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Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca (Arabic: الدار البيضاء, Dar al-Bayda) may be the cosmopolitan, industrial and economic heart of Morocco, and its largest city, but it is one of the less endearing of the country's sights. With a small, unassuming medina and a traffic-congested ville nouvelle, travelers arriving via Casablanca may be tempted to find the first train out to nearby

Rabat

. The awe-inspiring

Hassan II Mosque

and happening nightlife and architecture (mostly colonial times buildings), however, are worth at least a day of your Moroccan itinerary.

The modern city of Casablanca was founded by Berber fishermen in the 10th Century BC and was subsequently... Read more

Casablanca, Morocco

Destination:
Casablanca (Arabic: الدار البيضاء, Dar al-Bayda) may be the cosmopolitan, industrial and economic heart of Morocco, and its largest city, but it is one of the less endearing of the country's sights. With a small, unassuming medina and a traffic-congested ville nouvelle, travelers arriving via Casablanca may be tempted to find the first train out to nearby

Rabat

. The awe-inspiring

Hassan II Mosque

and happening nightlife and architecture (mostly colonial times buildings), however, are worth at least a day of your Moroccan itinerary.

The modern city of Casablanca was founded by Berber fishermen in the 10th Century BC and was subsequently used by the Phoenicians, Romans, and the Merenids as a strategic port called Anfa. The Portuguese destroyed it and rebuilt it under the name Casa Branca, only to abandon it after an earthquake in 1755. The Moroccan sultan rebuilt the city as Daru l-Badya and it was given its current name of Casablanca by Spanish traders who established trading bases there. The French occupied the city in 1907, establishing it as a protectorate in 1912 and starting construction of the ville nouvelle, however, it gained independence with the rest of the country in 1956.

Casablanca is now Morocco's largest city and also boasts the world's largest artificial port but no ferry service of any kind. Casablanca is also the most liberal and progressive of Morocco's cities. Young men flirt brazenly with scantily-clad women, designer labels are the norm in the chic, beachfront neighborhood of 'Ain Diab and many young Moroccans speak to each other exclusively in French.

But not everyone is living the Casablancan dream. Tens of thousands of rural Moroccans who fled the drought-ravaged interior to find work in the city are struggling under high unemployment rates and expensive housing. The poverty, prevalent in slums on the city's outskirts, has led to high rates of crime, drug use, prostitution and the rise of Islamism.

Casablanca is a mixed bag of Moroccan extremes.


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Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Casablanca, Morocco: Port Information


Cruise ships dock at the container port. There are no tourist facilities. You can get to the center on foot (about 1.5 km), however, you’ll need to walk through the industrial area. Besides, it may be too hot.
There is shuttle service.
There are always taxis at the pier.

Get around Casablanca, Morocco


A government department puts out an exhaustive map of Casablanca in book form called Carte Guide de Casablanca that you can find in bookstores or online; in all likelihood, though, it isn't necessary. Other than that, Casablanca is like any other European city: the streets (mostly) have signs, and passersby are extremely helpful in French or Arabic and, more rarely, Spanish or English. The Medina can be hard to navigate, but it's so small that no matter how blindly you wander into it, you're never more than ten minutes from an exit.

By tram

Casablanca is one of the two Moroccan cities with a tram. The first line opened in late 2012. Service runs from 5:30 through 22:30 with frequent trains (during the day, the interval seems to be shorter than 10 minutes). Beware that most vending machines only take coins. Tram stops are announced in Arabic and French. Further information including the network ("réseau") and schedule ("horaires") is available in French and Arabic on the Casa Tramway website.

By bus

Many bus companies run through the city, the bus routes are the same for a given number, although the route remains completely unclear (Google maps has some bus stops for Casa though). Going by bus is the cheapest way to get around, but some companies such as Hana Bus have vehicles in a disastrous state. It could be worth taking the chance given the cost-saving and experience of what many locals experience, but watch out for pickpockets.

By taxi

All taxis red in color, drivers know how to get to every single place in every single guide book, even if you tell them just "the restaurant on Blvd. Hassan II." You should avoid the white Mercedes Grand Taxis when traveling around, they are much more expensive and less safe. Be sure to check the meter is running to avoid being overcharged at the end of the trip. Don't be surprised if the taxi stops to pick someone else up.

