Having lived in two vastly different countries, I took a plunge and booked my first solo trip to Morocco.
Early morning breakfast
I woke up early (as usual), washed, and headed down the elevator to the dining area. The hotel had a breakfast buffet. I filled up my plate with an omelet, dried figs, a few dates, orange slices, toast, luncheon, and toast. I filled up a cup with tangerine juice.
It was all delicious, as far as I remember.
I went back for a smaller second serving of olives, what I believe now was m'semen, and another juice that I do not remember its type or flavor.
Then I headed out at around 7AM to see the colossal minaret of the Hassan II Mosque.
Breakfast at the Campanile Hotel in Casablanca, Morocco
A longer walk than planned
Google Maps works fine in Morocco. But I thought I'd try my luck and navigate the metropolitan city on my own, after getting a general idea of the direction I'd need to walk in.
After all, how complex can a coastal city be? I've seen Alexandria, Egypt, and it was practically a horizontal long strip.
But I got a bit more lost than I anticipated.
I made the mistake of taking the inner roads, rather than those closest to the shore. While I walked along the tramway route for a while, I eventually took a right, thinking I was taking a shorter path.
The walk that would've taken approximately an hour ended up taking over two!
But it the majestic scene at the end was worth it.
My first close glimpse of the Hassan II Grand Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco
The Grand Mosque
The Hassan II Grand Mosque was magnificent. And the tile-work was splendid. The mix of dark olive green with a light brown against the sky, and the grand size of the walls and the colossal minaret were awesome.
Before the mosque itself was a large tiles space, stretching for quite the distance on both ends. A walk from the start of the complex to the doors of the mosque is significant. And the splendor grows as you step closer.
A different entrance to the complex from the one I approached features a series of arches encompassing another smaller open tiled area.
The mosque is the second largest in Africa and the seventh in the world. And, of course, the largest in Morocco. The minaret is the second tallest in the world, towering at 210 meters into the sky.
After walking around the mosque and taking photos of the magnificent landmark, I stepped out of the complex and onto the street to hail a cab. (I wasn't interested in making another mistake and arrive too late for check-out.)
I packed up by luggage, grabbed my camera, took the elevator down to the lobby, checked out, and walked again back to the Casa Voyageurs Train Station.
The Fastest Train in Africa
I bought a ticket on the 'Al-Boraq' high-speed train to Tangier. Africa's first high-speed train, it cut a trip, that used to take over 6 hours and a half from Casablanca to Tangier, to a mere 2 hours and 10 minutes.
There was also a neat special lounge for Al-Boraq passengers at the station.
The Al-Boraq Lounge at the Casa Voyageurs Train Station
The Train Station's Organization
The Casa Voyageurs Train Station is very organized. The hall that you reach by elevator, escalator, or stairs when you arrive, has doors for each two platforms. You can access the elevator or escalator for your platform through those doors.
The High-Speed Train
The Al-Boraq train was very clean and pleasantly designed. I had purchased a first-class ticket, thinking that the trains and public transport in Morocco wouldn't be as neat and clean as I'd tolerate, but I was happily surprised to find it much cleaner and neater than I had anticipated.
The chairs were relaxing and super comfortable. Their colors, I'm guessing, were to reflect the hue of the national flag and the country's cultural designs and patterns. It was all very pleasant to the eyes.
The Al-Boraq high-speed train to Tangier
Tanger Ville Railway Station
The train reached Tangier at around 3:15 PM.
The Tanger Ville Railway Station is a simple, yet pleasantly designed building, blending hints of Maghrebi aesthetics with modern simplicity.
The exterior from the platform side featured a long glass wall with diamond-shaped frames, with an arabesque-ish patterned segment protruding on the left side, about one-and-a-half stories above the ground. The ceiling was light gray with more diamond patterns.
The inside featured a narrow long mini-garden with flowers, shrubs, palm trees stretching three-stories high to the ceiling, and a rectangular fountain in the center. The interior walls had complementing modern and traditional patterns that added vibrancy and life.
Stepping out of the train station, the traveler is greeted by a vast spacious public square that opens up to the sky, encircled by a few generously spaced wide tall modern towers that gleamed in the sunlight.
Looking back at the station, the exterior from the street side is more beautiful than the view from the platform. The glass doors are aligned on the sides by more glass tinted with Moroccan patterns. Two white tower-like segments of the building stand on each side of the entrance, with more arabesque patterns running along the center. And the few yards leading up to the entrance are shaded by simple small curved canopies.
Stay tuned for Day 2 - Part 2
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