Casablanca is the financial capital of Morocco, and the country’s largest city. We stayed a week in this bustling metropolis.
Some of the sites we saw: the Hassan II Mosque, the Corniche (a scenic drive), the beach, the medina (old-walled section of the city).
So much has been written about the Hassan II Mosque that I don’t feel the need to rehash it here. But it’s definitely impressive. Every part inside – except two – comes from Morocco. Nearly all of the materials are from this country, and workers constructed this with great pride. The detail and craftsmanship are stunning. It was a treat to be allowed inside a mosque as a non-Muslim. So many people go to this spot to pray to God – it is a special place.
Tours are done in several languages, including French, Spanish, English, Japanese, and more. Our tour group in English has people from Norway, Australia, and other countries – but no one from North America.
Note that tours are given at times that do not intrude on prayer time. Check the mosque’s website here.
I will say that I’ve never paid $13 USD to enter a place of worship. I have given donations when I have been asked, and when I have not been asked. But paying an entrance fee for this tour was a novelty. While the price was a bit steep, it’s a relatively new mosque that cost quite a bit of money to build – probably a couple of billion in today’s dollars. Therefore, I didn’t mind paying the entrance and tour fee – especially since I was curious to see the inside of a mosque.
The Corniche neighborhood is on the Boulevard de la Corniche, near the mosque along the Atlantic Ocean. As of this writing, most of the boulevard on the sea side is under construction and blocked off to pedestrians. We had no view of the sea on our long walk in late January 2018. When construction is finished, it seems like it will be a great oceanfront walkway. (I don’t know the date of completion.)
One day we took a tram ride to the beach, called Plage Ain Diab. First, let me say the tram is awesome here. New and clean – but standing room only during busy times.
The beach is a wide, long stretch of sand. The oceanfront walkway in this section of the city has many restaurants. There also are people offering horse rides and umbrellas and chairs to rent. Since we went in January, we opted for a cafe called O’Palm that seemed popular with the locals. The food was just ok, but the ocean views were magnificent.
The weather in Morocco has been colder than I thought it would be. Sure, it’s winter, but it’s also Northern Africa. Tedly and I decided to go shopping for sweatpants so we can lay around home and be comfy and warm. So off we went to the market in the medina.
This area is nowhere near as big as the medina in Marrakesh, but you can still find good deals for just about anything you might need. We also met some kind people here – many vendors told us ‘Welcome to Morocco’ even though we didn’t buy anything. Eventually, we did each find sweatpants for a decent deal, and the men at the stand where Tedly bought his took an instant liking to him. (As almost everyone does!)
We did not visit Rick’s Cafe, but we did see it from the street on our way to somewhere else. Hollywood created that cafe – literally. After the film Casablanca was released, the cafe was born. I’ll bet there were at least a few tourists there – because we sure didn’t see them anywhere else in this city.
We also did not visit Sky 28 – which is a famous bar in a high-rise with panoramic views of the city. We skipped it because we had a pretty good view from the balconies and the roof of our Airbnb rental.
In fact, I loved the building and the apartment where we stayed. It was built in the 1920s and had so much character. High ceilings, marble staircases, several balconies. The unit had vintage furnishings but also modern touches like a washer, nice shower head and kitchen appliances. I haven’t posted a video from one of our Airbnb rental units onto this blog in a long time, so here’s a video tour of where we stayed.
I was comfortable in the rental, which is a good thing considering I was getting a cold for the fourth time in three months when we arrived. I actually spent our first day resting – and I slept a lot during our entire week-long visit. I guess four countries on three continents in two months can wear a gal out a bit.
Thank you, Casablanca. You’ve taught me more more about Moroccan culture and daily life, and I also found time to rest and get ready for our next stops in this cool country. We have traveled around Morocco by bus so far, but next up is the train.