Magnificent Morocco – 10. Casablanca – Frankly my dear….

casablancamovieOk, I bought this film, but I haven’t seen it yet 🙂

Casablanca is a huge place, and very industrious.   Its night and day compared to Tangier, – like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv or London and Birmingham.

This place has 3.3 million people, its the 5th largest city in Africa.

Often this place is simply known by the locals as ‘Casa’

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I only spent two days there, it looks pretty modern, more like a large French city.   Perhaps a little cruelly, the guide book I had tells people its not worth visiting.   I did get to see a few surprises though.

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Looking closer at some of theses posters, I noticed something that seemed more common as getting further down away from Europe;

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These symbols show one of the Berber languages, that’s native to Morocco.  Actually theres at least 3 of these, and more types of this in the other north African nations.

Apparently, only 10% of Moroccans are pure Arabs, most of the people are ethnically Berbers or a mix of Berber and Arab.

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The city centre looks quite fresh and modern, and this lightrail tram looks really similar to the new one in Jerusalem.

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Government buildings, grand, bold, beautiful and unmistakably Moroccan.

Previous 9. Getting the train to Casablanca

Next. 11. The Grande Mosque

Magnificent Morocco – 9. Getting the train to Casablanca

So, only one night in Tangier and I’m off on my way to Casablanca….DSCF8146 1024

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I get a taxi to the railway station, I’m excited about leaving from the most north west corner of Africa by train.   This station has its a sort of unique Moroccan charm about it.

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The railway system here is pretty good, trains are fairly modern, and clean.    Some white overalled women come along and remove rubbish from your carriage ever so often.

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The journey is quite slow though, with some long stops at some isolated stations and at signals.

Oddly, Google doesn’t show lines for Morocco’s railway, so only given me time and path for driving.   I think it was maybe 4 or 5 hours for this journey.

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Next 10. Frankly my dear…

Magnificent Morocco – 8. Crap car spotting

Driving in Morocco, how can I describe this?   Energetic maybe, a lot of roads have fairly liberal approach of where the boundaries are of which lane you should drive in aren’t clearly defined.   For civilians crossing the road, being able to make eye contact with motorists heading your direction, being able to run across is a must.   I’ve no idea how elderly people or disabled managed to get across, there is very very few traffic lights.

I wonder if instead “D” for drive symbol on an automatic could be replaced with the first Arabic letter of the word Yallah…. 😉

Favourite cars of Morocco.

The Petit taxi

fiat unoThese are small taxis, designed to be economical and get round tight narrow street corners that big Mercedes can’t.   They are always red, and have a cage roof rack.   Usually a choice of a Fiat Uno, Peugeot 205 (or 206, 207 or 208) or Dacia.

205 1024Last time I rode in a 205 was in the early 1990s as my friend’s parents took me to a party in a car that was quite new.   This one has done 250,000kms but its worth pointing out it looks like its been crashed several times and had the bumpers/grill etc pulled out but not quite straight meaning it all looks a bit crooked and the boot doesn’t close properly.   Note this car has had the rubber over the steering wheel worn down to the bare metal.   In the UK the legendary 205GTI is now rare and mint ones are worth £7000, so it would be interesting to find if any 3dr 205s with tidy bodywork could be shipped over to form the basis of a restore job.

Grand Taxis

DSCF8196 1024These are the bigger taxis used for airport and long distance driving.   The African favourite, is the Mercedes 240.   Reliable, tough and simple to maintain.  All of these are cream, and probably early 1980s models.

Its worth saying without a shadow of a doubt, taxi drivers will quite certainly try and rip you off if you are foreign.   Excuses of the meter broken, or different prices if you don’t speak French or Arabic will exist, so its best to agree a price before he gets moving.

Miscellaneous automotive rubbish I mean classics

DSCF8213 1024The Renault 4.   My mum’s friend had one of these and took us to school twice when it was raining.   This boxy utilitarian thing was meant as a an upgrade from the rival tin-shed Citroen 2CV with similar charm.   I remember the rain would make a loud noise on the roof of it. Strangely enough, the Renault 4 which was made from the 1960s until 1990s was actually built in Casablanca, so I saw quite a few of them.   This highly well worn corroded heap is dubious if its actually capable of moving on its own.   It has a hole in the side large enough to put your hand in.

batman 1024The Batmobile

No I’m not joking, well almost.   This brand of vehicle is called ‘Batman’ which I think is from the city of the same name in Turkey.    Not a Indian Tuktuk, but an odd hybrid of motorcycle and van parts probably built in someone’s shed.

