Today is the best day of the trip. It’s the day we go on outside site visits and I get to see the companies behind the names on my spreadsheets, and see the investments they have put in place and what practical difference they have made.
Our first stop is a bakery, and our first step is to get all kitted out in the hygienic overcoats and hairnets and shoeguards. They have face masks which I’m grateful for because I don’t want to cough all over the buns. We see the new dough mixer, and the new roll producing machine which helped the company get a contract supplying buns to KFC. We learn about the bakery’s commitment to quality, taking longer times to let the dough prove, and using less yeast, which provides a longer life loaf.
And of course, there are goodies to sample before we leave.
Our second visit is a tea factory, and as our host tells us, tea is integral to Moroccan hospitality, everything is discussed over tea, so here in this tea factory, we are in the beating heart of Moroccan hospitality. Again enclosed in protective gear and cleaned of loose material in the air chamber, we proceed to see the factory floor. Investments in new tea sorting machinery, new tea bag makers, and packaging equipment. The tea warehouse is impressive, with boxes of tea stacked up to the ceiling, three or four metres up.
And because we are in the heart of Moroccan hospitality, we are invited to partake of tea and given some lessons in how to make tea properly.
Moroccan tea has been my saving joy through this visit. It’s available everywhere, it’s not caffeinated, it’s hot and the mint is warming and it soothes my cough. I have a special place in my heart for Moroccan tea.
On the way back into the city, some of us ask to be dropped off at the Hassan II Mosque down by the sea. It’s a splendid building in a dramatic location.
You know it’s a big building – from any high point in Casablanca you can see it – but you only appreciate its size when you walk towards it…and you keep on walking. The bright sunshine plays some kind of trick on perspective so the mosque is both bigger and further away than it looks.
The mosque seems very popular with families. There are lots of women and children sitting around in the shade. Well, the women are sitting, the children are running around and playing. It feels like a welcoming community building, which any place of worship should do.
Although we don’t try to go in (we seem to have come to the wrong side for the entrance), we can still admire the exterior: beautiful, simple and ornate as the best Islamic architecture is.
The rest of the day is uneventful. Most of my colleagues are leaving tomorrow so we enjoy a final dinner together before they go back to their rooms to pack.
Back in my room I carry on working until after 11pm, before collapsing into bed for another night of interrupted sleep. Sleep two hours, wake up coughing, sleep again, cough again. And so on until I get up at 8am.