With Europe, a short boat ride, a desert in the south and the Atlantic coast in the north, Casablanca is one of the more unique places in the world with many things to do. I wasn’t in Casablanca, but Katie was and found for her as exotic and exciting as one imagines. The city is one of those places that involves mixing cultures with a mix of history. It is not quite Africa, it is not Europe, nor the Middle East. But it is easy to see how all these regions and cultures have left their mark on the cult Moroccan city. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco, it is also one of the largest in the Arab world and a huge financial center and port. The city is sometimes called “The Casa” and with a population of almost 4 million people, the city is modern and cosmopolitan. In Casablanca, you’ll just as likely see people adhering to the call to prayer as you’ll see young men flirting with scantily clad women by the beach. The Hassan II Mosque towers over the city as a reminder of the city’s history and current culture, while locals carrying Gucci and Porsche rides remind that Casablanca is truly a clash of cultures.
In the 10th century, the town of Casablanca was barely more than a few fishing villages. Despite its humble beginnings, the port of Casablanca has been historically important to any empire that has passed through the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, all passed here leaving their mark to some extent. Until the 15th century, the city was independent and therefore attracted many pirates and private individuals. Finally, conquered by the Portuguese, they abandoned it in 1755 after a massive earthquake that destroyed much of the city. By 1907, the French had occupied the city and it is said that Europeans at that time made up half of the city’s population. During World War II, the city became an important Allied stage area and since then the era has been immortalized in film Casablanca. Finally, by 1956, the country had gained independence. Casablanca is incredibly unique, so if you visit the city, take a look at these attractions that you must visit.
Get to know the sights of the Hasan II Mosque
Located on the Atlantic coast with stunning water views, the Hasan II Mosque is the third largest in the world. It took seven years and over 10,000 masters to build the mosque and regardless of your faith, the mosque is an amazing feat of architecture and art. The mosque is a tribute to the former King of Morocco who combines traditional Moorish design and modern architecture. The mosque can accommodate up to 25,000 worshipers, and although the minaret is the largest in the world, although it is the third largest in the world. Rising above the ocean and the city, the minaret is 700 feet high and is covered with light that shines to the east (towards Mecca). In addition to the traditional design, the mosque is modern and with earthquake-resistant foundations, retractable roofs and even heated floors.
Tours are available to non-Muslims in a variety of languages, although this is dressed accordingly. Take a camera with you for those picturesque panoramic shots of the coast.
Taste the local art
In a city where things can get big and ostentatious, the Abderrahman Slaoui Museum welcomes a small hole in the wall. Housed in a small building in the city center, the museum is named after Abderrahman Slaoui who was a local businessman and art collector, and the museum is a showcase of all the things he has collected over the years, which in some respects represent Morocco. Antique posters, figurative paintings by Moroccan artists, as well as handmade jewelry are on display. The exhibitions are regularly exhibited mainly by contemporary Moroccan artists.
Spend a moment in the oasis
While technically perhaps not an oasis, the Parc de la Ligue Arabe is a centrally located park that is a welcome respite amidst the hustle and bustle of Casablanca. The park was built in 1918 and is the city’s largest outdoor green space. The palm-fringed avenue provides plenty of shade, and the park itself is filled with tons of African flora. Visitors will find small cafes where you can stop for coffee or mint tea, socialize and entertain the few people who watch them. To get a little taste of the city’s colonial past, head to the Cathédral de Sacré Coeur, a former French Roman Catholic church right in front of the park. The church is a cultural center today, but still retains its original art deco style.
Have a drink at Rick’s Cafe
Despite the fact that the film was shot in the United States and not in Casablanca, this did not stop the city from cashing in on the glory of the 1942 classic film. Any movie lover or even someone who just wants to have a drink in a vintage and cool atmosphere will have a good time at Rick’s Cafe. Based on the film of the same name in the film, you can take a walk feeling like Humphrey Bogart, enjoy a cocktail and love the live music of the salon played on the piano. The bar was opened in 2004 by a former U.S. diplomat and is designed to feel as authentic as possible from the 1940s. Palm trees, brass chandeliers and table lamps add aesthetics while a children’s piano tucked into the vaulted conduit creates a mood.
