MOROCCAN diary - 05-17 January 2017

Journal of Morocco
05/01/to 17/01/2017
RAM flight from MRS to RBA on B737-700
Here is a country I had never been back to after 40 years. I first came to Morocco in 1975 as a young
high school teacher. I opted for the civil service to fulfill a 12-month compulsory military service. So I was assigned to teach at Lycée Lyautey in Casablanca. At the time, it was the biggest French secondary school overseas. My tiny apartment was located at Avenue des FAR in Casablanca, where I lived for two years until 1977.
After a 2-hour's flight, the Royal Air Maroc B737-700 from Marseilles [MRS] landed at Rabat-Salé Airport [RBA].

05/01- First impressions.
It was 7ºC at Marseilles and 16ºC at destination! There were not many passengers aboard the airplane and the airport seemed quiet too. It looked clean and very modern. I did not have too long to wait for the luggage delivery and all the formalities were done swiftly.
Once in the main hall, I changed some money first, inquired for the bus shuttle (none at the moment) or the taxi fare (150 DH). The airport offers free WiFi, so I sat down with a coffee for a while before proceeding to town.

Mohamed V Ave. in Rabat
At the taxi-stand, I faced the usual taxi-scam. I asked for a “grand taxi” but obviously as all the other passengers had already left, they were all asking for 200 DH! I decided to turn back to the terminal and as I was doing so one person that seemed to be monitoring the place called me back and assigned me with a taxi for 150 DH....

The taxi-driver is an old guy and sounds quite nice. His Mercedes seemed as old as its owner and gave signs of fatigue. All I am asking for is to reach Rabat-Ville Central Station safely. I notice the expressway and also a large number of old cars, some of them can already be classified as vintage cars. There is a fair distance from the airport to RABAT. As we cross the Bou Regreg River, I see they are building a huge Theater and Concert Hall. Once at the Central Station, a friendly policeman shows me the way to the AirBnB building, a few meters away, on Baghdad Street. It is a bit hard to climb up 4 floors without an elevator with luggage. But the host comes down on the 3rd F to give me a hand by taking my case. The apartment is big, comfortable, very Moroccan in style, but not exactly to my taste. My room ('the blue room') is really tiny but fine for the time I'll stay here. I start unpacking and get ready to go.

Connecting back with Rabat.

Following a customary habit, I go on a discovery walk through downtown towards the Medina. Being
In the medina
familiar with northern Africa, I am not uncomfortable with the environment. On Mohamed V Avenue, I notice that there are many security guards like in France. They walk, fully armed, by groups of three: two soldiers and a policeman in between. There are many cafés and the shops do not look particularly attractive. I like the tall palm-trees and the whiteness of the buildings. Getting to the Medina, I feel at home with the crowd, the shops, the fragrances and the minarets. I just follow my instinct by walking until I reach a vast esplanade where the Kasbah of the Oudayas is located. The sun is already low on the ocean and I feel it is time for me to go back as it is a long way to the station. I decide to go along the river and it probably takes me twice as long but this was an introductory tour to get a city orientation.

06/01- Exploring the Medina and the Oudayas.
Checking on the Guide vert Michelin, I did the first recommended walking tour yesterday. But today, with my cameras, I will take my time and explore side lanes.

Kasbah of the Oudayas
Back into the maze of the Medina, I first stop around the Great Mosque. Today is Friday, so many shops are closed. It makes it easier to move around. The security guards are also positioned here and there in the Medina. The leather souq is my favorite near the mosque. At the other end, above the river, I turn into the Rue des Consuls. It used to be the residence of diplomatic delegations a long time ago. La rue du Consulat de France seems to be a sullen alley these days. The French poet André Chénier's father lived there as the French Ambassador. One thing that strikes me again is the diversity and outstanding craftsmanship of the Moroccan artisans. As a matter of fact, the French word “maroquinerie” stands to design the art of making leather products. But Morocco is also known for its furniture making.

