Casablanca Travels

Kiri Bloore endures the journey to Casablanca to find out what lengths women really will go to for jewellery

I gasp for breath as the searing heat from the desert is thrust through the glass windows, and the thin suffocating air makes it impossible to breathe. This seemed to be a never-ending journey. I perched on my seat, thinking, can I really do this for another two hours? It felt like I had left Marrakech a lifetime ago, and Casablanca was on the other side of the world.

My mind wanders to thoughts of the jewels I am about to encounter, and I consider whether this journey is really worth it, to find the gems of my dreams.

Jewwllery

I had been told by a very reliable source that if I got myself to Casablanca and headed to the industrial area- which is off the beaten track for tourists, I would find a jewellery store called Oro Mecanica. This jewellery shop is apparently a treasure trove of gems and is reputed for tailor-making any item of jewellery that you require.

Thinking of the jewellery store made me want to jump up with excitement but I resolve to calm myself by looking at the view, and dreaming of the train journey I imagined that I was going to embark on.

When deciding to take the train from Marrakech to Casablanca, I had imagined a train journey similar to the one described in A Passage to India; fascinating, overwhelming and unforgettable. I smirk to myself and think how wrong I was, the only comparison between the two journeys, I can conclude; is the overwhelming heat.

A passage to india

Finally we pull in to Casablanca Voyageurs station and I let out a huge sigh of relief so much so that the slightly overweight balding man sitting opposite me laughs with his belly and says to me “it’s finally over, missy finally over.” I can feel the intense heat has passed, and has been replaced by a soothing sea breeze. I almost want to let out a little squeal but I fear the man next to me has had enough of my restlessness.

I jump off the train, pushing past the passengers waiting in an orderly queue, all I could think of was fresh air, I had definitely left my manners in Marrakech, but finally my feet were on the platform. I got into a taxi, directing the driver to take me to the hotel.

I take in the surroundings as I am being driven. The difference between Casablanca and Marrakech is striking. The latter was so full of history and mysticism, decidedly Moorish features, whereas Casablanca was more modern, industrial and fast-paced. I could see why it was the economic heartbeat of the country. It reminded me of Dubai.

All the distractions had made me unaware of what I was sitting in, I am not sure you could call it a taxi by our standards. It was a little red Peugeot that had seen better days, which just about fitted me and my overnight luggage. There were no seat belts but fluffy funny seat covers had been supplied. As I looked down, I noticed that I could peer through a serrated crack, which looked like it led to another world- with bright light piercing though. I found myself tilting forward to look at what it was. In a heart beat I sat bolt up right and spread my legs at angles, “It is the road” I shouted. The taxi driver looked at me as if I was insane. The randomness of the situation made me laugh, to the great bewilderment of the taxi driver: there was a gaping hole in the taxi and I could see the road.

With a full nights sleep in the most comfortable of beds, I woke from dreams of jewels and recovered from yesterday’s adventures.  As soon as physically possible, I ran out of the hotel’s front doors and flagged down another little red taxi, and gave my instructions to take me to Oro Mecanica.

The driver, a tiny little man with grey hair and beard said “what do you want with there,” my eyes lit up and I said “jewellery jewellery”. I could hardly contain myself. My little Father Christmas -type driver looked straight through me with blank eyes and off we went.

The drive seemed to take forever; but eventually we pulled up at what looked like the gates to heaven, cumbersome metal gates that seemed to touch the sky, and more security men than I could count. They seemed to know exactly who I was, and what I wanted, the gates opened and I was ushered into a giant globe-shaped building, and up the spiral stairs that were similar to a castle in a fairly tale.

The gates

I was prudently aware that no one had actually spoken to me yet, and a few seconds of fear passed through my mind, whereby I wondered what I had actually gotten myself into. Thankfully I did not have to be distracted by my own thoughts for too long -as two breath-taking ladies greeted me, pushing golden doors open, and said with the softest of voices” Welcome Madame.”

Hot and ready to shop

Here I was. The moment I had been waiting for. I was inside what seemed to be a smugglers’ cavern, there were simply more jewels than I could ever have dreamed of. Row after row, cabinet after cabinet of the most perfect gems. They were the most intricate and exquisite cuts and designs I had ever laid my eyes on. Some stones I had never even entertained the idea of ever getting close to.

Gems

Reality kicked me back into place, and I reluctantly retreated from my fantasy world and back to practicality. I started to look at the price tags; normally this is the point where I realise I am just a window shopper- but for the first time I could see prices I could afford, amongst the many that I could not.

I began to asses the situation; every shopper was assigned a personal jewellery consultant who would tailor pieces to whatever you want. I looked around and a lady was instantly by my side “can I help you Madame?” I pointed at the rock in front of me and said “yes please, can I try the amethyst on please?” speaking through a giant smile.

I was taken through sliding doors to an oak wood table; it felt a little like an interrogation room- but filled with jewels from around the world. She sat me down and said simply “there you go”. I tried the amethyst ring on and I knew straight away it was what I was after. Hold back my joy was at the forefront of my mind as I remembered that I had been told you could haggle for an even better bargain.

To my left a machine started screeching, terribly un-glamorous noises for such a tranquil place, the sliding doors were opened and a bustle of ladies huddled over the machine. The lady sitting opposite me simply said, “fax. You can fax any design and we will make.”

“Amazing” I murmured.