Saturday, February 6, 2016

[CASABLANCA] The Mall Life, the Beach Life

I just echoed what Wikitravel said, that Casablanca felt a bit like Los Angeles. I don’t know if it was the combo of the palm trees and the coastline that gave me that idea. Anyway, my teacher let out a big laugh when she heard this and my only classmate followed her lead, so I just laughed with them. The Rabat – Casablanca rivalry might be true after all. But yes, Hassan II Mosque aside, I think people just come here to laze at the beach or go shopping, which is so very SoCal in my opinion. Right?

It takes an hour by train from Rabat, which meant that coming here did not need any special planning. Trains leave every 30 minutes if I remember it correctly. All you have to do is show up at the train station and buy a ticket. The tricky part is which station in Casa to choose. If you are going to the airport, there is a train for that route. If you are visiting the central part of the city, you are better off at Casa Voyageurs. If your sole purpose is sightseeing, then get off at Casa Port right along the Atlantic Coast.

The main attraction is the mosque which claims to be the largest in Africa and ranks third in the world. I find the façade really fascinating, what with its emerald hues glistening in the sun. Taking a selfie with the entire structure at the background has proven to be quite challenging. You will have to find a spot a few hundred meters away to capture it entirely in one frame. That will keep you busy for around an hour or so, and more if you just love photography.

The mosque was at the bottom of my priority list because I came here to go malling. I know, right? Who does that. I do. I guess this is just one of the rare cases of me missing Manila where we have a rather vibrant malling culture. That’s why when I feel homesick, I go to the nearest mall, and Morocco Mall does not disappoint. It IS huge, has IMAX, a huge aquarium, and a marina overlooking the Atlantic. Sorry, Mall of Asia, but Manila Bay just does not compare.

The mall is too luxurious for my taste, reminiscent of that mall at Marina Bay Sands where you just can’t help but feel so fucking poor because of all the high end brands you see. I guess this is warranted, though, given Casa’s status as Morocco’s largest city. Rabat is the capital, but it is in Casa where every Moroccan with a dream is supposed to end up to chase that dream, and if you explore well enough you are bound to find the stark contrast that hounds every financial center as far as economic status is concerned.

But we did not come here to discuss politics or economics. After losing my battle with a giant hamburger at Burger King, I decided that it was time to begin the long walk back to Casa Port, which should be all pleasant and visually appealing because of the Atlantic Ocean. True enough, it was a sight to behold. I mean, I’ve seen better coastlines but what I like or, perhaps, hate most about this one is its busy nature, as if every Moroccan living in the city came by to say hi. Or maybe it’s because I went on a weekend?

This was the only other plan after Morocco Mall. As for the mosque, we will just visit it if we still have time. I think it took me around two hours to get from Morocco Mall all the way to the mosque. I had to stop every time I saw something worth a photo or a video and I also had to find refuge from the sun, which came in the form of a Starbucks break. But some idiot always ends up ruining my day when I walk around the city like this. Today was no exception.

I’m not sure if it was after passing KFC when I saw yet another beach entrance that I wanted to take a video of because it was rather busy. I always do that to show the dynamics in the place, because sometimes a single photo just doesn’t do it. A guy suddenly came out of nowhere yelling NO NO NO. He tried to grab my phone and when he failed, he grabbed my forearm. You don’t grab me by the forearm. You just don’t. Because I usually go berserk, and someone gets kicked in the face.

I don’t know what his glitch was but he kept on saying INTERDIT. First of all, you are not in police uniform dude, and I doubt you are part of the force. He must have been one of the many peddlers hawking his stuff there. So I yelled at him: “DON’T YOU FUCKING TOUCH ME, YOU DON’T OWN THIS BEACH” which I think he didn’t understand, but I guess the tone and level of my voice was enough to give him a clear message. And then I walked away while he kept yelling random shit in Darija that I just didn’t get.

Taking photos of government buildings is said to be forbidden in Morocco. I don’t think the beach qualifies as a government building, and if you are just hawking food there and probably not even paying your taxes, then tell me who between the two of us is violating the law. Moving on, I looked for the nearest Starbucks I could find and cooled off with a tall Choco Chip Cream at Anfa Place which also had an impressive marina. But my mood was already ruined, and all the stares I got from local teenagers there didn’t help at all.

I don’t mind getting stared at, but when I get a lot coupled with giggles and a malicious grin in short intervals, it gets really annoying. What, you’ve never seen an Asian dude before? Travel. Get a life. And so I just took some photos and hopped on a taxi to see the mosque, which somehow cheered me up because it was awesome. It was jam-packed with locals but there was also a sizeable tourist presence that made the vibe less xenophobic somehow.

The last tour for the day is usually at 2 PM, so better take note of the time if you intend to go in. The entrance fee should be around MAD 120 (~PHP 600) which is a bit steep but is said to be worth it because of what you’re going to see inside. I haven’t found anyone who has been there and regretted it, so it must be legit. It’s one of the few mosques which allow non-Muslims to go in, so you might want to grab this chance. As for me, I was already contented with what I saw outside. Besides, I can come back anytime.

Of course, Casa is not just the beach. You can also explore the medina. Some friends also said the European Quarter is worth an afternoon stroll, so you might want to check that out as well. But for us living the beach bum kind of life, we have a clear idea of what we want. Casa is okay in my opinion but if I wanted to chill at the beach, I think I’ll just stay in Rabat where it’s less crowded and people are less aggro, to some extent.

[CASABLANCA] The Mall Life, the Beach Life

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