Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grandeur of Casablanca, Warmth of Marrakech

day TWO
(Sept’07). Woke up before dawn for Sahur, had the bread and fruits bought in medina earlier on. Realised Andrea love fruits and vege (or at least much better then me)…..good habit, how I envy. Went back to sleep after Sahur, long day ahead as today we will embark on our journey to Marrakech at noon but before that, a trip to Hassan II Mosque that we heard so much.

After half pack our bags, we decided to walk to the mosque as it DOES look fairly near from the roof of our hostel. We DID ask the hostel front desk on the distance, they say it’s walkable. And walk we did.

After walking for a while, we found out it is NOT that near (kena con! Either that or I am just not fit [yeah! I think the later]). We past by this setinggan (squatters) area of which I got a bit panic, wanted to take a few shots but changed my mind incase they felt I was being rude (we don’t want that do we).

Alas, saw a glimpse of the mosque… one word - SUPER HUGE (Ops! that’s 2 words). The minaret is like FOREVER, the door? ….. Still speechless. Not to mentioned the interior… Well, how big is big? It can fit 25,000 worshipers and the minaret is at 210 m (689 ft). Designed by a French architect, Michel Pinseau, but it is thoroughly Moroccan Moorish architecture. And… it’s facing Atlantic Ocean. By the way, the mosque is estimated to have cost as much as $800 million, funds that were remarkably raised entirely from public subscription.
There are a timing & rules that one must follow, for instant; Hassan II Mosque is open to all Muslims at daily prayer times and for special Friday services. As for the Non-Muslim visitors may enter the mosque on guided tours, which take place several times a day in English. You must dress modestly: shorts, mini-skirts or bare shoulders for both men and women will not be tolerated! Shoes must be removed on entering and you'll be given a plastic bag to put them in.

The interior is as magnificent, uniquely, part of the mosque's floor is made of glass so worshippers can kneel directly over the sea. Unfortunately, this wonderful feature is mainly for royal use and is off-limits to visitors. Beneath the mosque, there’s an ablution (wudu) fountains that looks like lotus flower and a large communal bath which is awesome.

The surrounding esplanade can accommodate another 80,000 and you can see the Atlantic Ocean coastline from here…. Breathtaking!

Oh nooo! We ran overtime, we end up taking a cab back to hotel and rush to the Casa Voyageurs Train Station. Dear Andrea is a pure bookworm, I love to read but she’s more which remind me to borrow her Richard Branson book for our upcoming trip. Ahh… the train finally arrived, I can’t remember whether it was assign seating or not but we had a young chap sharing the coach with us. Very friendly and proud of his beloved country, not only that he also gave a souvenir (kopiah). It reminded us to purchase a few for any countries we travel too, be a good Malaysian ambassador we must!

Whole journey was erg desert, at that point I was thinking what if anything goes wrong to us half way (3 hours journey), and I took out my handphone, hey! FULL BAR! IMPRESS!!! On an erg desert! Perhaps out service provider needs to learn a thing of two from them, hehehhe….

We reached Marrakech train station, took a cab drove by an ex-British Counsel staff which is good for us as he speaks English VERY WELL. Took us to the Riad, near the ever so famous Jemaa El-Fna Old Medina.

One thing we still find it heart warming was that upon riding the cab, the driver greets us welcomely to Marrakech (typical tourist city we thought); he asked whether we are Muslim and fasting. We said yes to both (still wondering why). Then he exclaimed “ahh… Musafir (traveler)!” and yes again we answered. You see, in Islam, helping a Musafir and especially during Ramadhan will receive good merit/reward from God. He offered us to break fast with his family at his house, we were slightly panic but not wanting to be rude hence we agreed.

As promised, he returns at 6pm after dropping us at our Riad. Before that, in our room in Riad; we were worries, Can this man be trusted? Are we safe to trust people in foreign land? Did we make the right decision? At the same time we have to tawakal (submission) to god. Then we DECIDED to just go ahead. Next panic, we can’t possibly go visiting empty handed, that’s not what our parents thought us! We rummage our luggage, found an orange pario in my suitcase plus chocolate cookies. We figure, the pario for the wife and the cookies for his 2 kids - we did enquire earlier ;-).

Upon seeing his family, we saw the sincerity in them (such a waste of all the worries). He has a very pretty daughter, a shy son and friendly wife. He invited us to eat the home cook meal made by his wife…. YUMMY! We chatted and then he asked whether we will be staying for dinner, we were shocked, isn’t this dinner (it is at 7:30pm). He said no, this is break fast food, dinner is dinner = two separate thing. HAHAHAA…. At about close to 9pm, we make a move but not before a few photo sessions with this wonderful family.
I guess, this is what traveling is, taking chances, be local, be with local!

Credits : Wikipedia, Morocco-Travel,, sacred-destination, & encyclopedia

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