What to see in Casablanca, Morocco


  • King Hassan II Mosque

    , Blvd Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah. The largest mosque in Morocco and the seventh largest in the world, with the tallest minaret in the world. It opened in 1993, after 7 years of construction. It is one of the two main mosques in Morocco open to non-Muslims. Beautiful interior complete with water features, a roof that opens to the sky, a huge hammam in the basement (not in use), and beautiful tile work. Tours Sa-Th 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, and 2 PM
  • Old Medina (north of the Place des Nations Unies. There is a small traditional walled town in the north of Casablanca). If you are in town it's worth a visit, but it is nothing compared to the glories of Fes or Marrakesh.
  • The Corniche. A neighborhood on the ocean, west of the Hassan II Mosque. Decades ago it was a thriving resort area - hotels line the ocean side of the Boulevard de la Corniche, and nightclubs line the other side. Most look like they've seen better days. Along the Boulevard de l'Ocean Atlantique are many newer, fancier hotels. The Corniche is also home to many western fast-food chains. A new western-style movie theater can also be found here, but the best option is to walk up and down the street, resting at one of the many ocean-view cafes.
  • Shrine of Sidi Abderrahman. Built on a rock off shore, well past The Corniche, and only accessible at low tide. The shrine itself is off-limits to non-Muslims, but visitors are permitted to explore the tiny, medina-like neighborhood that has sprung up around it. A better bet is to walk to it along the beach and catch a view of the beautiful white walls before taking a cab to less remote areas.
  • Mahkama du Pacha. M-Sa 8:00-12:00 & 14:00-18:00. This is a Hispanic-Moorish building comprised of more than 60 ornate rooms with delicately carved wooden ceilings. There are many stuccoes and intricate wrought-iron railings as well as beautifully tiled floors. While entrance may be free it is not easy to get in. You need to find a guide to accompany you. Ask around - especially if you speak some French - it is worth it. To get there take bus 81 on Boulevard de Paris.
  • Central Post Office. Come here to send your postcards in style! Built in 1918, the façade is composed of both round and rectangular shapes. Once you approach you will get a good view of the excellent mosaics.
  • Rêve de mon œil. This art gallery exhibits a bizarre collection of modern welded sculptures by artists from all over Morocco.
  • Octagon Square. This is one of the best places to see modern Morocco. Businessmen come out in droves at lunchtime to have their food in the sunshine on this modern city square. Great chances to take beautiful scenery shots too.
  • Villa des Arts, 30, Boulevard Brahim Roudani, Casablanca (located slightly southwest of Parc de la Ligue Arabe on Bvd Brahim Roudani). Run by the charity ONA, it is a place for the Moroccan art scene. Currently free of charge.

Art galleries (commercial - they live of earnings they make by selling art, you can usually enter for free):

  • Galérie d'art l'Atelier 21, 21, rue Abou Mahassine Arrouyani (ex rue Boissy-d'anglas), Casablanca 20100 Maroc, e-mail: latelier21@gmail.com.
  • Galerie shart, 12, rue El Jihani, e-mail: info@galerie-shart.ma.
  • Loft Art Gallery, 13, rue El Kaïssi. Mon-Fri 9:30-12:30, 14:30-19:30, Sat 09:30-12:30.
  • Galérie Nadar, 5, Rue Al Manaziz, e-mail: galerienadar@gmail.com.

What to do in Casablanca, Morocco


Hammam (Turkish Baths)

  • Solidarite Feminine, 4, rue Ahmed Chowki, Palmier, ☎ +212 22-99-23-94.

What to eat and drink in Casablanca, Morocco


Eat

Restaurants in Morocco are like restaurants in Spain - they don't open until around 7 PM at the earliest, and most people don't eat until much later. Be sure to call first and make sure your restaurant of choice is actually open.

Budget

  • La Cigale, Blvd Brahim Roudani just south of the Rampwan de L'unite Africaine. This bar is an unassuming spot close to the Park of the Arab League, with a restaurant in front that serves only the most basic food (sausage or kefta sandwiches, salads, and the like.) The bar in the back is more crowded and has live music 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 few phrases in Arabic to Aisha, the barkeeper, will win her heart and ensure a constant supply of olives.
  • Benis Patisserie, Quartier Habous. This place is famed for having some of the best pastries in Morocco. Try one of their famous hornes des gazelles. You should also try the bastilla (one of the most luxurious and prestigious dishes in Morocco's gastronomy, and Benny's is undoubtedly the best one. Choose the pigeon or farm chicken version. You must book it in advance (+212 5 22 30 30 25).
  • Solidarité Féminine Association's restaurant, 10, rue Bait Lahm (ex Mignard), quartier Palmier (Red taxi or Tramway station Wafasalaf), ☏ +212 6 19 11 11 16. M-F from 12:00 to 14:30. The Association "Solidarité Féminine" has implemented an applied training program to encourage the socio-economic integration of women in single mother situations edifying employment. Therefore, making them co-founders of worthy life-plans for both themselves and their children. Mint tea and Moroccan pastries available.

