Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tuesday, Dec. 26--Wednesday, Dec. 27

Tuesday morning eleven of us met at the church and loaded our 22 bags to check and 11 carry-ons into the church bus and drove to Orlando airport. There we stood in line for approximately forever to check our bags and were rather tight making our already-delayed flight to JFK. There we discovered our connecting flight to Casablanca was NOT late and we would have to navigate the construction quickly to get to the international terminal. Oh, and our boarding passes were no good and the counter to get new ones was closing in five minutes. We got everything we needed, went through security again, met our worried twelfth member Steve McCarthy, and walked right onto the waiting plane.
One the 6.5-hour flight (11pm Eastern to 6:30am Casablanca time) the Vegters met a young Moroccan named Omar who drove a taxi in New York. He kindly got us on a train from the airport to our stop, hailed five taxis, and told the drivers where to take us for our hotel. Moroccan is a creole of French, Spanish, and Arabic, so naturally communication was a little bit of a trick.
The hotel was... um... well, it wasn't exactly a Hilton. The paint was peeling, there were no shower curtains, no heat, and in Becca's and my room, no working toilet. There was a TV, but none of them had any knobs to turn them on. I doubt they had worked in decades. The beds were comfortable,though, and the water was hot.
Once we dropped off our bags, we went for an explore.

The third-largest mosque in the world is in Casablanca, and it was about an hour's walk from our hotel, so we headed there. It is one of the few mosques that allows non-believers inside. It was amazing. Really makes you wonder what Soloman's temple must have looked like. Inside there is room for 25,000 worshippers. The courtyard holds 80,000. Much of it is Italian white marble. It looks so out of place; it is in one of the poorer neighborhoods of a city where the donkey cart is still a common form of transportation.
That afternoon and the next day we wandered around the city. We visited Old Medina, where the street vendors' village is, and bought a few things (yes, Joanna, I have a few items to send you), and we saw the Supreme Court and Chad found a fire station where a very nice firefighter showed us all the equipment on his truck and give Chad an old uniform jacket. In the evening we took three taxis (don't ask us how we fit 12 people and 36 bags--it's not a pretty story) back to the airport to catch our 3.5-hour flight to Niamey. Thus ends the first two days of our adventure.

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