Tag Archives: Morocco

19 May 2018:
Casablanca, Morocco:
You Must Remember This

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from Europe to the mainland of Africa, continuing a bit more than 200 miles down the northwest coast to Casablanca, a fascinating city in a country with a rich culture and the inspiration for one of the classic films of Hollywood. You must remember this.

You can see at a glance the geographic relationship between northern Morocco and Spain.

Today only about 9 miles or 14 kilometers separate Africa from Europe. As recently as 5.3 million years ago, a few moments in geological time, the two continents were bridged by land.

Now let’s think what that means: the Mediterranean was essentially a huge lake, with land closing off the connection to the Atlantic Ocean. There was also a land bridge beyond Istanbul that made the Black Sea into another large lake.

On this visit I went with guests to the truly grand Grand Mosque of Casablanca, a huge structure with space for 25,000 within and 80,000 outside.  The Hassan II mosque was completed in 1993.

At 689 feet, the Great Mosque’s minaret is the tallest structure in Morocco and the tallest minaret in the world. Here is some of what we saw today:

All photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

FROM PREVIOUS VISITS

All photos and text Copyright 2018 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

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Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

2 April 2014: Melilla, Spain

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Destination Consultant

We jump now across the Strait of Gibraltar from the Kingdom of Spain to the Kingdom of Morocco.

From Europe to North Africa.

And there we find not one but two pieces of Spain hanging on—against logic and against protest—to the bottom of Morocco. Ceuta and Melilla are the last vestiges of Spanish Colonial rule in northern Morocco.

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The winding alleys of the old city above modern Melilla. At right, Silver Wind can be seen at the dock below. Photos by Corey Sandler

Melilla is on the north coast of Morocco, about twice the size of Gibraltar but still a very small place: about 12 square kilometers or 5 square miles. Ceuta, closer to Casablanca and to Gibraltar on the other side of the strait, is slightly larger. Between them they are home to about 120,000 people.

They have been exclaves of Spain for more than 500 years.

And Madrid insists it will not relinquish control of either.

Gibraltar and Spain’s Ceuta and Melilla are not exactly mirrors of each other, but they are in some ways similar.

Centuries of colonial rule has resulted in communities that are markedly different from the countries to which they are attached.

And in both place politics and nationalism long ago trumped any attempt at logic and diplomacy.

Melilla has a population of nearly 79,000 people, a mix of Christians, Hindus, and Muslims with a small Jewish population.

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The symbol of Melilla is the letter “M” in Hindi, Arabic, Hebrew, and Roman characters. Photo by Corey Sandler

This is Spain, so Spanish is the official language.

But many also speak Tarifit or Rifeño, a Berber dialect of the Riffians.

There’s a bit of French, too, that has leaked across the border from Morocco.

Riffian is a Northern Berber language, spoken by about 4 million mostly Muslim people in North Morocco and nearby Algeria as well as a few tens of thousands in Melilla.

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Old Melilla is on the high ground, overlooking the modern city and port. Photos by Corey Sandler

Northern Morocco and Melilla includes an unusual mix of DNA, including Viking or Nordic lineage. Many Riffians have lighter skin, lighter colored eyes, and other traits that are not common in Africa and different from Sicily, Sardinia, and other parts of southern Europe. Blond hair is relatively common, and red hair also found in higher numbers than might be expected.

Melilla has a history of its own, somewhat different from Morocco and Spain.

It was a Phoenician and later Punic settlement under the name of Rusadir.

From the Greeks it passed to the Romans as a part of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana.

Successive rulers included the Vandals, the Byzantines, and the Visigoths.

As Muslim tribes came to the area and then crossed over to Andalucia in Europe, Melilla became part of the Kingdom of Fez.

Which brings us to the 1490s, when the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon sought to take the city. In 1497, a few years after Spain had ousted the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada—the last Muslim stronghold of Al-Andalus—an invasion force conquered Melilla with little resistance.

But the Muslims in Africa sought to take back the lands they had held in the Magrehb. Melilla was under siege from 1694 to 1696 and again from 1774 to 1775. But Spain held on. The current limits of the Spanish territory around the fortress were fixed by a series of treaties with Morocco in the second half of the 19th century.

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Modernism on the street and as reflected in the windows of the Spanish Ministry of Defense. Photos by Corey Sandler

Melilla and other parts of Spanish Morocco were used by General Francisco Franco as staging grounds for the Nationalist rebellion in 1936, starting the Spanish Civil War. A statue of Franco—said to be last like it in Spain—is still prominent in Melilla.

Since Melilla is part of Spain, emigrants regularly try crossing the border to stake a claim in the European Union.

Spain has spent a huge amount of money for border fences, crosspoints, and patrols. The Melilla double border fences are six-meters or 20 feet tall. Yet refugees frequently manage to cross it illegally.

Detection wires, tear gas dispensers, radar, and night vision cameras are planned to increase security and prevent illegal immigration.On the day of our visit, we heard warning gunfire and saw low-flying fighter jets above the border.

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A section of the border fence is visible from the ramparts below the old city. Photo by Corey Sandler

There is a similar border fence between Morocco and the other Spanish city at Ceuta.

With the land side now sealed off more securely, refugees have instead been crossing the Mediterranean in ramshackle boats.

They originally started going via the Canary Islands, but patrols increased there too and now they end up landing primarily in Italy—including Lampedusa Island—and Malta.

Although we certainly are welcome in Melilla, tourism is not the heart of the economy. The principal industry is fishing.

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We have our sea legs. Elsewise the tile pavement at Parque Hernandez could have caused a problem. At right, the grand Ministry of Defense. Photos by Corey Sandler

As a prosperous port with a lot of interaction with the mother country, Melilla was built up in the first part of the 20th century with many Modernist structures, the Catalan version of Art Nouveau.