The Renault 5 

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Theres a few of these I’ve seen in really good condition.  I haven’t seen any since the one I saw used to transfer meat in Nazareth.  This early one would make a nice classic to drive around.

The Dacia.

DSCF8177 1024The car is often part of a running joke on Top Gear.  Pronounced “Datcha” this is a sort of Tesco value car, a no frills brand of vehicle built in Romania but owned by Renault.   They’ve been around since other Soviet era type rival motors like Lada, FSO and Yugo, but they are a bit better these days.    The modern day Dacias are ok, and there’s absolutely loads of them in Morocco as they are also built there, and I’m guess sold to the rest of African continent. In Israel I’ve seen them but with Renault badges on, but the middle east prefers the different range of Renault cars built in Turkey.

Local police also drive Dacias

Local police also drive Dacias

Learner cars with TWO steering wheels

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What. The. Heck.

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A Fiat 127 (my Dad had one of these) which are still also popular with Palestinians in Bethlehem, lands that rust forgot. And another hybrid bike van thing. Very large pizza delivery?

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This is Rabat. Only saw a glimpse of this city when changing trains. Taxis here are blue for some reason.

Previous 7. Tangier (een) dream

Next. 9. Train to Casablanca

Magnificent Morocco – 7. Tangier (een) dream

DSCF8117 1024If Jaffa oranges are Jaffa in Israel (or British Mandate of Palestine before that)

Then Tangerines are from Tangier right?

That’s what I was thinking, turns out when I read up this was true!!  Seems like adding “in” to a word in Arabic, is like “ים- / -im” in Hebrew or “-s” in English to make a word a plural.   Citrus fruit is quite a crucial part of the economy here, I saw Moroccan tomatoes in Morissons near my house last week.

Tangier feels like quite a bit like a traditional middle eastern city although of course this is northern Africa.   It feels ancient busy and hectic with narrow passageways, its been in a few movies, one of the mid 80s Bond films The Living Daylights and the third Jason Bourne film The Bourne Ultimatum.  I now need to watch these again!

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Chickens, seems rather buying them frozen, you can get them slaughtered in front of you, and cleaned up prepared and ready to take home to cook.   Lots crammed into this cage and also some just calm sitting on the floor, I guess they have their legs tied up and doped as well.   Later on, when I visited Casablanca, I was amused to see a hippy French couple who the yound woman was wearing a “I support animal rights” tshirt, although actually animal lovers might be a shocked what happens around here.

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Yes there are some some quite weird things here as well!

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The food market is both outdoors and indoors.   It did feel a bit warmer then it did when I was in Gibraltar although it doesn’t seem that far away.

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Fishing is a big thing here.   I got some sardines to put on a pizza back in London, which came from Morocco.  I’ll write more on the food a little later.

I didn’t spot many other Riads around here, although the exotic place I stayed looks pretty plain from the outside.

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I started to see more of these amazing shaped doorways and lattice type balconies, think this is an ancient house that’s being restored.

The sad I thing I noticed, was a lot of poverty, there are plenty of people begging, some are blind or disabled.

Previous 6. Jewish Tangier

Next 8. Crap car spotting

really odd things for sale in this market too.

Magnificent Morocco – 6. Jewish Tangier

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A synagogue in Tangier.  This is the only one I could find from what my phone said on Google maps.   It looks like a normal house, as I think its now just someone’s home.    There was a (I think) a Muslim prayer carpet hung over one of the windows.   There are no signs of any candelabra or 6 pointed star or obvious religious icons.   I’m guessing that when nearly all the Jewish community left Tangier, they took all the most important religious articles with them.

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The cemetery. I didn’t spend very long here enough to find it was locked, I got badgered by a beggar who wouldn’t leave me along and insisted on being my tour guide or sell me Marijuana.   The blanket in the picture is covering a homeless person.

The Hebrew inscription is בית החיים (Beit H’Chaim), House of Life.   Odd for a place like this, but its probably meant to be celebrating remembering the life of the deceased person I think.

Notice the bit that says Cemetario Judio?  This is Spanish.   Older Moroccans speak Spanish, but younger people just know French and Arabic, maybe some English.    Note, the actual name Morocco is Spanish derived, the official Arabic word is Maghreb, and the French word is Maroc.

What I wanted to know, is how many practicing Jews still live in Morocco and what is their relationship like the Muslim majority like?  What’s it like with the Jewish holidays in full swing compared to Israel or anywhere else?   What about the Jews that adopted Christianity, what happened to them?   Over the course of my travels I got to find out some fascinating things.

