This is it. The last port. There won't be any more updates until I return to Pittsburgh in about two weeks. Here's what I have captured up until the wee hours of the morning of December 11 while serving my second all-night duty desk obligation (see below). Once again, we spent some time in both Casablanca and in Marrakech, so I've named this one after the country, not one city.
As always, there are some memorable first glimpses of Morocco. As we approached Morocco, we saw the Rock of Gibraltar. It was fascinating to listen to geologist Frank Peterson a few weeks ago describe how there is strong evidence that the Mediterranean dried up millions of years ago when the strait of Gibralter rose to close off the Atlantic from the Mediterranean. Then it sank again, causing the world's largest, deepest waterfall when the Atlantic filled up the Mediterranean once again. Morocco is out of the photo, to the left, across the strait. I could imagine the ancient waterfall beneath our feet at this spot.
We stopped at Gibraltar to refuel. Here's the ship refueling us. I hope they don't forget to put the gas cap back on!
Staff Captain Harry Sylvester & Captain Don Ryan supervise the docking in Casablanca.
One of the more interesting docking processes took place here. It's not like a U-Haul where you can slide out the ramp by yourself. This ramp (the gangplank) took 8 guys and a crane.
Above our heads was one more guy in this cage controlling the giant crane.
The crew seemed to be standing in formation to watch.
On our first night, we attended a welcome reception in Casablanca that featured university students, snacks, and these interesting musicians that used 5-6 foot horns, called "dekka marrakchi," which had the tone and volume of train horns. The horns come from Moroccan folklore, and are a specialty of Marrakech.
On the second day, we bought train tickets to Marrakech and the TWO kids had fun clowning around and trying on Christy's ONE jacket.
The adults did their share of posing and clowning around, too, as Judy Duchene-Peckham and her husband Dave Peckham eagerly demonstrate.
Here we are, doing still more posing while waiting for the train.
When the train arrived to take us to Marrakech, it was hard to keep the old tune about the Marrakech Express out of our heads. In fact, I couldn't stop thinking of that tune during the entire ride!
After boarding, the kids certainly had a good time running around a moving train. Here they are taking a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to Christy.
Christy seemed excited to receive the snack admidst a few awake SAS students and a few sleeping ones, too.
In Marrakech, we stayed at the Imperial Borj hotel, which received the coveted 5-star rating in Gary's tour book. Was it outstanding? No, it was just good, not really one of the best anywhere as its rating would imply. Here is our "5-star room." The next day, we discovered that the infinitely superior Sheraton was not much more expensive ($170 versus $120 per night).
The atrium was definitely quite attractive, and in retrospect this was a good bargain.
That night, we visited a "souk" (or medina) in Marrakech, which is a huge bazaar with rows and rows (actually, a labyrinth) of small shops selling nearly everything imaginable. Purses hang overhead, belts are on their racks, and fabrics are on display for the late night shoppers.
Besides booths for shopping, there were snake charmers by day and flame throwers like this fellow by night. After taking this video, he demanded 50 DH (about $5) for the shot. I paid him 40 DH in a weak moment.
Our walk to the main square was quite picturesque, with the minaret of the Koutubia mosque keeping the moon company.
From the main square, one can catch a horse and carriage ride back to one's hotel. You can imagine that the kids were definitely up to that!
Back at the hotel, the kids were thrilled to order Pizza Hut while the parents managed to get out for a Moroccan meal.
During the meal, a belly dancer entertained us and had each one of us (try to) dance with her in turn. Thanks to Carole's enthusiastic handling of the camcorder, you get to see my turn.
Topping off the meal is the classic mint tea, poured from on high.
Gary, Carole, Christy, and I trudged off the next morning back to the souk to do more Christmas shopping. Here is the Koutubia mosque during the day.
From across the street, I secretly filmed this guy charming two snakes. Hey Mr. Snake Charmer, if you see this and object to my stealth shot, just send me a bill and I'll send you all of the DH currency I have left!
One of the 5 best meals of the entire trip was made possible by the Ben Suda family. Here is our host explaining to Lauren, Kara Isaac, and Rob Fannon how to eat the first course. We were told that cutting was optional.
After a half-hearted attempt at cutting, Lauren, Kara, and Rob dig in with the fingers of their (right) hands. Do Kara and Rob look like they're related? Well, they aren't!
Rob, Michelle Sigler, and an American friend of the Ben Suda family do their best to make sure there aren't too many leftovers. Notice we're all using our right hands, even though some are left handed. Why? In Fiddler on the Roof, Yentl would tell you that it's "Tradition."
Michelle Sigler plays cards with the children.
After we packed up to leave, the kids posed and enjoyed seeing themselves in the camcorder's pivoting LCD display (hey, it worked like a charm in Vietnam and Turkey too!).
After returning to the ship, I had to serve my second 11PM to 7AM shift at the duty desk. Here I am wide awake early on.
But when even the computer hackers knew better than be awake, the night got awfully long. I'm glad we only had two 8-hour shifts during the voyage. It's too bad that I had to do a trade and therefore both of mine were all-nighters! Somehow I feel even more empathy for my father Frank while he worked all night at the Veteran's Hospital in Erie for so many years. And he would often work another job the next morning! By the way, I hope the Deans can see clearly that my eyes are open!
Our fourth night was spent at a Moroccan Music and Food field trip. Here are Becky Selig, Kara Isaac, and Nicki Leiser hamming it up when they realized they had to stand in a buffet line once again.
People seemed to be in a silly mood, perhaps because of the next day's departure for home. Here are two Lauras, Laura Grissen and Laura Gibson, both from Oregon.
I can't name everyone in this photo, because there are so many obscured faces. However, in the bus on the way back, people seemed to enjoy seeing themselves in the viewfinder that was turned 'round. In the front row are Nicki Leiser on the bottom left, sitting on Becky Selig's lap, Pitt English Professor Susan Smith (waving), and Christy. Behind Becky Selig is Brooke Lissy, and behind Susan Smith is Laura Gibson. Behind/between Susan Smith and Christy is Tara Grow. Behind Tara Grow, with the smile, dark hair, and bangs is Amy Mariaskin. If anyone else can give me more names, I'll put them on this page!
Karen Burns and I were "stowaway finders." We were walking up the stairs one night in Morocco and we saw a shadowy figure outside the door of the Boat Deck. We decided to search in opposite directions outside, when she found herself next to a Moroccan guy hiding behind a metal strut. He most likely jumped aboard our ship from the crane that was only a few feet from our ship. Good eye, Karen! Even though he was pointing to something bulging in his sock and his jacket pocket, she was unfazed. I think she was very upset with his hiding inches away from her, and she immediately grabbed his arm, shouting in a confident, loud voice, "you get OFF the ship right now!" We repeated this while we led him to the immigration officers downstairs. He kept turning around to ask me if I spoke French, but we continued down the stairs without negotiation. He was taken away in handcuffs.
Here's our last international McDonalds shot.
Here are Carole, Lauren, and Emily while we boarded the ship for the last time. Reality was beginning to hit us; our trip was soon going to come to an end.
As we pulled away from our last port, this mosque in Casablanca stood out as the most striking feature of the city in the darkness. I think I heard that this mosque is one of the largest in the world.

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Photos copyright 1999, Dennis F. Galletta