Goodbye Morocco! Today we leave - "on ship time" is 18:00 hours (6:00pm). If you are not on the ship with your passport turned in to the Purser's Desk by that time you will get "dock time" in the next port. Even if you have purchased a trip, you will miss it. We have been out all morning trying to enjoy our last hours of land time before we spend 7 days at sea. Yesterday we "decompressed" and caught up on all of the work we had been putting off as we traveled. We can't believe that we are going to teach again tomorrow - we haven't seen our students in 12 days. One of the students told me today that she can't remember a thing that any of her professors told her during the first three classes that we had. I can understand that. It seems like a year since we have seen them.
We ventured out on our own today and got into one of those red "petit" taxis that you see everywhere. We asked "Do you speak English?," because so many people do here, and he said "No." We asked "Do you speak French? " because it is the language of the government here, and he showed us with his fingers the sign for very little... so we said "Mosque please... Hassan II, Mosque." Well, we got there for 10 dirhams (8 dirhams or so is $1) and we gave him a nice tip.
We arrived at the mosque and found our way to purchase a ticket for an English tour which started in 45 minutes. We headed upstairs to take some pictures and the guide walked by us and invited us on the English tour that she was leading (she heard us ordering our tickets). This was a magical tour. The mosque is partly built over water and features Arab-Islamic architecture. The prayer hall is about 20,000 square meters and can hold up to 25,000 worshipers.
The mosque took 6 years to build and was finished in 1993. There are some truly amazing modern features like a roof that opens and closes, speakers hidden in the plaster, a heated floor for praying in the winter and doors that rise into a pocket over your head so that they are completely hidden. The mosque was breathtaking. All of the detailing of the plaster and wood is done by local Moroccan artists. It took over 2,500 workers and 10,000 crafts men to complete it.
When we entered the mosque the roof was open and while we were standing there listening to our guide she told us today was our lucky day, and the roof began to slide closed. It takes 3 minutes to open and 2 minutes to close. I videoed some of it so we will post it when we have better internet signal. One person on our tour asked "What about the birds? How do you get them out after you close the roof?" Our tour guide answered "This is God's house, all are welcome." We thought that was so cool!
Next, we decided we would walk from the mosque to the Corniche, which is the beach area and the more upscale side of Casablanca. We walked for about 30 minutes in an "interesting" part of town and then decided we should take another taxi. When we arrived we wandered the coast a little and had lunch in an Italian restaurant where the menus where in French. The restaurant overlooked the beach and was beautiful.
On our way back home we took our last cab, and the most interesting of them all. We told him to take us to the "Port de Casablanca" and he took off and said "Hotel Casablanca." We said "No, port... P P P PORT!" I also showed him the phrase written on our little help sheet from the ship that said in French and Arabic, "please take me to the MV Explorer at the Port of Casablanca" but he just looked at us with the most blank stare you have ever seen. Many here do not read... well, after several brushes with death we eventually got there, although we think he took us around the whole city. Now we are eating the last of our fruit snacks we brought from home and watching the long line of panicked students, faculty and lifelong learners try to make it on the ship in the last 30 minutes. Good luck you risk takers! Salam alekum, Morocco!
-Eating Moroccan style out of the same dish can give you "travelers revenge"
-You can order ice cream cakes on the ship for a celebration or birthday and they are HUGE. We had some last night for our friend Deena's birthday