Casablanca on a Saturday night is noisier than I expected. The traffic is nowhere near the manic 24-hour constant whir that you find in Bangkok, but the noise from the street rushes rather than filters into my hotel room in Derb Omar, a busy suburb within walking distance of the old Medina.
I’m so tired though, I don’t care. Getting here has been a long journey – 9 cramped hours in Economy class from Cape Town to Dubai, another 6 hours willing away time at Gate C9 awaiting my 4am connecting flight, then 8½ more cramped hours in the air from Dubai to the town the Portuguese built on the Atlantic coast of Morocco in 1515 and named White House. Being winter it’s dark by 6.30pm. I’m already in bed and switch the TV off knowing I won’t even make 5 minutes before I collapse for some well-deserved sleep.
Casa is colder than I expected and I curse myself for packing mainly summer clothes. What was I thinking? Morocco’s a hot country right? Well yes but not in winter and I would pick the coldest winter in a decade to tour Morocco, wouldn’t I?
My first impressions of the city – the view from my taxi to my hotel – are of washing and satellite dishes absolutely everywhere.
The next morning I hit the streets: The architecture is a combination of decay and charm. A layer of grime and pollution clings to the whitewashed art deco buildings like cheap rouge on a fading starlet, but overlook that and the peeling paint and the arabesque twirls and wrought ironwork that adorn the buildings bear testimony to a grand era and the skilled master craftsmen of years gone by.
British author Tahir Shah, who lives in Casa, once called the city Morocco’s unsung jewel and despite the shaky start of being unable to draw money from the first 7 ATM’s I try (the 8th bank worked!), I fall in love with the streets of this busy portside city that effortlessly blends African and European culture.
My first blog post, I already know as I photograph the sidewalk cafes opening in the pale winter Sunday morning sunlight, will be all about the streets of Casablanca 🙂