Previous 5. The Riad in Tangier

Next 7. Tangier (een) dream

Believers should stay away from conspiracy hysteria

For a while I was thinking of writing something about the growing amount of sensationalist material and how Christians take too much interest in it.

I know people that used to spread the gospel but now put more energy into how someone is going to take me away in the night instead.   True, there’s less trust in governments since the whole Snowden thing though.   When folks are told not to listen to their doctor and get treatments from someone they’ve never heard of on the web, it becomes a bit ridiculous.   Often dare criticise those into some of this so called ‘hidden knowledge’ then conspiracyophiles can turn nasty, and consider you part of the “system”.

My friend Judah has done a sterling job of blogging on how this stuff can destroy our credibility as believers and spread harmful teaching often in the direction of antisemitism.

Magnificent Morocco – 5. The Riad in Tangier

Before I got there, my expectations of Morocco were to find these beautiful buildings that look lavish finished with black and white tile patterns, high ceilings and ornamental lamps.    Like some of the places I’ve seen like the Arab Christian youth hostel in Nazareth, but better as I’ve read so much about the Moroccan artisans and their incredible attention to detail.

This is Tangier looking from back to the port I came out of yesterday

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I got into a small taxi which the driver took me at full speed into the old city up a series of windy streets, I’m thinking we can’t get through that small doorway, with a lot of skill from the driver he weaves his way, finally getting through a tight bend which required a full left lock one direction, then puts the car in reverse and full right lock and then ahead. I was outside my hostel, actually the journey was very quick, I didn’t realise it was right across from the ferry terminal.   My journey is only 2 Euros.   I haven’t actually got any local money yet.

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This is the living room.   Lots of comfy seats and computer to borrow there.   Absolutely love the decorations here, the high ceilings, mosaic and tile work, coloured glass ornament lamp shades, and of course carpets.

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This place is on 3 floors, you can see all the way down through the glass floor from the top room where I was at.

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Star shaped iron work, pale pastel coloured walls, palm trees, – and – a glass floor revealing what is on the floors above and below you!!!   I think this place had been extensively renovated recently.

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This was my room for the night.   the bathroom is set inside this wardrobe-like partition.   This would be a pretty cool place for a honeymoon I think.

I was the only person in this place, I had it to myself!   Guess it was the quiet season.

I would thoroughly recommend staying at the Dar Jameel. 

I found out later that a Riad is a type of mansion that was popular with the wealthy here.   I think that’s where the city in Saudi Arabia of the same name comes from.  Its amazing this place has been built and kept in such beautiful condition.

Previous – 4. Sailing to Tangier

Next – 6. Jewish Tangier 

Breakthrough from stress and anxiety through the word of God

In recent years I’ve found myself getting problems with anxiety, working in a school it seems to get worse.   Although I’m not a teacher, I really feel for teachers and the pressures they go through and expectations, and a lot of the time its a thankless job.

I found this passage helpful:-

Philippians 4 : 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Magnificent Morocco – 4. Sailing to Tangier

I was now pretty excited about getting on a boat to Africa from Spain, actually I got my ticket and left on a bus from Algeciras but was driven on the bus (as part of the ferry ticket) from Tarifa, which I noticed this town in Spain had people that seemed to mostly Arabic / North African.  Whilst purchasing my ticket from a dedicated travel shop, there are two men next to me talking to the owner in Arabic, both of them are black, and are tall and slender and possibly look racially like a nation like Sudan or Somalia, but in the corner of my eye I see they get their passports out and and they are from Algeria.

Algeciras sounds a lot like Al Jazeera the Qatar based English Arab news channel, I’m pretty sure its an Arabic word left over from the days when the Arab ruled Spain.    Paradoxically, there is a Spanish enclave built into today’s Morocco called Ceuta.

So its, not really simple to work out who “took” whose land, as many different people groups have swapped around these two opposite facing nations countless times.

I’ve got a few hours to go kill, so I have Arabic coffee in a little cafe run by Moroccans in Algeciras.  The man has a picture of King Mohammed VI of Morocco on his wall and tells me he has met him. The cafe is advertised as having wifi (pronounced “whiffy” by French and Moroccan people) but actually I have to sit near the window as its pinched from the hotel across the road, as the cafe manager found out the code from his competitor’s business!!

Part of the reason for this trip is for me to learn about the different faiths that in Morocco besides Islam. there was once a thriving Jewish community, which have largely gone, but there all sorts of rumours of some converted to Islam or Christianity. I see a lot of Jews in Israel of Moroccan descent, and I think its a heritage they are proud of which has its own individuality. There is meant to be Christians both indigenous and those converted from Islam, but relatively DSCF8092 1024few.

