My first day in Morocco was spent in the storied city of Casablanca. Perhaps most known in the west for the synonymous movie, this city is the economic center of the country today.
Many will say that there isn't particularly a lot to do in Casablanca - but I felt the Hassan II Mosque was well worth a visit, though there was not an abundance of other activities to do besides that.
Photos truly don't do this majestic place of worship justice. Its size and grandeur is astounding, and rivals the catholic churches of Europe and temples of Asia.
The interior of the mosque is just as spelendidly astounding.
Rick's Café is another popular tourist destination in the city. Modeled on the set of the café in the movie 'Casablanca,' today the eatery serves up both Moroccan and western fare.
The famed bar from the movie, too, has been reproduced.
Left, seared foie gras with sliced baked apples. Caramelized to perfection and the fructose sweetening up the umami flavor of the liver, the dish is best eaten hot.
Right, a Moroccan classic of stewed lamb leg, sautéed sliced onions, rice, cucumbers, baked dates drizzled with sesame seeds. The slightly sour kick the chewy dates give the dish made for a fun paring with the succulent lamb.
Continuing our introduction to local cuisine (this being our first meal in Morocco), we also opted for chicken and couscous (left), and another stewed chicken dish (right).
The quaint atmosphere of the restaurant is a great choice if one likes the movie. For a tourist attraction - the food was uncharacteristically good as well.
La Corniche, a once bustling resort area by the beachfront, home to many hotels and nightclubs past their prime. Today, the boardwalk is a favorite hangout for young locals, and many Western fast-food chains and coffee houses can be found along this shoreline. Perhaps it was due to the fact that only recently have Asians, especially the Chinese, started coming to Morocco for tourism, but throughout the trip many passerby both here and in the medinas called out 'China' or 'ni hao,' to us. While not exactly endearing, by the end of the trip I found myself accustomed to it and have even begun saying 'hello' back in Chinese.
The marketplace and medina in Casablanca is not very large - its counterparts in Fez and Marrakech are much more well-known and favored by tourists - however, there was a local pastry store hidden amongst the lanes of leather shoes, clothing, and trinkets.
Seen below, Patisserie Bennis Habous, was recommended to us as the best in all of Morocco.
Its unassuming exterior aside, the place was bustling with locals as we walked in, and for 4 US dollars, we bought a smattering of the local pastries - most of which featured almond in some shape or form.
Another place that came heavily recommended by locals was 'La Fleur,' rumored to be one of the best places serving hearty Moroccan fare in the city.
Thus, our first dinner in Morocco consisted of seafood pastilla (left), and a traditional lamb tagine.
Our second full day in the country begun with a drive to the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis. Having just gone to Athens a month ago, I've seen my fair share ruins - but nonetheless the relics were fascinating.
Next, on to the nearby city of Meknes for lunch, and a tour of the historic city.
This local joint was known for its roasted chickens and grilled kebabs.
Minced beef kebab, left, and regular beef kebab served with fries and rice, right.
The city of Meknes is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Founded in the 11th century, the city stands out as an exemplar of the Spanish-Moorish style. Seen here, once the main gates to the walled city, fortified as a capital of the region.