Hill of Beans

We arrived in Casablanca, which the Moroccans simply call “Casa,” late last night. Mohsin’s brother brought us to their family’s apartment since Mohsin was at a friend’s wedding. He joined us this morning, and after breakfast, the three of us took a taxi into the city.

Mohsin and Anas both claim that the only place to see in Casa is the King Hassan II Mosque, so that’s where we headed.

The King Hassan II Mosque is a beautiful piece of architecture. The most noticeable aspect is the square minaret with a large turquoise band near the top. My eyes lingered there, admiring the handiwork and the color combination. I asked the guys if it was possible to climb to the top of the minaret. They laughed and said only royalty was allowed up there.

The interior of the mosque is humongous — appropriate for a mosque that’s billed as the third largest in the world after the mosques in Mecca and Madinah. I sat in awe for some time admiring the immense size and beautiful decor.

Latifa met us at the mosque, and the four of us walked around the mosque plaza for a bit. I realize now that most of the minarets I’ve seen in Morocco have been square, although minarets generally tend to be circular. Furthermore, mosques here usually only have one minaret whereas I’ve seen at least four in most mosques, especially ones as big as the King Hassan II Mosque.

From the mosque we took two taxis to the “Old City.” I began to see what Anas and the rest had meant about Casa. There’s really not much to see around here. It’s not the exotic place portrayed in the eponymous film. In the black and white classic, Humphrey Bogart’s brooding character, Rick, runs a bar in a seedy neighborhood, full of all types of corrupt, conniving types. The story takes place against an Orientalist backdrop, replete with camel caravans, dirt roads, and Arabs in flowing robes. Maybe at one time it was a realistic representation, but the Casablanca today is a sprawling, industrial town with wide, paved roads and modern buildings. It’s a dull place, and I didn’t find much going on. Bogart’s lines from Casablanca the movie ring in my head: “…the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans….” For me, Casablanca itself hasn’t amounted to more than that.

Anas, Latifa, and I hung out at a sheesha cafe tonight. I’ve noticed that Latifa has become more free with me. The attention is nice, of course, but the thought that she’s only interested in me because of my American-ness nags me. At the end of the night, the Moroccans decided amongst themselves that we would take a bus back to Marrakesh tomorrow. Latifa suddenly declared that she would come with us since her family is back in Marrakesh for a few days.

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