07/01A walk to the Chela and the Embassy quarter.
No breakfast this morning as I start my day late. I have decided to walk as far
At the Chela
as the Chella, past the Royal Palace and the City Walls. Security is everywhere due perhaps to the proximity of the palace, the ministries, and the embassies. Anyway, walking around in Rabat feels truly safe. Crossing streets can be hazardous, though! You really need to be careful, even at pedestrian crossings when the light is green for pedestrians!
The Chella is on a hill above the Bou Regreg River and the city of Salé on the opposite bank. A green field planted with olive trees and oleanders lies between the fortress and the City Walls. They are renovating the Chela walls at the time. The entrance fee is only 10DH. Once inside, it feels like an oasis. But this is the site of the former Roman colony of Sala that gave its name to the town of Salé and most probably to the Chela as well. Besides the garden and the Roman ruins, there are also
Moorish café
the remnants of a former mosque and mausoleum with a few royal tombs. A huge colony of storks has settled their nests in this whole area. But being in this enclosed green space makes you feel miles away as silence surrounds you. Only the clapping sound of stork-beaks and an occasional mew break the silence.
I walked back a slightly different way and ended in a sort of fast-food café on Av.Mohamed V sitting in the sun and having nothing else to eat but another 4-cheese pizza!
In the evening, I walked back to the Kasbah des Oudayas as I wanted to sit at the Moorish café and get a feel of the sunset. This time, I crossed the Medina through a different street.

08/01RABAT: northern side of the city center.
Even if it is warm during the day, the temperature drops at night. It was 17ºC yesterday and only 7ºC at night. The houses do not have a heating system so the feel of cold is rather unpleasant.
Ever since I arrived, I have found it hard to get a decent meal. Moroccan cuisine has well-known,
Rabat-Centre station
delicious delicacies but here in the capital city, it is hard to find. Most eating places offer a type of local fast-food and it is the same everywhere. Couscous is only served on Fridays. Yet, they forget to mention it is only at lunch time! The food, however, is inexpensive. This morning I had breakfast at the station Segafredo café (it has become my favorite) for only 30DH: cappuccino+danish+fresh orange juice. Going to other places can be a problem if you are a non-smoker.
I came to Rabat to see if it were a possible livable place to be. At this point of time, it is a big NO for me! Clicking on a place is a very personal feeling. I keep thinking of Tunisia, which I fell in love with. Rabat is certainly an interesting city to visit for a while. It is a different story to think of living there. So, maybe I'll see how it feels while in Marrakesh.

The streets are deserted on Sundays. Well, except on Ave.Mohamed V because they are having a demonstration somewhere near the GPO. Police are everywhere. I also notice big black limousines having police or army officials cruising the avenue.

Royal guard
Today, I walk to the Hassan Tower. The part of town between Ave.Mohamed V and the Bou Regreg looks more residential. There are more convenience shops there too: groceries, bakeries, fruiterers and of course many more cafés. Yet, on Sundays, everything is closed but cafés.
When I get to Tour Hassan, I first see two royal guards on horses at the entrance. But unfortunately, it is closed today. I enquire with a standing policeman, who kindly tells me that it is closed because they are having a royal visit today. The whole area is guarded by police and many nearby streets are prohibited from entering. Generally speaking, I found that everybody was kind and polite here, particularly when they find out that you are a foreign visitor. It certainly makes you feel welcome. As far as security is concerned, there is nothing to complain about these days knowing what the situation is everywhere. Morocco has remained as peaceful as can be and is still a major touristic destination.
Anyway, I must change my plan and come back to the mausoleum tomorrow. So, I decide to use the
Rabat Museum of Modern Art
rest of the afternoon and go to the Museum of Modern Art. This is a huge, contemporary building located near the upper end of Mohamed V Avenue. They have a permanent exhibition as well as a temporary one dedicated to female Moroccan artists. I choose to visit both as I have time to spare (40DH). I truly loved the temporary exhibit, and a little less the permanent one.
It was another fine sunny day today. In the evening, I tried the restaurant in the arcade near the AirBnB apartment and the Rabat-Ville Station. Tonight, I chose to eat their homemade lasagna (total price with the drink is about 50DH).