After looking for somewhere to ear, but only finding an ok-ish Turkish kebab place for lunch, across the road I noticed this Christian ministry which got me excited.  Looking closer its a group that are from Brazil, its quite heart warming to see the Brazilian people who have a heart for Israel also want to preach the gospel to the nations too!  Check out their site at

When it was time to get my bus, I began to worry a bit, there were some buses in the large car park but with little signage to tell you where.   After asking various people in turns out I had the right bus.

Once on the boat it was getting dark.   The ferry felt a bit like the Isle of Wight trip with cars on bottom, and passengers are needed to carry (no lift) their own luggage up the stairs to the deck which has seating with a cafe in the middle, we were told to fill in some documents showing our purpose of visiting Morocco to a government employee sitting in the corner of the boat’s cafe, this was a bit nerve wracking approaching him with about 10 Israeli stamps mostly volunteer visas on my passport.

The boat only took an hour, once disembarking, it was quite quick process to get through a small terminal into Tangier.  it was too dark to get proper pictures of the largely empty port before I got my taxi, but boy, Tangier turned out to be an exciting place!

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Next – 5. The Riad in Tangier

Magnificent Morocco – 3. Gibraltar’s rock and residents

I guess the Mediterranean is tumultuous in several different ways.   The sea can be rough, friends of mine witnessed a tragic fatal drowning in Tel Aviv in Israel, and the bible tells us of how rough the sea was when Paul crashed him boat off the coast of Malta.   As well as wars in Israel and Egypt, there was the war in Cyprus in 1974 when half of it was taken over by Turkey.   So I guess Gibraltar’s rock lets you see what goes in and out of the Mediterranean, a pretty unbeatable place for a military base.

This is a tiny place.

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DSCF8028 1024Gib (common nick name by local people) feels like a pleasant British town with red telephone boxes, Pounds sterling (with its own slightly different coins) although people driving on the right with British style plates starting with ‘G…..’   They have their own telephone provider, so I decided not to turn on data on my smart phone, which meant looking on maps was a bit tricky. There probably isn’t much crime in Gibraltar but also I wonder if the police seem a bit harsh!

The Youth hostel I stayed it is clean and functional, dingy and somewhat dull and not much more I can say about it.   I only saw one other visitor as it seemed fairly dead.   It’s the only hostel there and I’m sure most people are only there for just the one night.    Interesting booze shopenough, there was an African chap who was running the reception called Idris, the same name as a early figure in Morocco’s history.

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This picture I saw in a window of a Jewish owned shop shows pleasant relations with different faith systems there.

It seems much of the shopping in Gibraltar is aimed at British mostly cigarettes and alcohol available tax free.  There’s a few nice gift shops as well, as restaurants offering a lot of British style food.    I was exploring around until quite late, so by the time I went to find somewhere for dinner it was 10pm and most places were closed, so I went to the local pizza hut.

Although it was a Sunday I planned to climb up to the top of the rock that morning, I saw a few sign posts for some Evangelical and Catholic churches there.   Many of the Jews here are of Moroccan descent.   The Jewish community of Gibraltar is quite interesting.   There are about 600 of them, and I saw signs around the city that they were all prepared for the coming (Purim) holidays.  I actually saw some Orthodox people coming out of a synagogue which I asked them for directions to my youth hostel.

Here’s some other well known residents who live here, the Macaques are the only apes that live in Europe, they live on top of the rock but do sometimes get nosy and explore around the town.   There’s a £4000 (!) fine if you are caught feeding them, as they are only meant to eat plain fruit and vegetables.

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The plaque shown in the top right was a memorial funded by local Gib taxi drivers for the loss of one of the monkeys a few years ago.

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Going from the top of town up to the top of the rock….

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You can clearly see Gibraltar airport runway strip which is part of the border crossing to get in here from Spain.   I think this highest pinnacle isn’t reachable by anyone, would make a great place to do climbing though

Getting down from the rock is made simple with a Swiss style cable car for a £6.75 ticket.

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I didn’t get to travel to the bottom coast of Gib as it was time to start to book my ferry.   Contrary to what I had read, to get the boat across to Tangier, actually required getting a bus a short distance to Algeciras (pretty sure thats an Arabic name too) in Spain, which I could jump on the boat just as it was starting to get dark.

Related:  Other tiny countries I have seen:-Andorra, Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein,  Luxembourg, Malta, 
Monaco, San Marino

Previous – 2. Spain, the bottom of Europe and the rock of Gibraltar

Next – 4. Sailing to Tangier