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Magical Morocco, Part III: Meknes, Casablanca and Home

Author: soliteyah (More Trip Reviews by soliteyah)
Date of Trip: March 2007

Back to Casablanca
On our last full day in Morocco, we took a 3.5-hour train ride back to Casablanca and checked back into the Hotel Guynemer. We ate lunch at Restaurant Al-Mounia -- yet another palace restaurant. There was one local dish we hadn't had a chance to try, so we ordered the chicken pastilla to see what it was like. It was tasty -- a flaky pastry thing with ground-up chicken and almonds, and cinnamon on top. We decided we liked it but preferred the tajines and couscous.

Then we walked down to the Quartier Habbous, which was a "new" medina built by the French in the 1930's. This was our last chance for souvenir-hunting, and it was actually quite a relaxed place to do it, with less hassle than we'd found in either of the other medinas. We took an interest in a display of colorful ceramic bowls in one shop, and were thrilled to hear an opening price of 30 dirhams (only about $3.50) for one -- so we grabbed a few more bowls for our families plus a plate for ourselves. Then began a rather sad round of haggling, in which we started too high and gave in too easily. The shopkeeper was very friendly (his initial offer was $5 million) and his English was excellent, so even if we overpaid a bit I can't begrudge him the profit -- especially since the total price for all four pieces was only $12.

That night we ate in the hotel's restaurant -- one last tajine and couscous for good measure -- and ended up meeting Chef Wan, a celebrity chef from Malaysia! (I admit that I had no idea who he was, but I googled him after we got home and sure enough, he was who he claimed to be.) After 10 minutes of rapid-fire conversation I could easily see how he could be a celebrity -- he had charisma and enthusiasm to spare, and he looked much younger than his 50 years.

Final Thoughts
We came home from this trip with many souvenirs and the aforementioned ton of rocks, but more importantly with a sense of how fortunate we are to live in America, to have enough to eat, and to not have to worry about where our next dollar is coming from. To see the poverty in Morocco was a sobering experience, and inspired us to consider a volunteer vacation on our next trip -- perhaps Central America?

I also left with a series of vivid sense memories -- the haunting strains of the muezzins' call to prayer, the delicious scents of the Fes medina, the palatial courtyards adorned with mosaics, the henna on the hand of a beggar woman, a 5-year-old prostitute's smile, the windswept Erg Chebbi dunes at sunset, and the ancient rooftops of Fes in twilight. Inshallah, we will be back someday.

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