09/01Salé and Tour Hassan.

Wall gate in Salé
In the morning, it feels so cold in my room that I am reluctant to get up till late. So, I get another late breakfast at the Segafredo coffee-shop at the station. By the time, the waiter knows me well!
I have decided to shorten my trip in Rabat and leave for Marrakesh tomorrow. After breakfast, I go to the ticket counter and buy my ticket to Marrakesh: one-way First class is 195DH.
Today is my last day in Rabat. So I decide to take the tramway to SALÉ and visit the city before returning to Tour Hassan later in the afternoon. A single ticket to anywhere costs 6DH.
The old city is also surrounded by a wall. I walked through the medina but was
Hassan Tower
not really impressed. Some parts were really dirty. I left the Medina to get to the modern city by the Bou Regreg. There is a huge modern mosque near the ocean. So I walked to the seaside and the river estuary from where there is a nice view on the Kasbah des Oudayas on the opposite bank. On my way back to the tram station, I walked past the city walls and two city gates.
The tram took me near the Hassan Tower. It would have been a pity not to see the tower (Rabat landmark) and Mohamed V mausoleum.
So, as I was not really impressed by the life in the capital, I decided to shorten my trip and leave for Marrakesh early tomorrow morning. It truly felt cold in the apartment. It reminded me of Lyautey's quote: “Morocco is a cold country where the sun is hot” [“Le Maroc est un pays froid où le soleil est chaud”).
The Bou Regreg River & the Kasbah of the Oudayas from Salé.
10/01Train ride from RABAT to MARRAKESH.

From Rabat to Marrakesh
Traveling is always a key to adventure. I woke up early to get to the rail station. I had my breakfast at the Segafredo café again. The train was on time at 7:45. It stopped in Casablanca about an hour later. But on the way from Casablanca to Marrakesh, the train stopped twice at local stations. The first time for 50 min and the second time for about 40 to 45 min! We were supposed to arrive at around 12-noon. Of course, the trip was delayed and we got to Marrakesh at 2:00 PM...
Before reaching the station, there was a fabulous sight: the snow-capped mountains of the Atlas under a blazing sun. What a view!
The IBIS hotel is right next to the station, a huge modern building very clean and having shops, cafés, and many other facilities. The hotel is not that great but it is conveniently located.
After installation, I walked to town. It is a long way to the Koutoubia and Place Djemaa el Fna. But by walking, I was also able to see Guéliz (the modern town). Across from the vast square of the railway station, there is a huge modern oriental construction: the Royal Theater.
Funny how you click with a place right at the beginning. This part of Marrakesh has big avenues with large sidewalks. It is clean and the buildings look really attractive. The impression will persist.

The Koutoubia
The minaret of the Koutoubia has been freshly restored and it really makes this outstanding landmark even more beautiful. And now what to say about the medieval square of Djemaa el Fna! It has remained as magical and exotic as it has always been. Its name means the “assembly of the dead” because in the Middle Ages it used to be where capital punishments were performed in public. Today, it has become the meeting point where sightseers and locals come across. It is a vast circus where acrobats, storytellers, snake charmers, monkey shows, musicians, Berber dancers, vendors of all trades perform their trades. There are many fruit stalls selling the citrus of Morocco: oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tangerines and many other fruits as well. A big glass of freshly squeezed orange costs 4DH, Anywhere else it is 12Dh. I try to get a bar of almond and honey nugget from a vendor, who sells more than twice the price it costs. He tried to cheat me on the change. This is what the tourists are responsible for! I decide to go on the terrace of one of the cafés to get an overall view of the square activities. The mint tea – paid in advance – costs 20Dh. Anywhere else it is 10Dh.
In the suq
But anyway, it's worth being up there to get another view of the live show going beneath.
And then, as adventurous as ever, I proceed to get into the maze of the souq alleys. Another kind of show is being displayed: Ali Baba's treasures and “all the perfumes of Arabia” (to quote Shakespeare). This is Marrakesh!
Walking back to the station, I stopped again near the Koutoubia. The sunset light gave a golden hue to the minaret. Pure magic again.
For dinner, I went to a restaurant across the street from the IBIS. It offered a couscous royal for 80Dh. It was expensive and not that great but I was dying for a Moroccan couscous.

