Casablanca is nothing like it is in “the movies.” In fact, it is a post-apocalyptic shit hole.
Essaouira is where Orson Welles shot the opening scene of Othello.
Local legend has it that Jimi Hendrix wrote “Castles Made of Sand” just south of Essaouira, but the song was released a year before he visited.
Spending Christmas in the Islamic world is basically a non-experience, though we did run into a Moroccan in a Santa suit.
The beach side of Essaouira is completely touristed and Euro-centric. The inland side, outside of the Medina toward the bus station, is the real deal.
Since this is my first foray into the Islamic world, certain things are catching me by surprise. For instance, I never would have guessed the veil to be so prevalent in Morocco. I always assumed this country to be more secular and modern, and the veil to be more the provenance of places like Iran and Saudi Arabia. It makes me feel ignorant, like the people who assume there are still bandidos on the highways in Mexico.