When many people think of Casablanca, they envision the romantic iconic film that features characters made memorable by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Today, Casablanca is not anymore that city torn between the Allied and German forces in World War II. It is the economic capital of the country, and a dynamic cosmopolitan that is inspired by European design and the way of life.
In the city you will find a lot of fashion design exhibits and art galleries showcasing contemporary art. Some travelers see Casablanca as not exotic enough as other Moroccan cities, but the city has a distinct appeal and it offers something different to visitors. Spend a day or two in Casablanca and see the liberal and progressive side of Morocco.
One of the highlights of a visit to Casablanca is the Hassan II mosque, which celebrates the architectural tradition adopted by the city for many decades. Completed in 1993, the mosque features the artistry of over 4,000 Moroccan artisans. Hassan II, which stands at 200 meters, is one of the largest in the world. It also has the world’s tallest minaret. Fortunately, this mosque is open to non-Muslims. Thus, you will get the chance to see its lovely interior, tile work, hammam (public bath) and other features.
The city’s Old Medina is located on the north of the Place des Nations Unies. Although not as impressive as the one in Marrakesh, this traditional walled town gives you a good feel about the old Casablanca. Here, you will see several vendors attracting shoppers in alleyways and narrow streets. Other fascinating old structures worth visiting in the city include the delicately decorated Hispanic-Moorish building called Mahkama du Pacha, Pacha (Courthouse of the Pasha)and The mosaic-adorned Central Post Office built in 1918.
To get the more modern feel of the city, proceed to the prominent district of Maarif, home to trendy shops and luxurious establishments. The up market neighborhood of Anfa and Boulevard Mohammed V are just some of the places where you can find great shopping arcades and interesting restaurants.
If you are a fan of seaside areas, visit the Corniche neighborhood and Boulevard de l’Ocean Atlantique. This coastal area is a popular seaside resort abundant with swimming pools and hotels. This is a favorite meeting and mingling spot for city dwellers. Within the vicinity are a number of bars, clubs, fast food chains and ocean view cafes that keep the nightlife extremely vibrant. Just past the Corniche area is the Shrine of Side Abderrahman, which can only be reached during low tide. Although the shrine is restricted to non-Muslims, you are allowed to walk around the tiny town around the shrine.
After a long day of exploring, try getting a steam bath and scrub in one of the traditional hammam’s in the city. If you have not tried a hammam bath, the city is a good spot to do it. Still fascinated with Casablanca architecture? Drop by Place du 16 Novembre, where you can marvel at 1930s art deco architecture. The place represents the heavy design influence made by France during that era. If you still feel a little melodramatic about the film Casablanca, then stop by Rick’s Café, whose construction was inspired by the 1942 film.