Mid-range

  • La Corrida, 59 Rue el Araar, ☏ +212 22 27 81 55. From the outside, it's easy to miss this restaurant but look for the little sign ringed in blinking lights. It has a nice outdoor courtyard, but the inside is the main attraction. It's decorated like with memorabilia from Spanish bull fighting tournaments and has a dark, candle-lit vibe that's perfect for dates. The sangria is tasty, as is the Tapas menu (which changes daily). Seafood is the specialty, and the steamed mussels should not be missed.
  • Taverne du Dauphin, 115 Blvd Felix Houphouet, ☏ +212 22 22 12 00. A little seafood place within walking distance of the old medina, the port, and the Park of the Arabic League, this place can get crowded at mealtimes. An excellent selection of seafood and one of the widest beer selections in all of Morocco (though that's only 5 or 6 different brews) makes this a very popular lunch spot. The fish is fresh from the fishermen at the port, and the shellfish (oysters, mussels and so on) are delicious. When paying, however, keep an eye on the waiters: they'll "help you count the money," which can turn into an elaborate shell game where they'll slip some of the cash into their own pocket.
  • Le Kobe D'Or, 9 Rue Abou Salt El Andaloussi (just off of Brahim Roudani), ☏ +212 22 98 07 25. An Asian restaurant that is hard to miss, as it has an enormous red neon sign. The inside is nicely decorated in dark red, with lots of mirrors and Asian details. The food is ho-hum; the soups are great but the chicken tends to be overcooked. Still, a nice place for a quick snack close to the Maarif, a good shopping area.
  • La Sqala, Blvd. Des Almohades, ☏ +212 22 26 09 60. Built in the remains of an old fortress, this place is worth as much as a cultural attraction as it is a restaurant. On the outskirts of the old medina, it has cannons, walls, defensive positions, and portcullises as well as a nice, clean eating environment. The atmosphere tends to be a little on the touristy side, but the food is a good modern look at traditional Moroccan foods. Some dishes are vegetarian and vegan. They also have the obligatory Moroccan pastries and teas if you're just in the mood for a snack. Great photo opportunity.
  • Al Mounia, 95 Rue Prince Moulay Abdullah, ☏ +212 22 22 26 69. This restaurant has an excellent courtyard with a hundred-year-old tree. The main drawback is that since this restaurant is listed in most guidebooks, it fills up with tourists at an early hour. The cooking is mostly traditional Moroccan foods, with some of the best couscous in the country. There is also an extensive wine list.
  • La Cocina, 55, Rue Mustapha el Manfalouti, Gauthier, a 20m de Zerktouni, ☏ +212 522 463369. The real Spanish taste in Casablanca. Located in the center of Casablanca, this restaurant offers a variety of Spanish dishes, very good rice and paellas dishes and a great selection of authentic Spanish tapas and local and imports wines and beers. Open from noon until midnight without interruption, its nice decor and friendly service make it a must in Casablanca.

Splurge

  • Rick's Cafe, 248 Rue Sour Jdid, ☏ +212 22 27 42 07, ✉ info@rickscafe.ma. This restaurant claims to have recreated the eponymous cafe from the movie Casablanca. Excellent location, within a 20-minute walk of the Hassan II Mosque and in the walls of the Old Medina bordering the ocean. The food is excellent, though expensive. Eat at one of the tables on the second floor for an excellent view of the seats below and the niveau-Moroccan decorations or eat on the ground floor to be nearer the piano player who plays, of course, "As Time Goes By" every night. Excellent selection of wine and liquor and, for Morocco, a thorough beer selection (5 different brands). The waitstaff, in tuxedos and fezes, is superb. Dress code. Do not show up in shorts!
  • YoSushi, 12 Rue Mohammed Abdou, ☏ +212 22 98 11 90. Sushi is catching on in a big way in Morocco. This little place, on a side street near the prefectural police headquarters, is one of the best. New, clean, and trendy, you're unlikely to find anyone in it before 22:00. They serve all the sushi classics - Nigiri, Sashimi, Hosomaki, Maki, Futomakis, and assorted other fish items. Though tasty, it can get expensive if your aim is to fill yourself up. Not very many options for vegan diners.
  • La Table du Rétro, 22 Rue Abou Al Mahassine Arrayani, ☏ +212 05 22 94 05 55, ✉ contact@latableduretro.ma. French cuisine.

Drink

Nightlife in Casablanca has mixed reviews. Women might feel a bit uncomfortable with the mostly male crowds in many bars and nightclubs. But if you dig a bit, you'll find some excellent spots to drink, dance and people watch. Certain clubs are flooded with prostitutes at night.
Supermarkets like Acima and Marjane carry a wide variety of liquor and wine, though the beer selection is fairly stunted. The best places to drink are either European-style restaurants, which usually have a decent selection. Many western-style nightclubs exist in the Maarif and Gironde neighborhoods. Pubs to visit Tiger House, La Notte.

