had the harira soup, reminded me a little of minestrone. Next we had the chicken pastilla which was covered with icing sugar and cinnamon so an unusual but surprisingly tasty combination of flavours. For mains we shared cous cous, chicken tagine, beef tagine and fish tagine. And just when we thought we couldn’t possibly eat anymore we were given some very sweet baklava and watermelon slices served with mint tea. All for the price of 150 dirham, so reasonable. We also took in the view up on the rooftop after.

Chefchaouen

Onto the bus again and we travelled another two hours (with a stop off halfway at a dam) to Chefchaouen where we checked into our hotel, Hotel Madrid and we chilled for an hour, which was plenty of time to freshen up. We were also welcomed with some mint tea and a biscuit. The hotel is really pretty, there’s so much colour which fits in perfectly with the blue surroundings.

Said then brought us on a lovely walking tour up to the fountain, where we passed another community oven, beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, the laundry basins used by the local women and we got to taste some fresh local honey too, so unbelievably sweet.

Next we were shown how to wear the local headscarves which then turned into a full on dress up session, I think I could totally pull off this look, ha ha. We strolled up and down the hilly, blue streets past so many colourful shops filled with tempting trinkets, scarves, rugs, hats, leather bags etc. I plan to browse more thoroughly tomorrow and put my haggling skills to the test, or at least attempt to do so. Chefchaouen is a photographer’s absolute dream, around every corner is a kaleidoscope of colour, pattern and picturesque blue stepped streets with lovely baskets filled with flowers. We were constantly stopping to take photos.

We passed by one of the fresh spring fountains which the local children were messing about and drinking in and then a local shopkeeper gave us all mint tea to welcome us to Chefchaouen, it’s particularly sweet here but it will be different in the desert seemingly. I had asked Said in Tangier about tasting some street food and true to his word he treated us all to some fresh piping hot sugary doughnuts, absolutely delicious. We ended our evening down at the square, beside the kasbah, having a small bite to eat and listening to some music.

While I was writing this back in my hotel room there were some women singing and hollering, I looked out the window and it looked like a wedding celebration. I leaned out my window and listened till they continued on to the next street, delighted I got to see that. Today I’ve a free day in Chefchaouen, there’s an optional activity of hiking up the mountain but I think I’m gonna head up early to the mosque on the hill and wander around this beautiful city for the day drinking lots of mint tea as I go, just like a true Moroccan. šŸ˜€

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