We had enjoyed our tour to Montserrat Monastery and especially our night’s sleep. We got up and packed the backpacks. We bought a pass to take the city train to the Columbus Monument.
The Columbus Monument is at the lower end of La Rambla, one of the main streets of Barcelona. The monument was constructed for the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition in honor of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas , where upon his return he reported to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V at Barcelona.
At this point, you can choose to pay the 4 Euros per person to ride the port bus to the cruise ship or you can walk. Since we had our backpacks, we decided to save the money and walk.
It took us about 40 minutes to walk up and over the bridge. We arrived at the cruise terminal and checked in. We were able to take our backpacks, since we could carry them.
We dropped the bags in our room, grabbed something from the buffet and headed to the lifeboat drill.
It was a bit windy and cold as we left the port, so we found a couch in the Stardust Lounge, that gave us a great view.
We went to the Welcome Aboard show to get a sample of the entertainment for the week and also were introduced to the ship’s officers…
We ended the night, with custom-made crepes from the buffet…
The next day was Valentine’s Day. Jade and Cindy went on a Behind the Scenes tour. This is a perk of our frequent cruiser status and the tour was free. However, NCL has recently changed their policy to no photography. This tour was abit different as it included the environmental department or as the officer told us, “I am going to talk trash to you”. We learned all about how everything on the ship is either packaged for off-load at port, or treated to be released into the ocean.
On the tour the chef told us to come to his meat demonstration. He explained all the cuts of meat that are used on the ship. Then showed the proper way to cook a steak. We all had samples… it was excellent.
The ship was very nicely decorated for Valentine’s Day. We hung up decorations on our door as well. We also enjoyed some Valentine inspired treats.
We enjoyed a nice sunset and a distant view of the Strait of Gibraltar. With Africa on the left and Spain on the right.
That evening just past midnight, we would pass through the Strait. Unfortunately, due to the dark you could only see lights, but we took a picture of the map instead 😉
It had been a nice relaxing day and tomorrow we would be in Casa Blanca, Morocco in North Africa…In looking at the various excursions off the ship, we settled on the one to Rabat, which is the capital of Morocco. We met our guide, Khalid, whose name means eternal.
We had a brief over-view of Casa Blanca. We were expecting a very traditional looking town, but what we saw was an area with 4 million people living in and around Casa Blanca, making it the 5th largest city in Africa. With 4 million people comes all the problems of poverty, garbage, and a dense population. They do like their satellite TV.
On our drive from Casablanca to Rabat we learned….the current name of the city is Casablanca means White House. In the 15th century, the Portuguese took control of the area. They could not pronounce the the name of the city so they changed it. The name has a Spanish spelling, due to Spanish rule over Portugal in the the 15th and 16th centuries. The main languages spoken are Berber, French, and a regional form of Arabic. Casa Blanca is 260 km south of the Strait of Gibraltar. 1/3 of the population of Morocco lives in the area of Casablanca and Rabat. There are 34 million residents of Morocco. 60% of the country’s manufacturing takes place in Casablanca. The area produces 50 million pounds of phosphate annually and are the 3rd largest exporter in the world. Even though 2/3 of the country is covered by the Sahara Desert, it is a very agricultural area. 80% of the economy comes from agricultural, mostly oranges. Argan trees are only found in Morocco and the oil is highly prized. There is no oil in Morocco as no big money and therefore, there is no world conflict.
The average salary is 11-12,000 per year. A 2 bedroom, 1000 square foot home costs $100,000. So the government has stepped in and builds social homes that cost $30,000 however, they are not near cities and are about 500 square feet. The work day is 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, but school is held 6 days a week. This is due to an over-crowding problem as 60% of the population in under 20 years old. With a population that young, we were bound to see a McDonald’s sign…we may not know what is says, but you can’t mistake the “arches”.
Rabat was founded in the 12th century and is one of 4 imperial or capital cities in Morocco. This is the second time that Rabat has been an imperial city. The country was a French colony from 1912 – 1956 when they were granted their independence. The royal family had been living in exile in Madagascar, but they returned and now live in the palace in Rabat. Morocco is currently ruled by Mohammed the 6th. It is one of the oldest monarchies. Women are not allowed to rule so there are no queens.
Once in Rabat, our first stop was at the royal grounds. The area was developed by Mohammed the 3rd in the 17th century. He was a very progressive ruler and was the first world leader to recognize the US government after the 1776 revolution. The grounds are known as Dar-al Makhzen. It is surrounded by a wall and includes a mosque, palace, school, military housing, and library.
The bus was parked at the Masjid Ahl-fez mosque. During Ramadan, the king rides a horse, on a trail of sand, from the palace to the mosque. The king is the commander-in-chief as well as the religious leader of Morocco. Mosque towers are known as a minaret. These typically have a balcony.
We walked across the plaza to the palace. You are not allowed to cross the street.
The soldiers at the palace wear red uniforms (ceremonial) or green uniforms (royal army).
