First Impressions of Casablanca, Morocco — How Do You Say Ashtray in French?

Greeting from Casablanca. Just when I got the hang of life in the Marrakesh Medina, I had to take a 3-hour train to Morocco’s largest city and financial hub.

This is essentially one of two long layovers until I eventually arrive in South Africa on Saturday. This was my second rest day for my month-long trip, where I just need to sleep all-day, do laundry and take a swim.

The word Casablanca probably conjures up one of the greatest movies of all time before you think of the actual city. You’ll see posters and pictures from the movie all around the city. It’s in the lobby of my hotel, in the bar, in restaurant fronts and tourism guides. I don’t want to be the one to tell them this but, A) The movie was never shot here, B) The writers oft he originally story never went to Casablanca. They were inspired by Vienna and cafes in the South of France.

In any event, I’ve got all-day tomorrow to see the sites using the NY Times 36 Hours as my guide, and I already knocked out two tonight. More on those places later.

In the video, a person says, “Casablanca is the heart of Morocco.” I kind of consider it the ashtray of Morocco. Despite the magnitude of activity, noise and occasional smell of feces in Marrakesh, the wonderful smells of jasmine, cinnamon, flowers, spices, leather, grilled meats and clean desert air fills up your lungs. Here, it is fresh cigarette smoke, stale cigarette smoke, exhaust and the desperation of older French men trying to score with young, petite Moroccan women.

There are no smoke free areas. My hotel room smells of it, the beach smells, the pool area smells and the bars have that pumped in with fans blowing it all around. Now, I smell like an old college dive bar in the mid-90s on a Friday night.

Traffic wise, it’s a mess like other Middle Eastern and North African countries. Take Los Angeles, add uniform traffic cops with whistles, drivers with no regard for safety, unregulated cars and pedestrians out for a death wish and you’ll get the picture.

Casablanca definitely has the better nightlife … I think. My hotel is by the beach and there are 3 or 4 boulevards and side streets lined with clubs with nobody in them. At 10pm on a Wednesday,  the bouncers and staff seem to outnumber the customers.

Now, if you excuse me, I have to hang myself out a window to get the smoke off of me.

3 thoughts on “First Impressions of Casablanca, Morocco — How Do You Say Ashtray in French?

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