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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Back Across the Pond

Many if not most people in the US have a certain picture in their minds when we talk about the Middle East. Everyone is always telling me to "travel safe," "be careful over there," " Are you SURE you want to go there?" Visions of Baghdad dance in their heads. Certainly there is that.

But, my Middle Eastern voyages take me to places with no connection to those images. I'm going to try to show what my experiences "over here" look like.This is Moroccan countryside between the cities of Casablanca and El Jadida. Could be rolling Ohio countryside if you didn't know. Four lane highway too.

They added this bath (1o5 degree water) beneath the mosque for a community thing unrelated to the religious aspects. There are actually two, one for Gents, one for Ladies.These pictures are from the Hassan II mosque in Casa. It was built between 1997 and 2003 at a cost of $800,000,000. Except for the lights all the materials come from Morocco. A mandatory contribution (might call it a tax) from the citizenry paid for two thirds of it. The King (theirs, not Elvis) kicked in a third. It's the third largest mosque in the world behind Mecca and one other (I forget). Also, it's the largest in the world that kafir or infidels like me can enter.

Impressive, but a waste of capital allocation in my mind.
Our group went out to a typical (read: tourist) Moroccan restaurant for dinner. The food was OK, but the music was great and the belly dancers sublime. At least this one was. There was another one, but she lacked that certain something...

Rick's Cafe
Jason and I booked bus tickets to El Jadidi down the coast for a UNESCO World Heritage site visit. While we were waiting we took a stroll through the "Ancien Median," basically the souk near our hotel. We found this place. Could it be? Well, it was close.

The food market in Ancien Median. Tough place to be a shark. OK, so THIS may fit your image of the developing world.
Mazagan on the Atlantic coast was started by the Portuguese in 1502. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site, number 41 for me. Pretty cool. People still live in it. El Jadidi had a beautiful cornische with lots of cafes. Too bad we had a recruitment fair back in Casa and had to roll out to make it in time.
These kids were playing soccer at the base of the fort. Jason and I were walking the walls when they saw us and immediately started showing off for our cameras. I doubt there was a video game among them.
Coming back into Casa we passed this humongous mall/office complex. You might recognize some of the companies. It's like this all over.
So after that night's fair four of us hopped down to Rick's Cafe for a late night bite. This was our waiter bringing me a "Casablanca" beer. It was pretty good. It's hard to tell in this shot, but he was wearing a Fez. Rick's is owned by an American lady, very nice. She sat at the bar just like Bogie. Except no white dinner jacket or cigarette. It's pretty darned authentic, though not a replica of the one in the movie. Upstairs they have a lounge where Casablanca is shown continuously. Natch I scored a T-shirt.

Check my next post for the Youtube video of the place. Too cool.
After Casa it was onto Amman, Jordan. I've posted lots of pictures of Jordan before so I'll be brief. This is the traffic circle looking out of my hotel window. Not a donkey cart in sight.
In keeping with the "Piles of Rocks" theme I slid down to old Amman for a visit to the Roman ruins there. I was there last November, so no need to add too many pix here.
Welcome to Saudi Arabia. Please Turn Your Watches Back 500 Years.
From Amman we were off to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Women here are expected to dress "modestly." Modest, in this case means what you see above. It's an Islamic thing. Supposedly. It's always a kick (for the men) to see our fellow female reps gussied up like this. For some reason they don't see it in the same light. In Saudi it's a man's, man's, man's man's world. But, it still sucks.

This was the morning view outside my hotel window in Riyadh. Nice full moon over the desert.
We are not supposed to take pictures of the "Kingdom Centre" tower/mall complex (security issue)in downtown Riyadh. I got nailed last time taking pictures inside. They made me delete everything. But, I love a good challenge (I was taking surreptitious photos of the "Bridge of No Return" in Korea over 30 years ago). Anyway, it's a cool building. This turned out nicely I think. I tried to look at pix of Riyadh on Google.Earth from where I am in Kuwait, but I think they're blocked. I want to download this one when I get back to the States.

OK, I'll start with Kuwait pictures and comments tomorrow. For now I want to add my Rick's Cafe video.

Carry on.

1 comment:

Hani said...

You're a world heritage sites addict man. I've been to Morocco like 4 times and never bothered to go check out El Jadidi. Looks cool though.

I posted a
few photos
of that mosque a while ago. Amazing isn't it?

The belly dancer is sublime...if she was that good I bet she's Egyptian :)