Since we’ve been back the most common question after “So what was your favorite place?” that we get is “So what was your least favorite place?” We went to so many amazing places and saw so many amazing things that answering the first question is difficult. Answering the second question is not difficult at all. Casablanca was easily the most terrible city we encountered. Horrible people, polluted, concrete sprawl. There was literally nothing redeeming about this place. We had to come to Casablanca because our flight to Frankfurt (via Lisbon) was flying out of Casablanca. We had to get to Frankfurt so we could fly home to America. People are always SO upset when they hear how awful Casablanca is, presumably because there’s a movie! And it’s called Casablanca! It’s a great movie! Casablanca has to be great! I have to question whether these people have actually SEEN the movie because even in the film, Casablanca is a shit hole filled with corrupt officials and murderous backstabbers. Life imitates art or vice-versa?
Getting to Casablanca from Essaouira was irritating because we had only 2 awful transit options. There was ONE bus that took 7-8 hours driving up the coast. This was ruled out because it left at some obscene time and because after one coastal bus turned vomitorium we were not ready to take another ride. The other choice, equally long, was to backtrack by bus to Marrakech and then take the train to Casablanca. This had a few benefits in that, first, I love taking trains and secondly, it wasn’t even going to be that bad a transfer as the bus station and train station in Marrakech are literally in the same building. So bus to train it was. Little did we know how awful this was going to be.
The bus morning bus ride to Marrakech wasn’t actually that remarkable. There did seem to be an awful lot more white people on this bus (and irritating white people at that –ethnic pants wearing dreadlock sporting long-term travel types that are pretty ubiquitous in SE Asia) but so be it. We got to the bus station which was pretty chaotic but nothing insane. Some British gap year girls (inappropriately dressed for a muslim country) were loudly berating the train ticket counter staff because they couldn’t purchase a train ticket to Essaouira. I was able to politely (and, inside, gleefully) inform them that they can’t buy a train ticket to Essaouira because THERE IS NO TRAIN TO ESSAOUIRA. “WHAT!? NO TRAIN?! HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GET THERE!?” Uh, take the bus dummies. I was told that they would NOT be taking a bus and they asked where they could find a private driver. I shrugged my shoulders and they huffily walked away. I hope those snotty children had a horrible day.
There was a bit of confusion about which track we were supposed to be on and we boarded a train that, for about 10 minutes, we thought might be the wrong train (in turned out to be the correct one in the end). I don’t know what about my public transit experiences in Morocco made me think that their train system would be nice, but I just had this notion for some reason. It was difficult to find seats on the train but we eventually did. A young woman was sitting across from me spitting me DEATH STARES because I’d had the gall to ask her to move her shopping bags off the seat so I could sit in it. He rage eventually grew too hot and she actually got up and moved about 30 minutes into the trip. I want to try to accurately put into words how uncomfortable this train ride was but I won’t do it justice. We’d just gotten off a 4 hour bus ride. We were sweating. It was hot. The air conditioning on the train was broken or never worked in the first place. It must have been at least 95 degrees in that train car. The seats were very close together. Across from me were two French gap year kids one of whom was wearing very short shorts and insisted on putting his foot up the whole time. I got to know him…intimately…without ever exchanging a word. The train interior was dusty and dirty and gross. The landscape was barren and boring. It was 4 hours of just sheer boredom, discomfort, sweat and a Frenchman’s scrotum directly in my field of view.
We finally arrived in Casablanca. I was hot, dirty, hungry and furious. And now I was going to have to haggle with a Moroccan cab driver. I was not going to take any shit because I just WAS.NOT.IN.THE.MOOD. We were accosted from the moment we left the station by cab drivers. This is fine, this is standard. Our strategy in these situations is to bypass the most aggressive cabbies and find the one minding his own business smoking a cigarette away from the herd. We tried to do this but a few of the cabbies broke off from the herd and began following us. We got to negotiating and they quoted us some outrageous price – Like $6 to go less than a mile and a half. I was in no mood for this nonsense. We must have haggled and walked away from about 4 different cab drivers. They were getting mad at us for shopping around and they began to yell at us. We finally found a guy willing to bargain a BIT and we just gave up and got in his cab. Screaming cab drivers was our welcome to Casablanca.
We went to our hotel. We only had about 24 hours in Casablanca. I had wanted to go see the ONE tourist site worth seeing, the Hassan II Mosque which is one of the biggest in the world and it sits right on the coast line but it was too late in the day and we were exhausted.
The other thing tourists here want to do (not that there are many because Casablanca pretty well sucks) is go to “Rick’s Café” like from the movie. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you CAN go to Rick’s! The bad news is that it was opened in 2004, so not exactly authentic. That means that for 60 years there was not a single soul in all of Casablanca who had the bright idea to open up a crappy bar, slap a “Rick’s” sign above it and charge way too much for shitty drinks to be consumed by dumb tourists with deep pockets. That boggles my mind.
We were hungry and thirsty so we went out to go find a store to get some snacks and drinks. We walked around for about an hour and literally nothing about this city appealed to us. It’s gray, dirty and depressing in an urban sprawl kind of way. There is an immaculate new tram system (which almost ran us over) but I am not sure exactly where it goes that would be useful for us. We were accosted by an insane man with a lazy eye on a street corner. He spoke excellent English which sent alarm bells ringing in my head. Anyone that speaks fluent English that tries to strike up a convo with a tourist on a street corner is up to no good. He actually, if memory serves, tried to ask me a question about sports. He just sidled up to me and asked “Do you like football?” I said, “Yeah, it’s great” and bolted across the street. We were whistled at, touted, and generally stared at as we walked around the city. I haven’t felt that unwelcome in a place in a while. We got some biscuits and waters and went back to the hotel. We rested. Dinner time approached. Kat and I looked at each other. We’d had 8 hours on buses, trains and cabs. We were sweaty and dirty. We were just done. Done with Casablanca, Done with Morocco and, in this moment, really done with traveling in general. These are the moments, and there are many of them, that people don’t think about when they hear the words “around the world trip.” In that moment, there was only thing to do:
Judge us. I don’t care. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Sometimes you just need a taste of home. We didn’t want to deal with finding a restaurant, getting there, dealing with the language barrier. We just wanted something quick and easy and, most of all, familiar. We darted to a McDonald’s we’d seen earlier in the day, went inside, ordered (it was the most crowded, chaotic McDonald’s I’d ever been in. MOBS of teenagers and a very harried employee taking peoples’ orders with a wireless device) got our stuff to go and bolted back to the hotel, refusing to look at anyone or anything. We ate our burgers and fries happily in bed and I hooked our laptop up to the tv and we watched American sitcoms. Casablanca was all happening right outside our window but it might as well have been a million miles away. We had traveled tens of thousands of miles over seven months and now we were doing all we could to try to feel like we were back in America. It was time for us to come home.
NOTE – Apologies for the lack of photos. We took no actual photos of Casablanca because why on Earth would we want to remember this place?