11/01MARRAKESH [The Pink City: Exploring Riads Zitoun & Kasbahs.
This time after breakfast, I took a taxi to get to the Riads Zeitoun district (20Dh). I started with a visit to the Bahia Palace (entrance 10Dh only). This is a sumptuous palace worth of the One Thousand and One Nights best dreams. It is a succession of inner courts with halls having a painted wood ceiling and walls filled with intricate ceramics and white stuccos. Moroccan Art appears at its best in remembrance of the Andalusian Art.

Bahia Palace courtyard

At the end of this first visit, I tried to get to Dar Si Saïd, another nearby palace. But today is a holiday, so it was closed. I walked back to the Place des Ferblantiers ('Tinsmiths Square'). On the way, I found a small Moroccan restaurant featuring some real Moroccan cuisine. This is the place I chose to eat for lunch. I ordered a 'Tajine de poulet au citron' (a lemon chicken stew). It was delicious and real cheap (Dh35). After lunch, I
Lazama Synagogue
walked through the narrow lane of the Mellah the Jewish district) and tried to get to the Synagogue, where a group of Moroccan Jews was chatting over tea. The Lazama Synagogue is a very old Jewish landmark in Marrakesh. In Morocco as well as in Tunisia, the Jews were there since the fall of the Jerusalem Temple. Many Berbers – I should use the term Imazighen (sg. Amazigh) – were of Hebraic confession as it is the case in Jerba, Tunisia. Marrakesh was the capital of a Berber dynasty. Nowadays, the Berber language and writing (the Tifinagh) is the third official language of the Kingdom. Many public buildings include the Amazigh transcript with the Arabic and French ones. As I passed by the Café Berbère on the Place des Ferblantiers, I sat for a mint tea and talked with the owner, a Berber from the Souss valley in the south. Later on, I went to visit the Badi Palace. Although it is now in ruins, the layout is really
Badi Palace
imposing. In one of the showrooms, they were presenting a computerized film showing how it looked like at the time. As I climbed the stairs to a terrace offering a viewpoint, I came across two Chinese girls from Hong Kong and we chatted for a while. The Atlas mountain range was all white with snow glittering in the sunshine. An amazing sight above the roofs of the palace and the city houses.

Panorama of Marrakesh from the terrace of Badi Palace
After the Badi Palace, I walked towards Djema el-Fna and tried to find a recommended pastry shop
Sunset outside the walls
called La Pâtisserie des Princes. After asking, I finally spotted it in a pedestrian street leading to Djema el-Fna square. I sat down with a mille-feuille au miel and a glass of fresh orange juice. It was time to get back to the magic of Place Djema el-Fna and also the souqs.
Around the end of the afternoon, I walked to the Koutoubia once more, across the garden, past the Hotel Mamounia and ended up taking a long stroll along the light brown city walls to watch the sunset over the Atlas.

 It was then time for me to walk back to the Place des Ferblantiers in order to have dinner at what had become my favorite restaurant. Tonight, I ordered a 'harira' (a thick vegetable soup) and a chicken pastilla with another glass of fresh orange juice (Dh54). The waiter called a taxi for me after dining.

12/01MARRAKESH: exploring Ville Nouvelle, Riads Zitoun, and the Central Souqs.