  • Kasbar, 7 Rue Najib Mahfoud, Gauthier (On a street between Blvd Anfa and Blvd Souktani.), ☎ +212 22 20 47 47. A dark and atmospheric place to grab a drink or dinner. Any kind of attire will fly, but if you want to dress up, a night at Kasbar is your chance.
  • La Bodega, Rue Mohammed 5 (Near the old downtown and Medina). A Spanish tapas bar, quite original. There can be a wait to get into the basement bar; but once you get inside, you're rewarded with bartenders who eat fire. It's pretty expensive, though, and only frequented by tourists.
  • Petit Poucet, 86 Boulevard Mohamed V. A bar that has been around for decades, apparently, Little Prince author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry already stopped by here. Somewhat worn-down.

Shopping in Casablanca, Morocco


  • Casablanca is one of the least interesting places to shop in all of Morocco. Around the old Medina, it's easy to find places selling traditional Moroccan goods, such as tagines, pottery, leather goods, hookahs, and a whole spectrum of geegaws, but it's all for the tourists. Much better to wait until you're in Fes and can bargain with someone who sells things to Moroccans and tourists alike.
  • That said, the Maarif neighborhood (near the twin center, around Boulevard al Massira al Khadra) has many name-brand European and American fashion chains, such as Zara. Designer glasses, leather shoes, and "genuine" belts, bags, and shirts can be had at bargain prices.
  • Morocco Mall is a huge mall including a variety of shops and a cinema (supposedly it's north Africa's second-largest shopping center). It is located at the very southwest of the city (further down from Ain Diab/Anfa).
  • The Derb Ghalef neighborhood has a huge souq that is not for the faint of heart. A cluster of small shanties, each one is loaded with "genuine" mobile phones, "genuine" watches, and "genuine" "brand name" clothing. The shops are separated by alleys no more than three feet wide, some of which double as drainage ditches. There are numerous fruit smoothie stands in the center, which makes a good spot for regrouping and planning your excursion. The stall owners are, of course, kings of negotiating, and without a good handle on Arabic and a strong backbone, you're likely to pay well over the going rate for anything.
  • People interested in art find a decent amount of art galleries.

Safety in Casablanca, Morocco


Almost all of the things to see in Casablanca are in the north of the city; very few maps even show the southern end of this sprawling metropolis. Common sense will alleviate 99% of problems; try to look as little like a tourist as possible, do not flash large quantities of cash, and so on. Faux Guides are much less of a problem here than in the rest of Morocco and are limited mainly to the area around the Old Medina.
It is inadvisable to walk alone in Casablanca at night. Women, as in all Moroccan cities, should dress modestly to avoid harassment (which almost always consists of lewd comments, but nothing physical.)
Pickpocketing and moto-drive-by theft seem more to be a problem here—hide your valuables!

Language spoken in Casablanca, Morocco


It would greatly enhance your visit, increase your understanding of signs and notices, and avoid difficult situations if you were to brush up on your high school French or embark on a course of Arabic.
  • Modern Standard Arabic is the first official language and is frequently used in administrative offices, mosques, and education. However, the vernacular is Moroccan Arabic - a dialect of Maghreb Arabic - also known as Moroccan Darija.
  • Berber, or the Amazigh language, is the second official language and is spoken by Morocco's Berber population.
  • French is widely understood and spoken in Morocco due to its history as a French protectorate and is taught in schools from relatively early grades, making it by far the most useful non-Arabic language to know. Most urban locals (especially young people) you meet will be trilingual in Moroccan Arabic, Standard Arabic and French.
  • In the northern and southern parts of the country, many people speak Spanish instead of or in addition to French owing to the proximity to and former colonization by Spain. Additionally, many Moroccans go to Spain on temporary work visas and learn the language while living there.
  • While knowledge of the English language is increasing among the younger generations, most Moroccans don't speak a word, and even those that do will most likely speak better French. Although you will find a few people who speak English among the most educated people, in urban areas most of them are touts and faux guides. Some shop owners and hotel managers in urban centres also speak English.

LOCAL TIME

3:47 pm
November 17, 2019
Africa/Casablanca

CURRENT WEATHER

14.7 °C / 58.46 °F
sky is clear
Mon

14.43 °C/58 °F
light rain
Tue

14.44 °C/58 °F
broken clouds
Wed

17.64 °C/64 °F
light rain
Thu

15.71 °C/60 °F
moderate rain

LOCAL CURRENCY

MAD

1 USD = 0 MAD
1 EUR = 0 MAD
1 GBP = 0 MAD
1 AUD = 0 MAD
1 CAD = 0 MAD

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