Casablanca, located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, is the largest city in Morocco. Serving as Morocco’s chief port, it is one of the largest financial centers on the African continent. I didn’t know much about Casablanca before arriving, and had only associated it with the romantic movie “Casablanca”. Boy was I surprised by this city of over five million people!
Where to Stay
Mövenpick Casablanca Hotel
The Movenpick Casablanca Hotel is a five-star hotel located between the Habous area and the corniche, where we spent most of our tour. The hotel has a great rooftop bar and pool!
Tour of Casablanca
Hassan II Mosque
Now that we have been in Morocco a week, we have learned a few Arabic/Berber words. I think the ones we’ve heard the most are “Marhaba” – “Hello” and “Yallah” – “Let’s Go”. We were ready to go today. It was time for a tour of Casablanca. We started the day at Hassan II Mosque, which is only one of two mosques in Morocco that non-muslims are allowed to enter. Tourists may visit the mosque at 9, 10, 11 and 2.
The mosque, the third largest in the world, was publicly funded, designed by a French architect and took 35,000 Moroccans to construct over seven years between 1987 and 1993. Its minaret is 650 ft high. The main hall holds 25,000 people; 20,000 men on the main floor and 5,000 women in the upstairs mezzanine. I would have never guessed the intricately decorated 200 ft high ceiling opens. The mosque, located partly on land and partly on water, has a retractable roof!
The inside of the mosque is decorated in Moroccan marble, Italian granite, and a plaster mix which uses egg. The ceiling is made of carved cedar wood. Its interior takes on an Andalusian, Moorish, and Moroccan design which is quite beautiful, and aptly named Hassan (meaning beautiful). Beneath the mosque are a variety of fountains and interesting wash rooms.
Muslims, who pray 15 minutes five times a day, must shower prior to entering the mosque. If they can’t they rub a rock. Our local guide, Hamadi, carries a small rock with him at all times. He also told us Muslims who drink may not enter the mosque. I’m certain there are several more religious traditions for Muslims, but I wouldn’t do their beliefs proper justice, so I have included a link to Wikipedia.
The Medina in Casablanca
From the mosque, we visited Casablanca’smedina and quickly twisted through a portion of the souks. We mostly passed through the food market area. One vendor was selling snails, mollusks, and turtles. Fortunately, we found out that the turtles are purchased as pets.
Shopping in Casablanca
Upon exiting the medina, we meandered down the White City’s streets and were given a chance to do some shopping in Casablanca. I personally loved seeing the egg delivery on a cart. A little different from a milk man in the USA! Margit was interested in a chandelier which took her around the corner where we stumbled upon several shops lining a pedestrian walkway. It was a nice area, and Jimmi found a button-down shirt that he could wear tonight at Rick’s Café, which had a dress code.
After shopping, we took a drive to the corniche. We wandered along the sidewalk above the shoreline as we passed by McDonalds, a café, and a variety of gyms and beach clubs. Some seemed ready for business while other locations were home to empty pools.
After our stroll, we stopped for lunch at El Gousto for fish soup as well as a fish entrée and of course, fruit for dessert. Not a terribly big fan of fish, I sort of wished that there could have been some variety between the appetizer and entrée! Oh well, it was food, and I could eat it.
The afternoon included stops in and around the Habous Quarter of Casablanca. First, we visited Pasha’s Mahkama, or court, which was built in 1952. The Mahkama was formerly the reception halls for the Pasha of Casablanca as well as a courthouse. Now the complex is used for government administration.
Casablanca’s Royal Palace
After visiting the Mahkama, we stopped at Casablanca’s Royal Palace. Though closed to the public, with a guide, we were allowed to wander a limited area of the grounds lined with elaborate water features, flags, flowers, and orange trees. Today, additional guards in red coats stood by the usual guards which meant the King, who resides in the palace in Rabat, would be visiting soon. As such, we were not allowed to take pictures of the military personnel.
We ended our day with a short stroll in Habous past a few Arabic bookstores before we returned to the hotel.
We finished the day with plenty of time to spare before 10pm dinner at Rick’s Café, so we went to the Morocco Mall. The mall, the second largest shopping center in Africa, opened in 2011. We heard it was very luxurious. Aside from the giant aquarium, I didn’t find it to be much different from any other giant mall in America with the exception of the fancy tea shop!
Finally, we made it to Rick’s Café,a restaurant owned by an American. It is an exact replica of the restaurant featured in the movie Casablanca. We were seated at a table upstairs which looked down into the middle of the restaurant. I really enjoyed the atmosphere here, and the food was outstanding. The fig and goat cheese salad was fantastic as was the duck! I think it was probably nice just to have a meal that differed from the traditional tajine. ETB
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