In the opening scenes of the movie Casablanca, the narrator describes the plight of the refugees in World War II who flee south from Marseilles to Oran, Oran to Casablanca where they wait for exit visas to go to Lisbon and from there, to America. The narrator says "and in Casablanca they wait. And wait, and wait, and wait...". I'm certainly not a refugee* but I could kind of relate. I'd arranged to do a two week tour around Morocco with a company's called G-Adventures (sister company to the company I travelled around Turkey with) and foolishly given myself two days in Casablanca before the tour started. And in Casablanca, I waited. And waited, and waited, and waited...
Casablanca has three things going for it: 1) the movie Casablanca, one of my personal favourite a. Humphrey Bogart is a boss. 2) the Hassan II mosque. It's a pretty cool mosque, although most Moroccans hate it because of the ridiculous cost to build it, laid nicely for but mandatory 'donations' from every family in Morocco by order of the King and 3) it has the biggest airport in Morocco, so flying in was fairly cheap and easy. Casablanca was dirty, smelly and ugly but with none of the charm of other dirty, smell, ugly cities like Bangkok, Mumbai and Paris. The rest of morocco, however...wow.
There. Casablanca. You've seen it now.
The tour group is an interesting mix of people of all ages and background from many countries around the world. Just kidding, like everything else, the group is infested with Australians with a few Canucks, Yanks and Scots thrown in for good measure. Even still, it's a pretty varied but fun group. We also have a guide Abdellah
and a driver Mohammed
Aka Mr Happy
The first day we left Casablanca and drove north to Tangiers, on the south side of the strait of Gibraltar. Although we have a guide, Gadventures prefers to hire local guides in each city to show people around so here another Mohammed showed us around the medina (old town) of Tangiers.
After lunch, we piled back into the bus to head to our final stop for the day, Chefchaouen. Chefchaouen was one of the towns I was most excited to see in Morocco. Known as the blue pearl of Morocco, Chefchaouen is famous for being painted almost entirely blue. Surprisingly, the reason for this isn't because everyone in the town is especially peaceful or depressed but a reference to the large Jewish community that lived and lives in the area after they were expelled from Spain after the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expected). A relatively small city of only 90,000 (larger than the country of Andorra), Chefchaouen is also famous for its location right at the base of two mountain ranges.
Being in the north of Morocco (previously under Spanish control), the predominant languages are a blend of Berber, Arabic and Spanish, as opposed to the majority of Morocco where French is the main common language. My Spanish isn't great but my French is awful.
Chefchaouen is a testament to colour coordination and good communication with your neighbors. The entire town is a sea of varying shades of blue and white which makes for a pretty stunning image. On top of that, Chefchaouen itself is an old town and built around the old medina, meaning that most of the 'streets' are less streets and more winding mazes of alleyways navigable only on foot or donkey.
Also, as I'm writing this on the bus, a guy just drove past in a car but the passenger and back seats were full of live sheep. Welcome to Morocco!
*This year I've decided to mix up my normal Movember tradition and have a crack at something harder and, arguably, more important. The Act for Peace Ration Challenge forces me to live on the same rations as a Syrian refugee for a week and *spoilers* thats not a lot. Think of it like Live Below The Line but this one seems a lot harder and all the money goes to feed Syrian refugees in camps in Lebannon and Jordan. Obviously I'd appreciate any and all support you lovely people are willing to offer. Here are a few thoughts to consider;
- There are ~4million Syrian refugees living in camps across Europe and the Middle East. FOUR MILLION GUYS
- A whole lot of those refugees are children
- At least most of those children are adorable and you're making them sad right now!
- I really like food and I eat a lot of food. These ration packs contain a small amount of shitty food. I'm going to hate it. It will be the worst week of my life. If you donate, you can happily know that you're helping refugees AND making me suffer. WIN-WIN!!!
- Everything you give is tax deductible (i.e., you get all the money back. It's basically free). MORE WINNING!!
- Seriously, refugees in camps should kind of be a sore spot for every single Australian right now, so...
A weeks worth of food...apparently
Donations gratefully accepted here
*One more thing, I'm not actually able to do the challenge on the dates that the website says since I'll be travelling and moving around (my life is so hard) so I'm starting it as soon as I get home. I will be doing it the first week of August.*