YSL monument
Another fabulous day in the 'Pink City'. There are so many things to see! I started the day by taking a taxi to go to the new city ('Ville Nouvelle') in order to visit Jardin Majorelle (entrance fee is Dh100 for the garden & the museum). This used to be the home of the Parisian designer Yves Saint-Laurent, who attended the same school as my father in Oran. The garden is amazing. There are many tropical and exotic species including bamboos, an extraordinary collection of cactus as well as trees and plants from various origins. The house is painted in blue with a touch of white here and there. Another interesting feature is the Musée Berbère (Berber Museum) opened a few years ago by Pierre Bergé. Quite interesting. I bought the catalog at the little bookshop they have, next to the YSL gallery of prints. Many Japanese visitors are around.
Then, I took another taxi to go back to the Riads Zeitoun district. First, I visited Dar Si Said, which was closed yesterday. It is another lovely palace. In a narrow street nearby, there is also an interesting mansion, Maison Tiskiwin, which is a museum dedicated to the cultures of the Sahara. I walked back to the Café Bahia to have lunch with a chicken couscous.
I spent the rest of the afternoon walking in the Central Souqs, got lost a few times but was put back
on the right track by asking people. This is how I discovered another treasure trove. I saw a sign saying Musée héritage marocain (The Heritage Museum , Moroccan Heritage Museum). I went it and discovered another wonderful medina mansion presenting items of the local culture. The view from the terrace was awesome. They have arranged it as a little café where they offer mint tea to visitors. The design of the round copper tray they served me tea, was most interesting. A Berber cross was at the center of David's cross. I talked with the Moroccan lady serving about this design and she acknowledged the inter-influence of both. This is an amazing country, which has always protected its Jewish community and which has now fully recognized the Berber culture as a root of a truly Moroccan Heritage. This is exactly what makes the Maghreb so unique and also so different from other so-called Arab countries. Kudos to the King and the Moroccans for preserving the heritage as a true source of national culture! Next, I went to the Musée de Marrakech, which is also inside a huge palace. Not far from here, I also saw Ali Ben Youssef Medersa (Koranic school). As it was already a full day, I tried to get back to Djemaa el-Fna square, got lost in the maze again, but eventually found my way to get another orange juice and a fresh look at the square activities.
View from the Moroccan Heritage Museum
I needed to get into a taxi back to the IBIS in order to go to the airport to collect my car by 5:00 PM. A taxi to get there is more expensive (Dh70). Marrakesh-Menara Airport has a brand new modern terminal. I collected my Fiat-Pinto at the Europcar service and drove back to the hotel by myself.

13/01- Drive from MARRAKESH to OUARZAZATE through Tizi-N'Tichka.
I left the hotel by 7:30 AM but before I figured out how to be on the proper road southwards, it was already 8:00 AM when I hit the road to Ouarzazate.

Tizi-n'Tichka road
I know I had been there before, but I had absolutely no memories of the road or even the landscape. You start driving up the Haut Atlas at about 45km southeast of Marrakesh. The road climbs gently the first foothills until you get to the first pass at about 1,440 meters high. There is a small café there with a terrace to get a view of red mineral formation on the mountain. It is a reminder of the Painted Desert of Arizona or of Roussillon, in the Luberon, in Provence. This is an
Drive across the Atlas Mountains
Amazigh country with villages and sometimes a Kasbah (a fortified mansion with four towers). Then the road winds steeply up to the pass of Tizi-N'Tichka at an altitude of 2,260m [tizi, means a pass in the Berber language]. The road up the mountain is brand new having three alternate lanes. It offers dramatic views of the snow-capped mountains and the valleys below. At this height, there is still some snow on the roadside. On the other side of the mountain, the landscape starts changing drastically. By the time, you get downhill, the countryside becomes dry, mineral, and purely Saharan. This area, about 60 km away from Ouarzazate, is called 'khela' (dry plateaus with hills).
I reached OUARZAZATE at about 12-noon after 250km. This first Saharan town has the same light brown color as Marrakesh but the architecture is that of the desert. It is quite a big community, rather nice and pleasant, looking very clean. The IBIS hotel is built in the local style reminding of a Kasbah. It is much nicer than the Ibis-Gare in Marrakesh.

