Imagine yourself in your flight watching the 1942 black-and-white Bogart-Bergman-Henreid classic because this is going to be your first visit and so, you watch this American drama to understand the city a little before you land.
Your thoughts are as monochrome as your shades and what you’re expecting is a lazy, euro-centricized vacation where you stand at the balcony of your hotel in a quiet street and sip sweet tea in a pinkish sunset.
You also feel a little guilty about carrying your cocktail dresses because by this time you’re expecting women only in abaayas and thobe-clad men guarding them. Then you step out of the airport and stop for a while, you are stunned. You remove your shades and keep them aside; you decide to soak the vibrancy of the city.
Casablanca is modern but the signs of history are evident too, if you pay attention you’ll find silences within the hustles and you would mentally punch yourself for leaving behind the new A-line dress which it seemed was quite a favorite amongst the locals. You are humbled by the balance and don’t watch Casablanca on your flight back.
So so so, I’m writing you an article that’ll provide everything about Casablanca. Well, almost. Nothing prepares you for a city than the city herself but nonetheless, here goes-
5 things about Casablanca to city-smart better
Morocco’s chief port and one of Africa’s largest financial centers. (Morocco’s Bugatti hub, haha)
Has Portuguese, Spanish and French influences (that’s almost like a one-stop globalization center)
As per the Koppen climate classification, it says that Casablanca has semi-Arid climate which is a hot Steppe climate. So basically, it is semi-dry due to low rainfall although the nearness to the Atlantic ocean maintains the water vapor level in the air. (Sunblocks and water bottles should be the real investment)
For commutation, there are trams, trains, taxis, metros as well as coaches. (In the song Hey there, Delilah a line goes ‘a thousand miles seem pretty far but they’ve got planes and trains and cars’. Delilah has got to be living in Casablanca)
Casablanca is rivalled only by Marrakech in terms of cosmopolitanism. ( It takes only 3 hours and 4 minutes by train. So you know where you’re heading next)
King Hassan II mosque
5 places in Casablanca to architecture it better
The King Hassan II mosque built by the namesake to gift Casablanca a landmark. Over 6,ooo Moroccan master craftsmen and artisans were employed to work with local materials, embellishing over the entire structure. It is open to Muslims at prayer-time and special Friday prayers while non-Muslims are allowed for guided tours. The mosque is the tallest structure in all of Morocco while the minaret is the highest in the world. (a must-visit; a 4-hour journey from fes in a first-class compartment via train costs £25, to and fro)
Shrine of Sidi Abderrahman. Now this is an interesting structure. This coastal shrine situated just past The Corniche is visited by believers to treat a plethora of mental illnesses. However, this is accessible only at low tide. (a visit here is recommended to acquaint oneself with the local culture as this is a revered location)
The Corniche an ocean-side neighborhood, much like the Jersey shore, only very rundown. The vast expanse of hotels, resorts, nightclubs and restaurants appear to the traveler as having seen better days. It is the picturesque Western neighborhood of Casablanca which might have lost her visitors but not her charm. (the location, by the oceanside with cafes and food joints around serves to be an ideal place to chillax.)
Mahkama du Pacha well its only just a parliamentary building, as the name goes. But it is a place that must exist on your visit list mainly due to its architecture. The resemblance to Moorish architecture of Granada, Spain is so strong that it will leave you awestruck. Ornately carved doors, tiled pillars and graceful arches make this place a beauty. (due to the regular use of this place, gaining access indoors is a tough call)
Central Post Office– a 1918 built structure, facaded with both round and rectangular shapes, is the ultimate place to send those postcards in style. But once the fun has subsided, the mosaics would win you over. (I feel this is an interesting place to visit as not a lot of places have something like this still preserved)
5 ways to chill-scene it better
Turkish Hammam– Because it’s not Turkey is not a good enough to not visit this Hammam. One should visit Morocco’s own version of the Hammam. It’s the interfusion of two cultures, after all.
Ain Diab– Casablanca’s main beach, situated a short distance away from the city center, is a great place to paddle rather than the good, old, swim due to strong currents. (Well this is my idyllic space: the ocean, long stretches of vibrant cafes, nightclubs as well and shopping stores. And not to miss, good food too)
Morocco Mall and Anfa place mall– A lot of noses scrunch when they’re told to hit the mall in a new city, especially in a new country. “They have the same fast-food chains and same clotheslines as our city does”. Hitting the mall, if you can control your temptation then don’t shop haha, is the best way of familiarizing yourself with the popular culture present amongst a vast majority.
