Casablanca could easily be dubbed City of Laundry. With inner city space scarce in a metropolis that houses in excess of 3.3-million people, every conceivable spot is used to hang wet washing. And I mean everywhere!!
Even without the real street art, it sometimes looks like street art.
(Note the ubiquitous satellite dishes never too far away in the background)
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 🙂
Sunday morning and Woodstock is filled with sights and sounds as I walk the narrow streets searching for street art. It’s easy to find because it’s everywhere, depicting anything from South Africa’s dark past, to more colourful themes.Sometimes there is a message, often one of hope. Other times, a reminder of how far we have come as a nation and as individuals.Or something profound and complex in its simplicity.Other times the message is quite surprising: A suburb also sadly tainted by drugs and crime and hardship and litter, Woodstock is the last place I expect to be reminded about the dwindling numbers of South Africa’s national bird.Friendly locals pause on their way to church, happy to direct me to yet another piece where artists from all over the world have left their mark on Woodstock’s walls.Children play games on patches of bald earth while their mothers toil their way through a piles of washing. Others are content to do very little.And among all of this colour and activity, nature makes its own art, like these grasses clinging to life through an old grille.
My first daylight impressions of Bangkok were from my son’s 17th floor apartment in On Nut. I was mesmerised. By the monks in saffron robes and the Thai way of life. By the endless zig zagging of overhead electricity cables and the traffic that never stopped flowing. Ever. I slept with the curtains and window open so I wouldn’t miss a daybreak and woke before everyone else to watch this scene play out every morning. I still long for those mornings sometimes, even surrounded by all the beauty that is Cape Town.