an chronicle of my adventures in Ifrane, Morocco and travels within the surrounding area

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chaoen 2.0

So with just two weekends left in Morocco, it was a tough decision of where to go, but I had loved Chefchaoen so very much the first time, and given the opportunity to show around some friends who hadn't been there before, I jumped at the chance. We made a short trip of it- just going Saturday and returning Sunday, but it was absolutely worth it. The ride up through the countryside

was gorgeous as can be,

and when we got there we headed up to the rooftop balcony from which I had watched the sun set the last time. Well, we arrived a little early and had some tea while we waited for sunset. When it got to be about time, I got up and walked to the end of the balcony (the best view around the next door house), and as I discovered possibly the most beautiful sunset of my life,

the call to prayer begins going off and echoing between the mountains. I tried to capture that moment here, though my crappy cinematography takes away, you get the idea of just how magical this moment was.

We spent the rest of our brief time in Chaoen eating some good food

(this Moroccan salad, now my favorite thing, is full of things I wouldn't eat before leaving- please make note) and hanging out in our hostel. We made a few feline friends while eating

and did some shopping for last minute gifts before heading home. The thing I will remember most from this trip is certainly that moment on the balcony, though. It may be one of my greatest in Morocco.


As the end of the semester nears, time is beginning to get short for accomplishing the things I'd hoped to do in Morocco. As money also begins to run short, I've begun taking one day trips to save the cash and maximize the weekend time in Ifrane (sometimes you have to do a little bit of work...).

Two weekends ago, a friend and I made the trek to Casablanca, which, despite being the most internationally known Moroccan city, really has little to offer unless you're in the market to shop or eat good (yet very expensive food). The only draw my friend and I saw was the Hassan II Mosque- the third largest mosque in the world (after Medina and Mecca), and one of only two in Morocco that non-muslims are allowed to enter.

While I tried, very hard I might add, none of my pictures were able to capture just how enormous this place is. I'm not sure I've ever seen a larger structure in my life. I guess it's all relative, though.

Even the doors were probably 200 feet tall!

In front of the mosque there's an enormous courtyard with gardens, little nooks everywhere, and some very ornate mosaic work which we perused while we waited for our tour.

I was completely awestruck upon entering the mosque. Needless to say, it was as big inside as it is outside!

It was built to hold 25,000 people at once for prayer, but this must be broken down into just 5,000 women and 20,000 men, as worship spaces are segregated by gender. The women stand in these raised platforms

while the men worship on the floor. The interior of the mosque, which was built in only 6 years (1987-1993), is delicate and ornate in every part of its craftsmanship, with lovely marble floors,

carved, painted wood ceilings, and a view of the ocean out the west windows. All of the materials used to make the mosque were Moroccan save the chandeliers, imported from Italy (where else?).

As if this weren't enough, there's a hamam (Turkish bath) underneath the mosque which is open to the public,

and did I mention it's right on the ocean?

Despite quite a crazy travel experience, due to a broken taxi on the way there and a jam-packed train on the way back (there was a protest in Casablanca against some Spanish party that day), the trip to Casa was worth the trip- going into the mosque was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience.