And I’m off!

Day 2
Casablanca, Morocco

It was a relatively uneventful trip from JFK to Morocco aboard Royal Air Maroc flight 7849. The plane wasn’t anywhere near full which allowed me to sprawl out across a couple of seats in the back and get a few hours of sleep. About 6.5 hours and 3,528 miles later we were touching down at Mohammed V Airport. It’s a pretty modern facility — although trying to communicate with the immigration officer made me realize that English is not widely spoken here.

It was aboard the train from the airport that Casablanca’s huge disparity of wealth became apparent. We passed through mile after mile of tin towns with dilapidated buildings, roaming donkeys and garbage strewn everywhere.

Almost a third of Casablanca’s population lives in these types of settlements — many are without running water, power or sewage systems. Those who take up home here are beyond impoverished and largely ignored by the government. With little else, they are prone to be drawn to Islamic fundamentalism. In fact, the culprits in both the 2003 and 2007 Casablanca bombings have been identified as residents of Sidi Moumen, a shanty outside of town.

I’m staying at Hotel Ibis Moussafir Casablanca, which is conveniently located just a block away from Casa Voyaguers, the central train station. Once Charlotte arrives in the next hour or so, we’re going to walk around downtown Casablanca and then get dinner at a cliff-top restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean near Phare d’el-Hank. Then tomorrow, we’re joining a tour of the Hassan II Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world and one of the few that allow access to non-Muslims. We’ll grab lunch in the city’s old medina (marketplace) before boarding our 4.5 hour train to Marrakech.

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