Expanding our originally scheduled two-hour layover in Casablanca to two days was a no-brainer. We’ve both always wanted to go to Morocco and even if we only visit its largest and least interesting city (according to anyone who has traveled here), we are sure it will be worth it. We are not let down.
It only takes stepping into the Old Medina and sitting down at one of 17 gazillion sidewalk cafes to prove our point. I order a “petit cafe noir” and Tay gets Moroccan mint tea, both of which arrive with a stack of sugar cubes to our little table, where we sit for hours at the point of a three-way intersection. The narrow old-city streets are busy with foot traffic and the odd scooter or horse cart. We are not in Africa anymore. Not sub-Saharan anyway, as a rainbow of skin color ranging from pink to olive rages by, clad in everything from goofy European tourist garb to full-length burqas, but most common are the dozens of styles of djellabas, the long shirt-robes favored by both Moroccan men and women.
They rush by, they stop to chat, they smoke cigarettes, and, at our adjoining tables, they play cards and pour mint tea into tiny glasses from great heights. We don’t speak much, Tay and I, after a sleepless night in the Dakar airport, and the intensity of the last week in The Gambia, it’s hard to know what to say. Our culture shock is a chronic condition, kicked into high gear by the Arab-Parisian swirls of humanity in which we suddenly find ourselves.
Eventually, we wander, walking until our feet hurt, ogling the Old City walls, trying not to get lost as we ply narrow streets and dodge carpet sellers (most of them, anyway). Dinner is an oily cheese-and-olive omelette, served on a baguette with mustard and French fries, and wrapped in Arabic newspaper images of burning Lebanese bodies. We eat them as we continue through the alleys, stopping to browse pirated DVDs and cheap Fez hats. Finally, the sun drops, night descends, and we find a taxi back to our hotel.