Amazigh flag
After getting my room, I drove back to the city center and found a nice Berber café and restaurant on the main square. I ordered a chicken couscous. Sitting there in the sun, I saw that they had the Amazigh flag on the public building. In fact, today is the Berber New Year.
In the afternoon, I first went to visit the Kasbah of Taourirt,
Kasbah of Taourirt
which is near the hotel (entrance: 20Dh). It became hot in the afternoon (26ºC). I noticed that they had many cinema studios and even a cinema museum in town. I learned that many Hollywood productions were filmed locally, for instance, the 'Rambo' stories with Sylvester Stallone. Anyway, after Taourirt, I drove back on the Marrakesh road to go and see the Kasbah of Tiffoultoute, about 12km away. The entrance fee of 20Dh includes a guide to visit this former residence of the Glaoui (local Prince from Marrakesh).
In the evening, I went back to the same Berber restaurant after a short walk downtown Ouarzazate.

14/01- Drive from OUARZAZATE to MARRAKESH via Aït-Benhaddou & Telouet.
Yesterday's temperature was really pleasant during the day. It was 26ºC. But this morning at sunrise it was only 3ºC! It went up to 9ºC and then 11ºC and stabilized at 15º-16ºC as I drove through the Atlas.
I decided to drive back to Tizi-n'Tichka pass on a different road. The Ouarzazate Tourist Board had advised this alternative. There is a well-known tourist itinerary known as the 'Route des Kasbas' ('the Kasbah Road'). But this route goes east across the valleys of the Drâa and the Dadès. About 25-30km north of Ouarzazate, on the main road to Marrakesh, there is a crossroad on the right leading to Ait-Benhaddou. The road then goes north until it links with the main road a few kilometers before Tizi-n'Tichka.
Aït-Benhaddou Kasbah
Aït-Benhaddou [ⴰⵢⵜ ⵃⴰⴷⴷⵓ] is a small touristic village because of its picturesque Kasbah. I had been
Starring Peter O'Toole
there before. But things have changed. The Kasbah - once the site of the British movie 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962) - was in poor condition. It has now become a UNESCO World Heritage site [Ait Benhaddhou/Unesco]. So, it has been restored and looks much better. After parking the car at a designated parking area, you must walk to this awesome Berber Kasbah. And then you must also wade across a wadi stepping from stone to stone. In the morning light, this place looks really magic.

Leaving Aït-Benhaddhou the road becomes dramatic. As it is very narrow, it becomes eerie at times as you drive above canyons along a mountain river. Fortunately, there is very little traffic on the road. It is absolutely amazing in its raw beauty. It is a succession of Berber villages, some with their original Kasbahs or 'agadir' (Amazigh name for 'community granary') like in the Aurès mountains of Algeria. Many places have Tifinagh characters. I drove past à Kasbah harboring the sign Z on its towers. This is a major cultural symbol for the Berbers. The Berber/Amazigh language is called Tamazight [ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ].The Tifinagh [ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ] alphabet is made of dots, circles, and lines. In the word AmaZigh [ⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ] (pl. ImaZighen) the letter Z stands at the core of the word. As a matter of fact, the transcript for Amazigh
On the way to Telouet
would be like this: AMZRH. The Z symbol [] is also featured on the Berber flag. I believe there is also another connection with what I call the Berber star made of: X and I. In the Amazigh culture, the meaning has lost its former significance but tradition has kept the symbols. By deciphering these symbols, I believe you can explain the common heritage of the ImaZighen.
Anyway, the road is under construction further on and as I was driving along, I could only hope that it would enable me to reach the Tizi-n'Tichka main road. It did after the other last picturesque village of Telouet. But the road remained in a very poor condition. I sure was relieved to be back on the main road to Marrakesh. 
I reached Marrakesh by 2:00 PM. So it took me 6 hours this time to drive back. What an interesting way it was though!
After checking in at the IBIS, and before returning the car to the airport, I went to see the Menara garden. This place has also changed as it is now a public garden full of people, particularly on a Saturday afternoon.
Menara Garden in Marrakesh
Once the car had been returned, instead of taking a taxi, I found out there was an airport bus leaving every half hour to Djema el-Fna (30Dh). Today was a cool day in town. I walked back to the Bahia Palace area, sat down for a mint tea on the square at 'Café Berbère' and then decided to have an early dinner at 'Café Bahia', ordering a vegetarian couscous with a glass of orange juice.
Going back to the station with a 'petit taxi', I bought my train ticket to Casablanca for tomorrow. 

