In each port we have a cultural pre-port session and a logistical pre-port session to help prepare us for the country we're about to visit. Both are required for EVERYONE. The cultural pre-port basically warns/informs us about cultural norms and customs. We have been told that for Morocco we should dress conservatively, meaning long and loose fitting pants, skirts and shirts. Tank tops and shorts are not appropriate and will draw unwanted attention. Also, women entering mosques should have some kind of covering for their head.
We learned in the meeting that the government language is French but most people speak Arabic. We also learned that we need to bring toilet paper with us, and that people here use their left hand for bathroom business and their right hand for eating and there is no soap or toilet paper in the restaurants (although we haven't found that to be true... yet).
On our guided city tour we found that Casablanca almost feels like two cities. We visited what seemed to be the older part of the city (but not the Medina/old city); it was a bustling part of the city which felt a little dirty and crowded to us. There was litter everywhere and lots of street vendors - it was a completely different atmosphere than Spain. Then we visited the Hassan II Mosque which has the tallest minaret in the world, at 689 feet. As we approached we could hear a beautiful Muslim prayer over the speakers outside the mosque. It was chilling. We also visited the Royal Palace, City Hall and the Cathedral. Finally, we visited the beach area where the homes are very expensive. The ocean is too rough to swim so they have built private beach clubs where the pools are right on the beach and filled with salt water.
Most of the women dress traditionally with a caftan (that is what we call it) and head coverings for the women. Some women are covered head to toe with only their eyes showing. You can take a look at our pictures of Casablanca and Marrakech to see the way people dress.
In the evening, a colleague of ours invited us to dinner with a former student of his who currently lives in Casablanca. We had a beautiful dinner with them at a traditional Moroccan restaurant. We sat on bean bags on the floor underneath a beautiful tent and tried all of the traditional Moroccan cuisine. This family was so wonderful to us and even treated us to dinner. They took us into the markets (souks) and showed us around the entire city until midnight. They were so generous. We began to get a really great impression of Morocco!
-We arrived in Morocco at the end of Ramadan which is the Islamic month of fasting. They fast everyday from sunrise to sunset