Category Archives: Africa

Colourful Casablanca

Yesterday’s adventure involved changing hotels. It would seem I am not very good at picking hotels from Perhaps I should just look for the Ibis in any town I’m in danger of nomading through? But, you tend not to interact with the culture of a place when you’re staying at a “proper” hotel and culture really is the point. I enjoyed spending the night at the Old Medina but my lodgings left much to be desired.

I got lost looking for the new hotel. All precautions were taken, including the Google Maps download. Eventually, the taxi driver dumped me—said “ah, it’s just over there” and pleaded traffic. And there I was on Rue Moulay Yusef unable to interest another driver in my stuff and me. That said, I was propositioned by marketers marketing other hotels and spas… The girls in Casablanca are very pretty, alhamdulillah. I deny no favours of my Lord.

Settled into the new hotel on Rue d’Azail but was unable to summon the strength to do any exploring.

This morning, I tried to go to the bazaar part of the Old Medina but gave up the effort. It was unimpressive—less interesting than Rabat, incomparable by any means to Marrakesh. Then I plotted coordinates for the United Nations building but all my effort at saying “Place des Nations Unies” in an appropriate French Arabic accent got met with a universal urban taxi driver huh? Sensing defeat, I respected myself, withdrew the intention and settled to go see the Corniche.

We passed the Hassan II mosque already rhapsodized about HERE and the Phare d’Hank lighthouse then turned into a splendid ocean walk. I walked it all, punctuating that with photo-taking (and catching a breath), ate junk food at a McDonalds, had mint tea at a restaurant, and shopped at the Anfaplace mall.

On my way back that I realize—Casablanca truly is colourful. It is the city of chic and style. Casablanca is the city of people who just wanna have fun and sometimes, I can be that people.

I did not like Casablanca at first sight, but it does have its charms. And, the work the Moroccan government is doing with upgrading its port infrastructure reiterates the fact that Morocco is a destination for the African businessperson. The King, like Comrade Paul Kagame, is exactly the sort of leader Africa’s youth should rally around in the slow but necessary process of creating a new African market.


At the Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

Hassan 2 mosque
Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

It is quite impossible to capture the Hassan II mosque in #Casablanca. Perhaps because my camera is rather limited and not being a professional, I was unable to find the right angle? Further, the ornate grandeur of both scale and design humbles the person, affects the eye…

Here is my best shot.

It was closed for renovation today. You can see the scaffolding. The minaret is 600 plus feet high and I was told it’s one of the biggest mosques in the world. The courtyard is massive and I can imagine the denizens of Casablanca praying here in orderly, colourful rows.

First impression was to not like Casablanca. It seemed a let down from Marrakesh—missing my train station didn’t help. But Casablanca does have its charms. The mosque is by the corniche, which I could not walk because I got a call from Naija. I will go there. There is a lot of development going on at the Marina. Urban renewal, urban maintenance everywhere you go.


My Last Day in Marrakesh

Arrived Casablanca this morning. But I want instead to tell you about my adventure yesterday in #Marrakech. I am pining for The Red City even as we speak. A friend of mine said I just might have found my “city of memories”, referring to the title of my 2013 novel.

I’d cancelled my trip to Fes so the extra day in Marrakech saw me moving from my riad in the Medina to the new quarter called Gueliz. While I’d loved the medina and its colourful traders and characters, the hotel was rather small even if quaint and I kept losing my way getting around anyway. I had breakfast, went shopping for a leather bag and checked out. I’d been told it would cost 15 dirhams from the medina to the Boulevard Abdelkarim el-Khattabi. The drivers in the rank said it was 100 dirhams and then proceeded to teach me how to pronounce both “el-Khattabi” and “Hotel Ezzhia”. I settled for 30 dirhams.

I had an ominous feeling when, just outside the old city, a horse-drawn tourist carriage showed up in front of us. And, sure as a slap, the carriage took off the bumper of my taxi. See drama! The skinny horse driver and skinny car driver go down to it speaking universal urban you-don-hit-my-car English (Arabic actually). Me? I took my bags out the boot jejely.

Took a different taxi. The driver was a true born Marrakech native and when another accident happened, he said “These two, not Marrakchis. . . the accent.” I smiled. He told me only 25% of the city’s dwellers were natives. We talked about the Nigeria—Morocco gas pipeline. I found it fascinating that a regular Joe Marrakchi knew about that. Moroccans are involved in their country in a way Nigerians are not. It speaks of two very different types of elite and ways which societies can be ordered.

In the afternoon, I went to my friend, Housain’s, favourite café which is not far from my new hotel—a 300-metre walk. It is called Le Diamant Vert (The Green Diamond), just opposite the University of Science and Technology, at the corner with Hamza Road. I had lunch, spaghetti, and watched the students come and go as I worked on a document.

Later, Housain came around. We drove around the city including the Menara arcade, which was closed, and then we parked the car and flanuered for a few hours about Gueliz, drinking coffee, trying street food and taking serious philosophy—H has a Ph.d in psychology and in showing me his city, I learned again what friendship truly can be.

And that, my friends, is how I fell more hopelessly in love with Marrakech.

