If of all the cities in all the world, you choose to escape to Casablanca, expect to fall in love with its gritty charm and hidden beauty. Don’t let your first impression of the city discourage you. Once you accept that Casablanca makes no effort to wow guests and you start scratching the surface, you’ll discover a real, authentic, and fascinating Moroccan city. Situated on the Atlantic coast, Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco. Many expect to encounter the romantic Casablanca of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, and while there are still old neighborhoods adorned with French colonial and Moroccan architecture, Casablanca can’t possibly live up to these expectations of romance and adventure.
A bit grubby and grey, invaded by chaotic traffic, Casablanca lacks the atmospheric charm of cities like Marrakesh and Fez. However, the city impresses with its modern identity and the ambition to keep up with progress, as well as a fantastic international dining scene. Often considered just a starting point for other trips due to its airport that serves many airlines, the city doesn’t disappoint travelers who are wise enough to stay longer.
Embrace the authentic spirit of Casablanca
A business hub and cosmopolitan city, Casablanca is busy and always on the run. Expect the ambiance of a metropolis mixed with the suave touches of Moroccan traditions and culture. The city has an intriguing history that includes tales of the 8th-century Berber Kingdom. The Portuguese took over in the 15th century. In 1755, the much of the city was destroyed by an earthquake. The reconstruction process took place under the supervision of Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah. In the 20th century, Casablanca was colonized by the French and gained its independence in 1955.
Visit the old medina, the oldest surviving part of the city, and you’ll discover an authentic North African city that dates back to before the French protectorate. While the medina lacks the mesmerizing ancient souks of Marrakech, its maze of narrow streets and tiny stores selling spices and handmade souvenirs promise a genuine Moroccan experience. Beyond the medina, you’ll discover lovely arcades and palm-lined boulevards that tell elegant stories from the times when Casablanca was under the French protectorate.
The architectural jewel of Casablanca is undoubtedly the Hassan II Mosque that required the work of 6,000 traditional Moroccan artisans. The mosque was commissioned by King Hassan II and was completed in 1993 after six years of work. Today, the mosque’s minaret pierces Casablanca’s skyline and dominates the urban scenery. One of the largest mosques in the world, the Hassan II Mosque is open for non-Muslims curious to discover its impressive interior.
Experience the uniqueness of Casablanca
There’s no better place to discover the city’s uniqueness than the Quartier Habous, the “new medina” of the city. Built by the French in the 1930s, this district incorporates modern French culture and Moroccan traditions. The streets are embellished with Moorish arches and arcades, while the souk exudes a sophisticated atmosphere. Casablanca’s Marche Central surprises as an elegant food stop that lacks the chaos and murmur of the traditional Arab bazaars.
Embark on an Art Deco tour of the city and discover the architectural treasures left behind by French colonists. For a superb example of art deco architecture, visit the area around Place Mohammed V and admire the Grande Poste, clock tower, and Palais de Justice. Include a stop at Cinema Rialto and, while you’re there, also stop for a visit at Cathedrale Sacre-Couer.
End your days with strolls along the Corniche, the city’s oceanfront boardwalk. A scenic destination for long walks, jogging and admiring spectacular sunsets, the Corniche is lined with restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs. Don’t leave Casablanca without experience traditional pampering at one of the many hammams in the city. The authentic Hammam Ziani welcomes visitors with a hot steam room and divine full-body massages. Are you a big Casablanca fan? How about a coffee at Rick’s Café, a replica of the infamous Rick’s Café where Bergman just had to step into of all the gin joints in all the world.
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