The small exclave is said to have the highest concentration of Modernist works in Spain after Barcelona. Architect Enrique Nieto designed the main Synagogue, the Central Mosque, and various Catholic Churches.

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Some of the Modernist architecture of Melilla. Photos by Corey Sandler

Some of the best Modermismo architecture can be found on calle López Moreno and calle del Rey Juan Carlos.

Melilla has been spoken of as a multicultural exemplar, a small city in Africa with three major religions represented. However, the Christian majority of the past—about 65 percent at one point, has been shrinking—while the number of Muslims has steadily increased to about 45 percent.

Jews, who had lived in Melilla for centuries, were about 20 percent of the population before World War II. Now Jews are less than 5 percent, departed for Israel, South America, and elsewhere. There is also a small, commercially important Hindu community.

Cross-border trade is an important part of the economy of Melilla, even though the border is tightly guarded. Nearly every day, dozens of women pass through the pedestrian-only border crossing at Barrio Chino.

They are known as the Mule Women of Melilla, or more kindly as porteadoras.

As long as a porteadora can physically carry her load, it is classed as personal luggage, so Morocco lets it in duty-free.

The women have the right to visit Melilla because they live in the Moroccan province of Nador. But they are not allowed to reside in the Spanish territory.

Traders in Melilla prepare huge bundles to go to North Africa: second-hand clothing, bolts of fabric, toiletries, and household items. The bales are wrapped in cardboard, cloth and sacking and fastened with tape and rope. A typical load might be 60 kilograms or 132 pounds; some as much as 80 kilos or 172 pounds.

For carrying the bundle across the border, a porteadora might be paid 3 Euros; some make three or four trips before the gates close at midday. This is not small business; one estimate is that the trade is worth about 300 million euros to Melilla.

And now the tradition of women as mules is under threat from unemployed Moroccan men. The women are objecting, but losing that battle.

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Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer  (Kindle Edition)

29 and 30 March, 2014: Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco

By Corey Sandler, Silversea Destination Consultant

After visits to the islands of Cape Verde, the Canaries, and Madeira, we move back now to mainland Africa: Casablanca in Morocco. And some of us went on a side trip to Rabat, the capital.

From our ship, or from any high point on land, it’s easy to see at a glance the geographic relationship between northern Morocco and Spain.[whohit]-29 and 30MAR2014 AGADIR and CASABLANCA-[/whohit]

The two continents were bridged by land as recently as 5.3 million years ago, a few moments in geological time.

Today only about 9 miles or 14 kilometers separate Africa from Europe.

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A Gnawa musician inside the Kasbah at Rabat. Gnawa is a stirring form of music with a strong rhythm; its roots are in Ghana but nearly the only place it is played is in Morocco. Some believe it gave birth to jazz. Photo by Corey Sandler

Morocco has a population of about 35 million, about the same as Canada.

And you won’t hear this sentence all that often: Morocco and Canada are similar in another context.

The vast majority of the population of Morocco live within about one hundred miles of the coast; in Canada, nearly all of the population is that far from the border with the United States.

Morocco, though, is much smaller.

Only about 172,410 square miles; Canada is 22 times larger.

Casablanca is the largest city and principal port; Rabat is the national capital.

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The King’s Palace in Rabat. Photo by Corey Sandler

When World War II began, North Africa quickly fell under control of Axis powers. Italy moved first, into Ethiopia.

Germany dispatched Field Marshal Erwin Rommel—the Desert Fox—and his Afrikacorps Panzers and they had initial victories in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

And Morocco—a French protectorate—came under the collaborationist Vichy French.

That was the environment under which Rick Blaine (or Humphrey Bogart, if you prefer) operated Rick’s Café Américain in Casablanca.

The Allies pushed back in late 1942.

It was decided it was too soon to launch a cross-channel attack from England to France. The British pushed for a second front: against Axis forces in Africa, in what was called Operation Torch.

In addition to forces from the United Kingdom, Operation Torch was the first major operation by Americans.

They sailed directly from the United States, the only instance in World War II where a significant force was loaded in American ports and landed directly on a hostile beach.

The Allies achieved strategic surprise, but the operation was delayed by French forces, who fought back in many locations including Morocco.

Why? French Vichy troops were told by the Germans there would be retribution in France if they failed to fight off the Allied invasion.

But French opposition ended in November. And some 275,000 Germans and Italians surrendered on the Cape Bon Peninsula in Tunisia on May 12, 1943.

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The Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat. Mohammed VI, his grandson, is now on the throne. Photos by Corey Sandler

Once Morocco was under Allied control, it became an important base for air raids on Sicily and France, and also crucial in controlling the choke point of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Before, during, and after World War II, Moroccans did not much like their French overseers. They were denied freedom of speech, assembly, and travel.

Just as happened in other colonies—including Algeria—a nationalist movement rose in Morocco.

On March 2, 1956, after forty-four years of occupation, the Kingdom of Morocco gained independence from France and Spain.

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Inside the ancient Medina of Casablanca, which bears no resemblance to a Tesco or a Safeway or most any other place most of us shop. At right, the apparent losers of camel races, ready for roasting. Photos by Corey Sandler

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Haute couture in the Medina of Casablanca. Photos by Corey Sandler

Spain held on to the Spanish Sahara, to the south and west, until the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. Today that territory is still uncertain.

What is now called the Western Sahara is considered by the United Nations to be a non-self-governing territory.

That is the same status given by the UN to Gibraltar.

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Not-so-haute cuisine in Casablanca. Do they know his name is Colonel Sanders? Photos by Corey Sandler

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA9QTBM

Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer  (Kindle Edition)