#OneAfrica #Travel #TravelWriting #Morocco


Street Food at the Jemaa Lfna

Street food at the #Marrakech Medina

What’s a city without street food? Went back to the Jemaa Lfna square to look around and try for dinner. Got fried sole so greasy (oily) it can’t possibly be good for me. At a stall called Chez Aicha No. 1. It tasted really really good, good for me or not.

Tourists and Marrakechis alike milled around, sitting at the stalls to meals, the smoke of open-air grilling rising like an offering to a gastronome god. As I waited for my order, a posse of Europeans join the table beside me. The noise becomes a mix of Arabic, Spanish, French, and my English when I recommend one of the girls should try the tagine d’angeau (lamb) if it’s on the menu.

Dinner done, I walked around a bit and people watched then headed home.

Here’s the thing. I walked confidently to my riad, the confusing streets had cleared somewhat in my head. Just when I’m about to leave the medina for a hotel in the New Quarter. Home becomes familiar and then it’s not home again.

A bunch of kids were playing football just outside my street. I smile and nod, they smile too and it’s good night.

#Travel #TravelWriting #OneAfrica #Nigeria #Morroco #Marrakech

On My Day at the Marrakech Medina

In front of the Khutbiya Mosque, #Marrakech

So, today. As you know, I have been living in the Old City of Marrakech and was unhappy because of my bank card issue (now resolved).

I’ve cancelled my trip to Fez. The original idea was to spend two days in Marrakech, two days in Fez and two days in Casablanca.

Today, I got lost again in the old city, which has mostly been turned into a market. The medina here is far far superior to the one at Rabat. Some houses have been turned into hotels, called riads. I am in fact living in one of these riads within the Radha Lakdima part of the Medina.

The effect of all this is a warren of alleyways full of all sorts of merchandize, lovely smells ranging from spice to perfumes, and people, people, people. Streets are narrow and only foot traffic is possible. The braver folk maneuver ladies’ machine motorcycles though and you are always in danger of being hit or pickpocketed. These last smell a lack of confidence like a piranha blood. Can you imagine how a pre-middle-aged glasses wearing but always-lovely man would fare? Yes, I have been getting lost all over the place.

My friend, Captain Housain, had to come find me. I had stayed put at some point in being deliriously lost. He did find me and we caught up and made our way to his Citroen as he showed me around the medina. He is a native Marrakechi but had not been to the medina for years. We’d met two years ago at a conference on CVE in Vicenza and had spent half a day walking around Venice and shopping.

The centre of life of the Marrakech medina is the Jemaa Lfna square and it is a movable feast—about two football fields wide. It had everything from snake charmers to folk musicians to fruit sellers. At night it becomes the haven of street food. I’ll drop by later. Jemaa Lfna translates roughly to “Square of the People of the Apocalypse”. Apparently, quite a number of executions were carried out there.

The lodestone of Marrakech is, however, the Khutbiya Mosque—900 years old, built by the Almoravids. Its minaret is about 70 feet high and is of huge stone blocks the length of my forearm by half the length of it. Thoroughly impressive. One gets the sense that if we are lesser sons of greater fathers, it cannot be the fault of our fathers.

Marrakech is a very seductive city—great cafes and wide streets outside the Medina and I felt it would be a shame to not see some more. Marrakech is Magic City, Red City. I could live here (will sign up for French classes when I get back to Abuja). So, Fez loses one day more to Marrakech and loses one day to Casablanca. No day left for Fez. Part of the reason though is it’s quite far away. Maybe next time.



Lost and Found in Morroco

June 30
Dinner at the Marrakesh Medina

The bane of the Nigerian traveller must be his bank issued Visa dollar card failing to work in a foreign country! Be rest assured I will call them first thing Monday and do some yelling. What saved me was a spare $100 I had else I wouldn’t have been able to pay for the hotel.

In changing said paper to #Moroccan dirhams (MADs), I took an adventure into the old city where I’m staying, in a bid to find a bureau de change. I managed to get lost promptly, found a bureau de change by mistake and got the MAD.

Though still lost, I decided to get dinner. Ordered this. About $6. Tasted okay but meh. But then, I was damn hungry!

How did I get “home”?

I’d downloaded the Google Maps for #Marrakech so I could use it offline. Just on a whim. It proved faithful where GT Bank failed me. I was able to amble about (longer days, shorter nights) and when in the general area, asked a group of kids who led me to the door.

Today’s lesson? Google Maps gets thumbs up. (Unnamed Nigerian) Bank gets a howl of outrage.

Good night.

– Ra.

On The Rabat – Marrakesh Line

One the Rabat – Marrakesh line

So, the decision to travel from #Rabat to #Marrakech by train was one of the best I’ve made. Very comfortable 2nd class cabin for $13, about a four hour trip.

Got a sense of #Morroco and its people. The kingdom is rapidly expanding its railways and transportation infrastructure. One senses a country of optimism and ambition to expand its stake in Africa. Nigeria can only cope if we get our act in order and fast.

Else, I’ll flip nationalities. Become #Rwandan or something.

Will share my photos. Here’s a selfie meantime, I was aiming for Indiana Jones as Nerdy Professor.

Wrote a new poem, the sketch of a travel piece as well as of a blog post so a very productive trip too.

– Ra.