Taste authentic Moroccan food
Casablanca is an international city. No matter what you are looking to eat, you will find it here. Excellent French cuisine is found next to sushi to eat, but when you travel, you want a taste of the authentic, and nothing is more authentic than the food at La Sqala. Located just in front of the old medina, La Sqala is tucked between the walls of an 18th-century fortified bastion. Get out of the city bustle and dine in a quiet courtyard surrounded by trees and a garden inspired by Andalusia. Live entertainment here is a common thing, but of course, you come here not only for the atmosphere but also to eat here! La Sqala offers authentic Moroccan food such as spicy tagins and fluttering couscous dishes that will fill you up as soon as you sit down.
Take a drink from a bird’s eye view
Located in the Kenzi Tower Hotel, Sky 28 is very likely the tallest bar in North Africa. The building is reportedly the tallest in the region and when you climb to the top, you will be inclined to believe. With elegant designs such as plush red velvet chairs, large windows with 360-degree panoramic views and the finest cocktails, guests can get a taste of luxury, even for a short time. In the afternoon the view offers a view of the coast with the Hasan II Mosque, and at night the illuminated city provides a romantic backdrop for any date. Live music and light meals are offered, and hotel rooms start at $ 150 per night, just in case you don’t feel like going too early.
Learn more about the history of the Moroccan Jewish people
The issue of the Jewish people in the Arab world has lasted for centuries, and understanding the complexity of the problem is something that requires a lot of education and understanding. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism is literally the only museum in the Arab world dedicated to its Jewish population. The Jews of Casablanca have a long history dating back at least to the tenth century when Casablanca was simply known as Anfa. After the destruction of the city by the Portuguese in 1468, they slowly returned, but by 1750 the population was growing again and the first synagogue was built in Casablanca. Although many of the city’s Jewish population left in the 1950s, approximately 2,000 to 4,500 Jewish residents of Casablanca still live.
The Museum of Moroccan Judaism opened in 1997 on the site of a former Jewish orphanage and has a large exhibition hall with jewelry, art exhibits and artifacts, including menorahs and mezuzahs. The museum not only shows the influence of Judaism on Moroccan culture, but also aims to highlight history and interfaith coexistence.
A walk through the Old Medina
The city of Casablanca is where you will find an old Art Deco theater on one corner, followed by a home inspired by Moorish homes located next to a modern glass and steel skyscraper. These variations of styles and designs are what sets the city apart from others and like most ancient cities in the Arab world there is a medina. While other medinas in the country are undoubtedly older, the old medina in Casablanca will make you feel like you have been completely transferred to another age. The original walled city was destroyed, but was rebuilt in 1755 after a major earthquake destroyed most of the city. Finally, in 1907, the walls were destroyed again by the French before being rebuilt. This is important to know because the area where the old medina is currently located feels like a mismatched patch of buildings and winding streets that give the area a certain charm. It may be a little difficult to navigate, but the fun is in blindly wandering and seeing what happens. Stroll through shops and stalls, buy olives or spices or sit in a cafe and enjoy hookah and mint tea. Beware in French and Arabic.
Have a snack at Pâtisserie Bennis Habous
If you are looking for an older place to hang out instead of the Old Medina, the place is Quartier Habous. Built in the 1950s to accommodate the influx of immigrants, the neighborhood is packed with intricately shaped street arches, whitewashed buildings and Moorish design. All of this added to the charm and beauty of the city, but one place in the area that has survived the test of time is Pâtisserie Bennis Habous. Built and opened in the 1930s, the bakery is one of the most famous in the entire city. Inspired by Maghreb-flavored French pastries, Pâtisserie Bennis Habous serves handmade delicacies such as Cornes from the gazelle which is a crescent-shaped cookie, filled with almond paste and a light layer of orange water. If you like more European dishes, almond macaroni is always a hit. Head to the nearby Imperial Café and wash it down with Moroccan coffee.
Casablanca is a city of opposition. It is an old world of medinas and souks with modern businesses, designer goods and street cafes. It is a city where you can grab French pastries in the morning, relax with a hookah in the afternoon and enjoy an expertly made cocktail in the top bar at night. It’s a clash of cultures that all somehow come together right on the Atlantic coast of Africa. I am already planning to go and Kati to return to Casablanca. Here, you’re looking at you, kid.