Lisbon — CasablankaStartharbour: Lisbon
Boarding after: 07.12.2013 00:00
Departure: 09.12.2013 09:00
Port of destination: Casablanka
Arrival: 12.12.2013 11:00
Days on board: 7
Lisbon is one of the most ancient cities of the modern Europe. The history of the Portuguese capital started II thousand years B.C, when the Phoenician seafarers founded a trade settlement here. Later the city had been owned by the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Vandals, Alans, Arabs and even Norwegians until it finally became Portuguese in 1147.
During its history Lisbon was always an important oceanic port. In XV century it becomes the capital of Portuguese geographical discoveries – this is where the expeditions to all sides of the world started, where all the merchandise from all over the world accumulate, the city is growing rich and simply growing. In 1497 the 4 ships commanded by Vasco da Gama started their journey here, they were the first ones after Bartolomeu Dias to go past the Cape of Good Hope, reach Calicut and come back. This journey set the start for the Portuguese Ost-Indian trade that ensured the country and its capital’s wealth for 200 years. Three years later the expedition of Pedro Alvares Cabral that also headed to India from Lisbon, was the first to reach Brasil. Due to these discoveries by the middle of XVI century Lisbon has pretty much become the capital of the world. This is where the trade routes from Africa, India and South America cross. The city is filling with magnificent palaces and rich temples thick and fast. After a disruptive earthquake in 1755 Lisbon center was practically built anew in classicism and barocco styles so there are only few buildings from the prosperity era that lived to see these days.
One of such buildings is the Belen tower – a fortress included in the UNESCO World Heritage list is guarding the entrance to the Lisbon harbor. The 35-meter high building practically shining in the sun is well seen from far away. For generations of sailors who left Lisbon and sailed into long and dangerous journeys across the ocean the image of this tower has been the last goodbye of their homeland and the symbol of coming back. It is symbolic that now the yacht marina is situated next to the tower.
The other monument of the Lisbon Golden Age is the Jeronimos monastery (just a several minutes walk from the Belen tower) where Vasco da Gama is buried.
The sea history of Lisbon, the amazing people that left its harbor and headed towards unknown shores is a very long story to tell. But the best one can do is just walk along the white paving of the streets of the legendary city and feel its amazing aura. The feelings in Lisbon are very hard to retell. The sunset, bells ringing, fado sounding somewhere around the corner. Close your eyes and just feel it – you are in the most amazing and possibly the most beautiful city in the world…
After leaving the port of Lisbon we shall go south alongside the Portuguese coast. Weather permitting, we would like to briefly stop near Sesimbra, a picturesque fishing village not far from the city of Setúbal, famous for the best fish dishes in the whole of Portugal.
Having gone round Cape St. Vincent, the most western point of Portugal, we would like to spend one more day in this country, but time will decide. Here we’d like to visit the famous port of Lagos, another ancient port on the western Iberian coast. In the early days of Discovery Age Lagos was the main base of Henry the Navigator, king and founder of the great maritime and colonial empire of Portugal. In 1434 the famous expedition of Henry’s shield-bearer, Gil Eanes, sailed out of Lagos to become the first one in history to go round Cape Bojador, situated to the south of the Canaries. Back in those days Cape Bojador was the real end of the world… Today we might struggle to see the great navigational merit of their achievement, but in the 15th century Eanes’s expedition sparked a genuine revolution in the thinking of many Europeans. For the first time the world had left its ancient borders and people were able to look beyond the ‘end of the world’. The word ‘discovery’ found a meaning… Eanes’s expedition produced economical results as well. He brought back to Lagos African slaves, and the town became the largest centre of slave-trade in Europe. In the following centuries, as Lisbon grew, Lagos was losing its commercial status, yet the slave-traders would always prefer it to the Portuguese capital. Today we find Lagos as a popular sea resort, offering breathtaking natural scenery and fascinating ancient architecture. Its historical buildings – the ancient docks and the slave market – are still guarding the memories of the glorious past.
Here we shall wave our final goodbye to Europe and Shtandart, for the first time in her history, will make course for the African coast. Having followed in the foot-steps of the ancient slave-traders from Lagos and having sailed for almost 200 miles in the open ocean, our ship will enter the harbour of Casablanca.
And now we are in Africa! Casablanca is the major industrial centre, economic and business capital of Morocco (although the political capital is Rabat, situated roughly 100 kilometres to the north). With a population of 3 million people Casablanca is one of the most densely populated cities in Africa.
The first port and settlement situated where Casablanca proudly stands today, came about as early as 700 BC and was used initially by the Phoenicians and then by the Romans. By the 8th century Anfa (the old, Arabic name of Casablanca) was one of the richest towns on the Atlantic coast of Africa. By the 15th century the port of Anfa was a major base for pirates and sea rovers, who spent most of their ‘professional’ time robbing Portuguese merchant ships. In 1468, in an attempt to eradicate piracy, the Portuguese destroyed ancient Anfa and built a military fort called Casa Branca. The fort and surrounding settlement remained under Portuguese monarchs’ control until 1755, when the Great earthquake turned Lisbon, Lagos and other Portuguese towns into a pile of rubble. The Portuguese had to forget about their grand colonial ambitions. Their garrison left Casablanca and it was the new owners, Arabs, who took on the task of rebuilding the town which also suffered during the fateful earthquake.
Today, despite multiple destructions, Casablanca retained a small historical part. Narrow streets of the Old Town, surrounded by a semi-collapsed wall, form a peculiar labyrinth and white walls, reflecting the powerful sun, happily blind its visitors... This is how most Europeans imagine Casablanca – mysterious and exotic… largely because of the famous film of 1942 by Michael Curtis. But in reality the exotic areas last only for a few blocks rapidly giving way to the modern metropolis – new Casablanca with a distinctly European rhythm and pace.
Even the most famous point of interest in Casablanca is only 20 years old. It was designed by the European architects. Hassan II Mosque, the second largest mosque in the world, can accommodate over 100 000 people. Its marble floors are heated from the inside, the roof is retractable and the minaret is topped by a powerful laser, day and night shining a bright light in the direction of Mecca. It is hard to imagine a more modern mosque.
For the last 500 years the Port of Casablanca has often been used as a starting point for transatlantic crossings, a gateway to the New World from Europe. Even the famous film tells us a similar story – its main characters escaping the Nazi occupation awaiting their visas in Casablanca to carry on with their journey towards America. Casablanca will be a gateway for Shtandart as well – here we shall begin our journey to the Canaries.