15/01- Train from MARRAKESH to CASABLANCA.
Marrakesh to Casa
The train to Casablanca left on time at 8:45 AM. The car I was in was much better than on the train ride to Marrakesh. The trip went smoothly this time and arrived at Casablanca-Voyageurs on schedule at 12-noon.
A friendly taxi driver took me to the IBIS-City Center for 40Dh. This IBIS is much better than the one in Marrakesh. The room is bigger but the view on the 2nd F is limited on to the harbor. It is located near the house I lived in on
Old classic movie
Avenue des F.A.R. The new 'Gare du Port' is across the street. It offers a direct link to the airport on the hour. The station is designed like a big mall with a MacDonald's and a Starbucks!
Linking the port to downtown, Houphouët-Bouany Avenue has not changed with all its shops and its tall palm-trees. I stopped to get some lunch at Café de la Gare, offering WiFi too. It is rather cool in town due to a strong breeze blowing from the ocean. So, I sat in the sun and ordered a chicken skewer with sauteed veggies.

My former building
I was eager to get back to my old hangout places downtown after lunch. First, I went up to Place des Nations Unies. The only noticeable change I saw was the minaret of the old Medina mosque. Then, I went into Avenue des FAR, where I lived. I saw the building where I used to be. The Air France office was still there at the street level. Little had changed in this particular area except that the buildings had lost their whiteness and looked in poorer condition. By the way, Casablanca is not as clean as the other cities I visited. There are 4M people living in the largest Moroccan city, still one of the largest in Africa. Anfa was its original Amazigh name. (This is the name of one of its district). Then the Portuguese called it 'Casa branca', which later became 'Casa blanca' by the Spanish. The French kept the Spanish name. Sometimes, it is called 'Dar el-Beida' in Arabic. Further on, Boulevard Mohammed V has become a tramway road. The Mauresque or Art Nouveau buildings were still the same but the street did not have the nice shops it used to have under the arcades. I went as far as the Marché Central, where I used to do my shopping. It was still the same. I searched for the rue
Gare du Port & IBIS hotel
(pedestrian street)
….and yes, it was still there except that it was not as chic as before.
Place Mohammed V looked bigger than I thought but is currently under complete renovation. So after doing this circle tour, I walked back to the Gare du Port to sit with a coffee at Starbucks!
In the evening, I went back to the Café de la Gare and dined wit a Tajine de poulet aux citrons, with mint tea and a crème caramel for dessert.

Easy relaxing last day in Morocco today. The weather was much warmer and brightly sunny. It was definitively above 15ºC, and I think I saw it was 19ºC. Quite a blessing after the cold wave of the past few days.
It was also a more pleasant experience to enjoy the breakfast buffet in a nicer environment. This IBIS hotel is truly fine and by all means better than the one in Marrakesh.

