We arrived in Casablanca during the early days of Ramadan, and our hotel was situated in the city so that we had a view of the Hassan II Mosque. It’s the third largest Islamic mosque in the world and the two largest are located in Saudi Arabia. We decided to take a tour of the mosque on our second day and learned that the structure was built in only 6 years and was completed in 1993. It contains baths, a visitor center, and enough interior space to hold 25,000 worshipers. The interior is divided into two levels, the top level holds 5,000 women and the ground level allows for a remaining 20,000 men to gather for prayer. When I asked our tour guide why there was such a difference in the ratio between men and women that come for prayer, she told me that most of the women stay at home with their children and can pray at home. I also asked why they were separated and she said its so that the men wont be distracted by beautiful women praying around them. I thought that was interesting, I love learning new things! On top of that, there is enough exterior space on the grounds for 80,000 more worshipers. Wow!
So in order to get to the mosque, we asked the hotel to call a cab for us. The “white cab,” as they call it, came to pick us up with a nice driver that was very friendly, spoke English fairly well and wanted to show us the city. He offered to drive us around the city at MAD 200 per hour to give us his version of a Casablanca driving tour. Everything went very smoothly from the hotel to the mosque where we spent about an hour touring and exploring the grounds. However, by the time we finished our tour and made our way back to the cab, the driver told us that his wife had a bad toothache and he need to take her to the orthodontist. He said he had already called his friend to come and pick us up to continue our “driving tour.” (Side eye!!!) I was very leery of this until his friend came over and was driving what appeared to be a legitimate, registered taxi car. This second cab driver barely spoke English so the ride was a struggle for about another 2 hours. He took us around the coast, slowed down in front of attractions like the beach, mall, and golf course to see if we wanted to get out and “spend as much time as we wanted” but we said “no” to all of them. I told him that we just wanted to go to the souk and that would be our last stop with him.
Instead of taking us to the souk, he took his sweet time driving us through the affluent parts of the city and then to a little shopping district. By this time Brandon and I were pretty much over the shenanigans and realized what the man was really trying to do. Later on we talked about the whole city working together against tourists to get their money and put them in situations where they were nearly forced to purchase goods from the local merchants. I think that the initial white taxi driver is apart of a company that’s always called on by our hotel to pick up guests and then once he realized that we were open to doing a “tour” of the city, he called on his homeboy to finish the job .
After a long experience at a rug dealer’s showroom, we ended up asking the driver to just take us back to our hotel. Of course he didn’t understand and asked us if we wanted to go to another shop, but Brandon got really blunt with the guy and told him to TAKE US BACK! He kindly obliged and once we got back to our hotel, we made a plan to eat lunch and then go out on our own and walk to the souk, which was only 2 minutes away from the hotel.
The souk was IN-TENSE. I wasn’t prepared then but I am now and I will be prepared forever more when it comes to walking through a bustling souk full of thirsty, competitive salesman. About 4 different men spotted us and wanted to walk with us, get to know us and show us around the souk. Although they said it was for “free” and that we were their “brother and sister”, we knew that it was just a ploy to get us back to their shop so we could be harassed into buying something. It didn’t take long for me to get annoyed by this intense experience so we did a quick sweep and went back to our hotel. I’ve concluded that the token phrase for salesmen in Casablanca is “just look, no buy.”
Made by: itsmeantforme.com, Just Look, No Buy, June 21, 2016