Monday, April 4, 2016

MOROCCO: FROM LOS ANGELES TO FES

For some reason, the countdown to our Morocco trip was especially exciting. "Four weeks from now we'll be in Morocco!" "Eleven days from now we'll be in Morocco!" "Tomorrow we leave for Morocco!" We planned well in advance, catching up on our immunizations, picking up a prescription antibiotic "just in case," and discussing what to pack. Somehow I didn't notice until we got to the airport that this was my husband's stylish footwear selection:
Yeah, I tried to sit a few seats away.

Speaking of the airport, for years LAX has been remodeling the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Believe me, it needed it. It was the ugliest terminal in the world. Now, however, the scaffolding is down, revealing an upscale and interesting shopping area. I think it can hold its own among the world's international terminals. I especially love this video tower upon which various images are projected for twenty or thirty minutes at a time. I call this particular projection "The Monument of Lost Luggage":

We had a very L-O-N-G non-stop flight to Paris (10 hours), and then a very short connection (1.5 hours). All those wonderful French pastries and baguettes in the CDG airport were calling to me but had to wait until our next visit on our return flight. Airport security was especially tight because Paris had been attacked by ISIS terrorists just four months before. We showed our passports when we disembarked from our LA flight. We were routed back through a full security check that required a couple more passport checks. There were long lines everywhere. We showed our passports again to get on the bus that took us out to our plane. Altogether I think we showed our passports four times just for a transfer to a different plane in the same airport. We made it to our connecting flight gate with just enough time for a bathroom stop before catching the bus to the plane and boarding. At least we got to see "Casablanca" on the sign.

Our flight took a bit more than two hours, and we arrived in Casablanca ahead of schedule. I think we got there before the English-speaking driver who was sent by Naturally Morocco, the tour company we worked with to arrange drivers and tour guides. We wandered around for a bit checking all the signs being held up until one tour guide mentioned to us that there was a second international arrival gate and that we might want to try that one. We did, and we found our driver Yusuf holding up a sign that said "Cannon." Whew.

After we stopped at an ATM machine in the terminal for some cash (Note: This was the best exchange rate we had on the entire trip), we headed out of Casablanca along the Atlantic coastline towards the capital city of Rabat, where we would turn inland towards Fes.
Old travel poster: "Railway Companies of Morocco"

Unique Casablanca roundabout

To the west we caught glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean, frequently punctuated by mosque minarets:

Every now and then we could see a beach that didn't look too different from the Pacific coastline in California:

In this more populated, modern section of Morocco, we saw our first signs of American colonization: McDonald's and Pizza Hut. This was one of only three sightings we had of McDonald's, and we were never close enough to one to stick our heads in and look at the menu, something we like to do when we travel.

Small villages kept popping up along the way, places probably not on the tourist circuit. It would be fun to spend a little time in one of these towns:

When we turned inland, the scenery changed drastically. Cities were replaced by mile after mile of farmland:

For the most part, the road was a divided highway with two lanes on each side, and we made good time.The lighting began to fade, but we could see acres of fertile, well-tended fields:

This was the first of many dazzling Moroccan sunsets we enjoyed:


We arrived in Fes after dark. As we drove down one of the main thoroughfares, our driver told us the street was known as "the Champs Elysees of Morocco."  It was a wide avenue with a beautifully landscaped park dividing the lanes of opposing traffic. This photo was the best I could do from a moving car:

However, this picture from the internet gives a better idea of what it looks like. (Note: I don't think the Champs Elysees in Paris has palm trees.) We also drove down this street when we left Fes, and both times it was full of people--families, couples, and groups of young people enjoying being together:

Almost all the cities we visited in Morocco have one or more city gates leading into the medina, or old town. About four hours after we left the Casablanca Airport, this is the one we drove through in Fez:

Our driver maneuverred the car into the medina as far as he could, then parked near this door with its interesting graffiti:

A porter from our riad was there to take our luggage and lead us down a series of narrow, twisting alleys. We would never have been able to find it on our own in the dark, or even with more lighting. 

I took a few pictures the next morning of the route we had taken to our riad. It doesn't look like accommodations behind these walls would be very luxurious, does it? 


There were some spots of bright color that I really enjoyed:

I really liked this sign for another top-rated riad. It made me want to go check it out:


We learned quickly that in Morocco that things are not always as they appear.

Next: Tour of the Fes Medina

3 comments:

  1. Fun, fun. Can't wait to see what happens.

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  2. So many enticing pictures. I could visit Morocco just for the sunsets.

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  3. Wow--what an arrival story, with all those passport showings, the driving for four hours (which means you'd been how long? in transit) and the finding your riad. Glad you made it!

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