After leaving the mosque the rest of the day was spent on a whirlwind trip around the city. We passed leisurely through the old quarter on tiny side streets, drove by the port, looped around to see the palace, looped around again and headed for the ocean where I walked along the beach and sniffed the cold clean salty air of the Atlantic.
I also did some walking around the bazaar. Mustapha dropped me off at the main entrance after assuring me that I could wander as I wished and that he would be right there if I had any problems. The bazaar was a grand collection of narrow streets and small shops selling jewelry, clothing and carpets. Everywhere I went I was met with a "Bonjour" and a "Please come in" wave. No one seemed offended when I politely declined. I stopped in front of one jewelry shop and the owner asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. He ran down the list: clothing, jewelry, etc. After I said no to each and every one, he gave me a resigned smile and said, "Tapis volant?" (How about a flying carpet?).
As a general rule of thumb, I measure a people's optimism about their country's future by the number of ambitious public works and private construction sites and a dearth of local people grumbling about it. Casablanca is definitely "Under construction." I saw plans and sites for: a new port, a new tramway, a mall, and a train station (future TGV) not to mention many new private houses and apartment buildings.
Mustapha said that much of this is driven by the King who has launched a plan for the modernization of the city and takes a personal interest in his plan's progress. We were caught in more than one traffic jam caused by work on the tramway and people seemed to be relatively good-natured about the inconvenience.
King Mohammed VI
Most of my impressions about royalty are shaped by the very public goings-on of that family in England. So, imagine my surprise when we stopped at an intersection and I saw two motorcycles sweep past, followed by a very stylish (but not ostentatious) black car which was apparently being driven by the King himself. I personally have never met a Moroccan (from cab drivers to engineers) who had a bad word to say about the King who seems to have his people's genuine respect and esteem.
To finish the tour we went just outside the city limits to a hill with green fields and horses and sheep running free. I could see the whole city - a sweeping panorama with the sea to my left and the city in all its glory.
I tavelled throughout europe a lot. i was impressed by the cleaness, the order, the organisation, beautiful cities, but i never felt so happy and at peace like i feel when i sit on a terrasse of a cafe in casablanca, with the crowd and the noise and the black smoke coming out of the old busses and traffic jams...we love casablanca with all its inconveniants :) you should visit Rabat,(just 50 min away by train)it is different from casablanca, greener, and older :)
i felt exactly the same way about Japan. What order, organization and service and what incredibly natural beauty. But when I got back to Paris I was happy to go out and sit with my friends at the cafe and drink a kir at the end of a long work day. Oddly enough I realized that I had a new appreciation for lively chaos and conflict and I saw more clearly how that feeds the extraordinary creative spirit of the French.
When I go back to the US, it's a bit different. What I love there is being able to go sit in the kitchen and talk with my parents while they prepare dinner. There I am the most at peace, surrounded by my family.
i will definitely go to Rabat the next time I visit. And I will come back - a week here has left me yearning to see more.
Hi Victoria :) Great blog -- I am just finding it now, many, many years after you initially started writing it, but nevertheless, I still feel what you say carries relevance! I am a 26 year old former Seattleite as well, currently living in Berkeley and always fantasize about the possibilities of living abroad, and in particular in France (I also have my eyes on Quebec). I came across your blog after searching for "Working in France" in Google. I am lucky that I came across it and I've been reading your posts like a fiction novel, but then I remember it's your life! I haven't made it out of "2011" yet, but I am looking forward to catching up with all of your posts. Keep it up!
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