Casablanca tramway lines.
Walking up to the Place des Nations Unies, I took the tramway to the terminus (RT ticket:14Dh). It takes almost half an hour to reach Aïn Diab. It is a good opportunity to see the rest of the city and some of the residential areas like Beauséjour or Anfa. At Aïn Diab, I walked along the seaside promenade and even went down for a walk on the beach. Then, I went towards the Corniche to
Lunch at Aïn Diab
look for a place to get lunch. I found a nice restaurant with a sunny terrace called Café Miami. I ordered a paella with a glass of fresh orange juice (95Dh). I walked back to the tram station after lunch and this time, I got off at
Place Mohammed V. As the square is under renovation, there is no perspective. I walked to the Parc de la Ligue Arabe and it was also being renovated. Walking in the streets of 'Casa' is not as pleasant as in the other places. It is often dirty and not well-maintained. On rue d'Alger – where the
Casablanca Central Market
Spanish Consulate General is – there are some nice buildings but the sidewalks are not pleasant. The huge
Cathédrale N-D de Lourdes is also being entirely renovated. So I turned onto Boulevard de Paris past the GPO and Place Mohammed V until I reached the pedestrian street again. I went back to Boulevard Mohammed V as far as the Marché central and this time went in to see. Still plenty of flowers for sale, tons of colorful fruits and a great choice of fish and seafood including oysters. On the way out, I used some side streets I know to get back to Avenue des FAR and then back to the hotel IBIS after a very long walk across downtown.
After resting for a little while, I decided to go out again to the rail station, Casa-Gare du Port. I sat at a café, having a hot chocolate and a danish for 29Dh. I worked on my computer for a while. Then, before returning to my hotel room, I took a brief tour of the old medina.
Evening dinner at Café de la Gare.
Map of Morocco
17/01- Qatar Airways flight from Casablanca to Doha.

From downtown to airport
Early breakfast at the IBIS dining-room before leaving for the airport. At 9:00 AM, I checked out to go to the station (Gare de Casa-Port). The train I want to take leaves at 10:00 AM. The single trip ticket costs 43Dh. I have time to get coffee at Starbucks before proceeding to the platform. The train I boarded in was not the one I finally took. An ONCF (name of the Moroccan rail company) comes in the cars and tells the passengers to go to another platform. The right train leaves 10min late. It takes 40min to get to Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport [CMN] after two stops: Casa-Voyageurs & Casa-Oasis. The train stops right beneath the terminal but it takes a while to go through the first security.
Air route from CMN to BKK.
The QR flight leaves from Terminal 2. Checked in went smoothly and I proceeded to the VIP/Business lounge after a 2nd security check. The Royal Air Maroc lounge is quite big and rather pleasant. 
QR B787-Dreamliner from CMN to DOH
Boarding was a bit slow but eventually we took off on time. Great service as usual. I chose the time for my meal two hours after departure. They served a 'surprise dish' of salmon. Then I had a dish of prawns on a nest of sliced potatoes. It was followed by a 'harira' soup and a lamb couscous. I had also a plate of cheeses and a blueberry cheesecake for dessert. The fist wine I chose was a Margaux and then I switched to an Aussie Shiraz. I was able to sleep a bit on this flight. We arrived in Doha a little before midnight after a flight of 6h20mn aboard a B787-8/Dreamliner, one of my favorite aircraft of the new generation.
QR air route from CMN to DOH.
On this route, the aircraft flew across Northern Africa Rabat, Fez, Oran, Algiers, Constantine, Tunisia, Malta, and left the Mediterranean sea to fly near Cairo, Hurgada, Medine, Ryad and finally Doha.
As I had a rather long transfer at HIA, I was able to get a room in the quiet area of the business lounge.

18/01- Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Bangkok.
The A380-800 remains my favorite aircraft. This was a rather short trip eastwards of 5h45min. I slept during most of the time and woke up about an hour before landing for breakfast.
The temperature was 31ºC at landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport. I knew I was finally back home!
QR air route from DOH to BKK.
--> Slideshow (Google): Trip to Morocco

* End of the trip *

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