Back to Casablanca. As I told you, we met Sylvie in the morning. The shuttle bus dropped us at the Hyatt Regency and we waited for her in the lobby, probably one of the few places where an American tourist can feel totally comfortable in this confusing country. She arrived and gave us the news that her cousins would be joining us for the day. This was fine other than it complicated the taxi situation because instead of hailing one cab each time we needed to go somewhere, we had to get two. I will get back to this in a moment.
After a sort cab ride, we started at the Hassan II mosque – the third largest mosque in the world, the other two larger mosques being in Saudi Arabia. This place was pretty impressive, it held 25,000 inside and 80,000 outside. 20,000 men can pray on the main floor and 5,000 woman in the mezzanine. Henry, if you decide to choose a religion, while they all have their pros and cons, this one is even worse than Catholics in its treatment of women. So, you may want to take that into consideration for a future wife or daughter. Just a thought, no pressure. Anyway, the mosque itself was very beautiful and the ablution room(not sure if that’s the right word) where they wash before prayers, was all marble and looked like something from a SCI-FI movie. We enjoyed the tour. Unfortunately, I could not get Aunt Kat out of my mind as I listened to our tour guide. AK did such a spot-on Arab woman and she could have given this tour in a heartbeat and I would have loved to hear the commentary! I am sure she would have carried her stuffed camel as a prop.
This brings me back to the most annoying yet endearing yet mostly annoying thing about Sylvie. Her unwavering principles. You see the cab drivers in Morocco are not strictly above board, to put it politely for your delicate little ears. Given two choices – start the meter or give you a price for the trip – the drivers choose a third option – charge you whatever they want. Sylvie resents this practice and rightfully so. However, her method of dealing with it almost wore out Gramma’s last nerve. Given that we had only one day in Casablanca and limited time, Sylvie promised us a “quiet” day – her term for relaxing. Yet each time we needed to hail a cab, she interviewed the driver in depth before we could climb in. Most drivers failed this interview resulting in longer than average commute times. When a driver finally passed the muster (or more likely we begged her to please accept one who didn’t pass), we got in and she proceeded to lecture the man on honest business practices, why he could make just as much money if he used a meter, and I’m not sure what else since this was all in very excited French. I wondered each time if the cab would stop and we would be ejected. I also wondered how many pedestrians or motor bikes we would mow down while the two argued in some of the worst traffic we have ever witnessed.
I tried to convince Sylvie of the futility of her actions but to no avail. Her response to me, was “Next time he sees a blonde, he will think twice about how he treats her.” I was thinking, the next time he sees a blonde, he just won’t stop to pick her up. Well Sylvie says it’s not the money, it’s the principle. Henry, this a good lesson for you as long as you don’t make a horse’s ass (excuse my language) of yourself acting on your principles.
We had some great food when Jamal took us to lunch. I had chicken with preserved lemons tagine. Papa had a lamb tagine. We had a huge assortment of appetizers that I couldn’t name but we will send you some pictures. Jamal seemed to know everyone in this fancy restaurant and had a table reserved for us. Right in the middle of the meal, he turned to me and said, “Liz, what would you have done if you hadn’t met me?” And then he paused and said, “With your life, I mean.” The he smiled that big charming Jamal smile and I just laughed. Jamal always had a way of making me laugh and I was very happy he was able to surprise us for lunch.
Some ex-American ambassador (under Bush) opened a restaurant which is an exact replica of Rick’s Cafe from the movie Casablanca. It sounds like a tourist trap but it is supposed to be quite good and Sylvie wanted to take us on a tour. Sylvie did not understand why the owner objected to us touring around her restaurant while people were in there eating lunch. The owner suggested we may want to buy a drink or something but Sylvie’s pesky principles reared their ugly little heads again and we were escorted out. As we were leaving, Sylvie announced that we would not be returning. This announcement didn’t seem to upset the owner very much. Sylvie was feeling a bit dejected but Papa assured her that we had been kicked out of better places than that
After lunch, Sylvie took us shopping in a big market place called the Souk. We bought a few little items from vendors Sylvie knew. The Moroccan rugs are quite pretty but that is a big decision and they are impossible to pack. In general, there weren’t a lot of temptations and the requirement to bargain with the vendors makes it a hassle. I am sure Sylvie has many principles that apply to the art of negotiation but we had seen enough examples of her moral compass for one day. We didn’t want to put her to other trouble of helping us make a deal. And, to be honest, we didn’t want to witness another lesson in ethics.
Now just so I didn’t give you the wrong idea about Sylvie, Henry, she is a lot of fun. In between her outbursts of righteous anger, she laughs and makes jokes and enjoys life to the fullest. Her sparkling eyes and quick smile can melts hearts. Actually, she’s a lot like you, Henry!
Next we will tell you about Seville, Spain, Henry. I think you will like that place very much.
Gramma and Papa