The palace was completed by Mohammed the 5th, however Mohammed the 6th continues to re-model and build additions. Our guide told us that the Moroccan flag is red for the Berber people and green which is the Muslim spiritual color. The Koran teaches that green is the color of paradize. The flag also has a 5-pointed Star of Solomon which represents the 5 pillars of Islam.
Our next stop was Mohammed the 5th Mazzoleum. It sits next to the unfinished mosque started in the 12th century. There are soliders on horses at the gate.
The area is surrounded by a wall.
The mosque, if it would have been finished, would have been one of the largest in the world. The feature of the mosque was the Hassan Tower which was originally planned to be 200 feet tall, but was abandoned when the sultan Almohad Yacoub el Mansour died in 1199.
The Mohammed V Mosque was constructed at the same time as the nearby mausoleum and dedicated in 1961. It is mainly used for Friday midday prayers and important holy days.
The mausoleum is Morocco’s most important shrines. Here lie the tombs of King Mohammed V and his sons King Hassan II and Prince Moulay. The building is open to non-Muslims, but was closed as there were dignitaries in the building paying their respects. We could only take pictures from afar and were shooed away by the royal guards. To enter the mausoleum you must cover your shoulders and knees.
We boarded the bus and went to Medina or the “old city of Rabat”. Rabat is divided by a river from it’s sister city Sale.
We walked the streets of the “old city” taking in the atmosphere of the shops and surroundings.
As part of the tour, we went to a traditional Moroccan restaurant….
The food was delicious and probably the most authentic meal we have had on a tour. We didn’t care for the lemon tea, but the Moroccan “salad” and chicken where delicious.
After lunch we walked to the Oddah Caspa, a fortification over-looking the river. On the way we were intrigued with the license plate symbols.
The Oudaias Kasbah walls were built in the 12th century, the buildings were built in the 17th century.
Inside the fortification, the walls are painted blue, representing the sky and the earth.
The Andalusian gardens were beautiful. They were designed in the early 20th century.
There were numerous street vendors. Jade bought a belt, which he really did need. A gentleman on our tour bought a tunic. He decided to wear it so that no other vendor would bother him, however, he got very strange looks and a few giggles from the school kids.
We stopped the Chellah Necropolis.
From the top terrace, you had a very good view of the area below.
Chellah was built in the 14th century on top of an old Roman town called Sala. The buildings of Chellah were interesting.
We walked through the ruins of Sala.
However, the thing that intrigued us the most were the African cranes. The cranes migrate to Europe for the summer. They use the ruins as a nesting area. We were lucky to see them because they are only here at certain times of the year. They made a clacking noise and had huge nests on top of the buildings.
We re-boarded the bus and felt that we had a very good tour of Rabat. We headed back to Casablanca, as we left Rabat, we drove past the Mohammed VI Museum. This has a collection of modern Moroccan artwork.
In Casablanca, we drove past Rick’s Cafe and took pictures from the bus. The movie with Humphrey Bogart was never filmed in Casablanca. The plot is centered around World War II but is about Tangers, which is near the Strait of Gibraltar. However, Tangers does not sound near as romantic as Casablanca…lol. The present cafe was established in 2004, but has become a big tourist attraction.
The main attraction in Casablanca is Hassan II mosque complex. It includes a school, museum, library, as well as the mosque.
It was under construction from 1987-1993 and is considered an architectural jewel and the pride of Morocco. It cost 500 million dollars to build which came mainly through donations. Our tour guide said that he and his father each donated $50 towards it’s construction. The tower or Minaret is 689 feet tall. Our guide told us it is the 3rd largest mosque in the world but other sources say it is the 13th. It depends on what you include for measurements. The inside of the building can hold 25,000 people and the outside courtyard can hold an additional 80,000. No matter it’s rank in size, it is an impressive building built next to the ocean.
The complex encompasses 22 acres. The courtyard and ocean view are beautiful. The day we were there, numerous school groups were touring the grounds.
Our tour stopped briefly at a shop with demonstrations for the use of spices and herbs, mostly the Argan oil. Jerie was one of the “participants”. The shop owner rubbed to seeds together and had her sniff the scent. She stopped it definitely helped you breathe but was not very comfortable and none of us can remember the name, probably since it was not an enjoyable experience for Jerie.
We were dropped off near our ship. The cruise port was in an industrial area so there were not any “welcome to Morocco” signs, so we did the best we could.
Back on the ship, we grabbed a snack in the buffet, watched the operation of moving the gangway, and enjoyed the sail out of Casablanca.
We didn’t have anything planned for the evening, so decided to go to the hypnotist show. Jerie wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed in the room. Jim and Jade got chosen for the early show. They cried during a sad movie, walked like super models, milked a cow, and swam like fish. It was hilarious!!!!
It was so fun that Jim, Jade, and Jerie went back for the late show and Jerie got chosen to be on stage.
The next day we were at sea. We slept in until noon, played afternoon trivia, used our free laundry perk and sent a bag with our room steward, went to the magician show, and enjoyed a nice dinner at the steak house. With our frequent cruising perk, 2 of us ate for free. Jim’s porterhouse steak was HUGE!!
Tomorrow we will be in the Canary Islands….