Big and deficient, at least in overt gestures of the decorative accoutrements I’ve become accustomed to, Casablanca appeals to me. It is a biased affection, bread from the closest thing to anonymity I’ve experienced in any city here. Big as it is, few people try to sell to me here –hard or soft.

Part of it, also, is that this city gave me my first impressions of Morocco. Greeted at the train station by taxi drivers hell-bent on making a quick buck, that image was soon washed away by people in the market (I’m unsure which one) who helped me order food, in my lack of French and Arabic. One man even bought me Moroccan pastries, not to ease me into a sale but to say “welcome, have a nice visit here”.

Returning to Casablanca, I relaxed…a little. Still harboring the reflex of ignoring greetings because they are followed by persistent and sometimes rude sales pitches I was embarrassed today. While gazing at tide pools on the banks of the Mosquee Hassan II, a man greeted me as he came toward me. I instinctively looked down and answered, “no, shokran” (no, thank you) when all he was trying to do was walk by me. That speaks to Fes and Marrakech, but the man in the tea shop who smiled as he gave me directions, and the man in the phone shop who did the dame…all without expecting anything but a “thank you” in return…they are my Casablanca.

Everything I read before coming here says get out of Casablanca as soon as you can. They lament the absence of anything worth seeing beyond that breathtaking mosque…and maybe there isn’t. but travel isn’t just about amazing photos. Of course a big part of why I travel is about seeing something I’ve never seen before –but the other part is about experiencing something…preferably pleasant. And so for me, Casablanca is beautiful in that right.

Tonight, I walked a short ways from my hotel and ended up on a street full of snack shops – schwarmas and paninis all under 30MAD. The night was bustling with Moroccans grabbing a meal and haggling with sidewalk vendors over the price of shirts or kiss (the scrub mitt used at the bathhouses). It wasn’t ancient ruins or awe-inspiring desert but…I was a part of the city…and that is the point of travel too.

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