I thought very long about this post and what to write about my visit to Casablanca since it was not overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve decided to be transparent about my experiences and feelings…
Casablanca was the second city on my itinerary and I only planned 2.5 days there since, during my research of the city, it didn’t appear to offer many things for tourists to see or do.
One of my first experiences was witnessing street harassment. I took a taxi from the airport and almost as soon as we were in the city, a woman wearing a blouse and pants crossed in the sidewalk in front of our stopped car. Two men crossing on the other side made a point of turning and yelling across the street at her: “That is a nice ass!” This experience was foreshadowing of what my own would be.
Since I arrived mid-day, I thought I would have time to do some exploring in the evening but I spent most of the night back and forth with the WorldSIM company who I purchased my world phone through. The network refused to connect and it took me 5 hours off and on the phone to finally give up. It didn’t work the entire time I was in Morocco. On the up-side, I started and finished The Girl on the Train while I dealt with them.
The next morning, my first of two full days in the city, began with a walk from my Airbnb to a Cafe about 10 min away. I do realize that I do not look like a Moroccan and that I was alone. Those two things were enough for me to expect some confusion, stares or curiosity about my person but how I was treated by men on the street was far beyond that. Not that it matters what I was wearing but I was fully covered with pants, t-shirt and jacket at all times. I had men stop walking and stare, barely pass me and stop to turn around and watch me, and yell “hello” in different languages, hoping to get my attention.
I got to the cafe and connected to their wifi in order to decide where I wanted to go first. I remembered that the window was closing on voter registration for the November elections so I decided to visit the U.S. Consulate in order to get that taken care of. Of course, it runs like any other U.S. Government office – slow. I spent almost all day there and was finally done around 4pm – but I VOTED! I was exhausted and planned to walk home, rest a bit and then go out for dinner later that night.
On my walk home, I was intensely sexually harassed on the street with men yelling things about my body, telling me to smile, keeping pace with me in their cars while I walked on the sidewalk – all the while calling out to me, telling me what they thought of my looks and saying “hello” over and over. I was so uncomfortable by the time I arrived to my Airbnb that I did not go back out for dinner but opted to stay in.
The next day I decided to take taxis all day rather than attempt to walk alone while female. My first stop was the Hassan II Mosque – one of the few Mosques that non-muslims are allowed to enter.
It was very beautiful and the grounds well-kept. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and showed the prayer hall, wash area and turkish baths. About 25K people pray there – 5K women and 20K men. The women pray in the balcony and men on the main floor.
Next was Rick’s Cafe – modeled after the Cafe with the same name in the movie Casablanca. The food was pretty good but the dessert shake was better. All a little over-priced but I suppose you are paying for the experience as well.
After the Cafe, I decided to visit the Moroccan Mall. Not because I wanted to shop but because there wasn’t much left to see in the city according to TripAdvisor and some reviews said it was an interesting place to go. There, I was also followed by a man. I was genuinely fearful when I noticed him following me. I tried to act casual until he looked away and then stepped behind a large column. He then looked around and noticed that I wasn’t there and started circling the area, looking for me. I could see his movements in a reflective part of the fish exhibit/art installation in the middle of the hall. I inched around the column as I watch his movements and made a dash for the other side of a coffee cart once I had the chance. I was able to lose him after that and decided it was a sign I should go home.
It was till pretty early in the day – only about 5pm – but my nerves were on edge and I was not only tired of the harassment but also of arguing with the taxi drivers over the cost of each taxi ride. Once home, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t eat dinner again for the second night but my Airbnb host was there and after explaining my reasoning for not wanting to go back out, he kindly offered to pick up some dinner for me. I spent the evening doing laundry and packing in order to leave early the next morning on the first train to Tangier.
My dominate thought during this trip was one of anticipation of leaving.
Next stop – Tangier, Morocco.