A Quick Guide to Casablanca
Most people will tell you to spend as little time as possible in Casablanca, and instead head straight to ‘real Moroccan experiences’ found in the likes Marrakesh and Fez. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree, because, in my eyes, Casablanca deserves a little more attention than that. Home to one of the world’s most stupendous (and largest) mosques and sprawling art-deco architecture, the commercial capital of Morocco will show you a side the whirlwind cities in central and northern Morocco won’t. It’s a French-built destination representing the direction Morocco’s industries are heading towards, and I invite you to be one of the first to taste this new kind of Morocco with me. You coming?
Hassan II Mosque Its 210m-high minaret is the world’s tallest, while, overall, its space for 25,000 worshippers inside and another 80,000 in the courtyards makes it the world’s third largest mosque. Don’t forget to look up and marvel at the delicate carvings carefully patterned by no less than 6,000 craftspeople. Dress respectfully and have your shoulders and knees covered at all times.
Mauresque architecture Even the humblest building can sport grand details in Casablanca. All you have to do is look up. Mauresque architecture pairs French Art Deco with traditional Moroccan features. Think wrought-iron balconies and Islamic arches. Some of the best examples in town include Cinema Rialto, Petit Poucet (Antoine de Saint-Exupery used to come here!), Pl 16 Novembre, Hotel Lincoln, Hotel Volubilis and Hotel Transatlantique.
Parc de la Ligue Arabe The palm-tree lined promenade makes for a perfect picnic backdrop.
Villa des Arts I’m sure you can guess what this one is about. Once you’ve had enough of lazing around by the palm trees, head here to get your daily dose of fine art featuring both local and international pieces.
Ancienne Medina You will see more colourful and lively medinas elsewhere in Morocco, with this one being a lovely introduction nevertheless. (Medina stands for the old section of an Arab city in North Africa.)
El-Hank Lighthouse Gaze into the horizon while enjoying a dinner al fresco in one of the cliff-top restaurants nearby.
Quartier Habous markets Artisan shops galore inside what they call ’nouvelle medina’; a kind of new, polished version of a traditional medina. Regard it as a blend of the old and new.
Mahakma du Pasha Housing the Court of Justice, this building is quite a vision with its grand wooden door, stucco ceilings and picturesque Morrish influence. Ask your hotel for the best times to visit as it stall in parliamentary use.
Blvd de la Corniche A slightly less picture-perfect version of Miami Beach in Morocco. Fun for an evening stroll!
Hammams Ready or not, it’s time to experience a traditional hammam (steam room + scrub) yourself. Ask locals for recommendations within your vicinity. I have been told upmarket Hamman Ziani (59 Rue Abou Rakrak) is one of the best in town.
Get Your Jazz On Jazzablanca houses a popular 5 day Jazz festival every April.
(all vegan friendly, of course)
La Sqala Boulevard des Almohades – Best breakfast in town! The authentic and fresh flavours might even have you coming back for dinner.
Marche Central Boulevard Mohammed V – Mingle with locals, buy fresh produce, or devour a super-fresh, super-quick, and equally affordable lunch.
Khos 44 Rue Annoussour – Excellent lunch stop serving healthy meals with small price tags.
Zayna Place Habous, 44 Rue Ibn Khaldoune – An absolute gem. Book ahead and feast yourself happy at dinnertime.
Restaurant Les Fleurs 42 Avenue de l’ Armee Royale – Great vegan tagines.
Bistrot Burger Boulevard Moulay Youssef – Albeit not your traditional choice, the veggie burger doesn’t disappoint. If burgers are your thing, don’t miss Blend Gourmet Burger on 9 Rue Theophile Gauthier.
A flash new tram will you get you most places including the most important local train station (Casa Voyagers). Latter is handy if you are airport-bound (35min) or heading on to Marrakesh (3.5h). When going by taxi, take the red petit taxis, and to avoid scams and only use metered ones! Parking meters are 2Dh per hour, in case you are renting one.
Moroccan Dirham (Dh)
Casablanca’s French street names are in the process of being replaced with Moroccan names. It’s best to know both versions when asking for directions.