Old Medina– This seems like “my kinda neighbourhood” selling traditional Moroccan tagines, pottery, leather goods, hookahs, and a whole spectrum of geegaws. And here’s the shopper’s secret: the prices here are cheaper than those of Marrakech, so now you know where to shop the traditionals from!
Derf Ghalef and the Maarif neighbourhood– Now, this is what we call the best of both worlds. The Derf Ghalef is the souq neighbourhood, Morocco’s signature clustered small shanty shopping spree spread through a wide street while the Maarif neighbourhood, is the comparatively chic branded neighborhood. You can bargain at both these places, only difference being, one sells genuine goods while the other sells “genuine” goods. If you get the drift. Best of both worlds, I told you.
5 eateries to restaurant it better
I will give two budgeted and two middle-ranged restaurants followed by one splurge-some restaurant.
La Cigale– just south of the Rampwan de L’unite Africaine, the restaurant, in front, serves only the most basic food (sausage or kefta sandwiches, salads, and the like) but it also has a bar at the back which is more crowded and has live music on most nights. Beer is served with a plate of olives or popcorn, and it’s one of the few Moroccan-style bars where women can drink in peace. Wine and liquor are available, but only when eating in the restaurant. (A big yes, from me)
Benis Patisserie– this is undoubtedly the most famous patisserie in the city and is reputed to offer a great gastronomical experience, in all of Morocco. It is recommended to try their hornes des gazelles and bastilla, available with chicken as well as pigeon meat. In my opinion, its affordable and serves great food, so what else can a hungry traveler want!
- La Sqala– this is as much an architectural attraction as much as a gastronomical one, built in the remains of old fortress and is decorated with canons and old-world artillery. What attracted me was more than mere set-up, it serves traditional Moroccan cuisine with a modern twist.
- Al Mounia– due to mentions in most guidebooks, this place is a tourist favorite but you cannot miss the restaurant that serves the best couscous in the country!
- Rick’s Cafe– the recreation of the eponymous cafe from the movie, Casablanca, is a nouveau-riche Moroccan cafe serving exquisite Moroccan food, wine and liquor. There’s a dress-code, by the way. So you know where to wear your fancy cocktail dresses and suits-and-ties to.
Read about Incredible Istanbul!
5 foods to Moroccan- gastronomique it better-
Couscous– probably the most widely known and eaten Moroccan dish, is also called ‘Seksu’. It is a fine wheat pasta traditionally rolled by hand and steamed over a stew of meat and vegetables. When served, the stewed meat is covered by a pyramid of couscous with the vegetables pressed into the sides and the sauce served separately. It is often garnished with a sweet raisin preserve or with a bowl of buttermilk.
Fish chermoula– Chermoula is a combination of herbs and spices, used as a marinade before grilling over coals, and as a dipping sauce. Morocco, due to her proximity to the ocean, has a constant fresh supply of fishes. This dish is cooked traditionally in a tagine, which is a Moroccan clay cooking-pot with a conical lid, that gives its name to a myriad of dishes.
Kefta tagine– a dish which is beef or lamb mince with garlic, fresh coriander and parsley, cinnamon and ground coriander, rolled into balls and cooked in a tomato and onion sauce. Just before the dish is ready, eggs are cracked into depressions in the sauce and cooked to perfection. This is simply beautiful.
Zaalouk– Moroccan meals begin with at least seven cooked vegetable salads, to scoop up with bread. They can include green peppers and tomatoes, sweet carrots or courgette purée, and a dish of local olives alongside. Zaalouk is a smoked aubergine dip, seasoned with garlic, paprika, cumin and a little chilli powder. I am practically in love with this dish.
Harira– During the holy month of Ramadan, the fast is broken at sunset each day with a steaming bowl of harira soup. Rich with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas and lamb, it is finished off with a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped coriander, and served with a sticky sweet pretzel called chebakkiya.
Two other very essentially Moroccan foods that you mustn’t miss are- B’stilla or Bastilla, which is layers of thin-pastry layered with a blend of pigeon meat, almonds and eggs and spiced with saffron, cinnamon and fresh coriander while the whole pie is dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon. And the second being the very staple, Mint tea. This is so staple that Moroccans often refer to it as their whiskey. It is traditionally heavily sweetened with sugar chipped off a sugar cone. It is steeped with a few sprigs of spearmint stuffed into the teapot and poured into a tea glass from a height, to create a froth called the crown.
Hope the article serves you well. Happy travels