Issues to do in Casablanca
With Europe just a short boat ride away, the desert to the south and the Atlantic coast to the north, Casablanca is one of the most unique places in the world with lots of activities. I haven’t been to Casablanca yet, but Kati was and found it as exotic and exciting as you imagine it to be. The city is one of those places that embodies a mix of cultures with a mix of history. It’s not all of Africa, it’s not Europe, and it’s not the Middle East. But it’s easy to see how all of these regions and cultures have shaped the iconic Moroccan city. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco, one of the largest in the Arab world and a huge financial center and port. The city is sometimes referred to as “The Casa” and with almost 4 million inhabitants, the city is modern and cosmopolitan. In Casablanca you can see people answering the call to prayer, as well as young men on the beach flirting with scantily clad women. The Hassan II Mosque towers over the city as a reminder of the city’s history and current culture, while the Gucci-wearing and Porsche-driving locals remind you that Casablanca is truly a clash of cultures.
In the 10th century, the city of Casablanca consisted of little more than a few fishing villages. Despite its humble beginnings, the port of Casablanca has been historically important to any empire that has crossed the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans all left their mark here. In the 15th century the city was independent and attracted many pirates and privateers. Finally, conquered by the Portuguese, they left it in 1755 after a severe earthquake that devastated much of the city. In 1907 the French took over the city and it is said that the Europeans made up half of the city’s population at the time. During the Second World War, the city became an important location for the Allies and the era has since been immortalized in film Casablanca. In 1956 the country finally regained its independence. Casablanca is fabulously unique. So when visiting the city be sure to check out these must-see attractions.
Admire the sights of Hasan II Mosque
Located on the Atlantic coast with a wonderful view of the water, the Hasan II Mosque is the third largest in the world. It took seven years and over 10,000 craftsmen to build the mosque, and regardless of your religion, the mosque is a stunning feat of architecture and craftsmanship. The mosque pays homage to the former king of Morocco, combining both traditional Moorish design and modern architecture. The mosque can accommodate up to 25,000 worshipers and although it is the third largest in the world, the minaret is the largest in the world. The minaret overlooks the sea and the city, is 700 feet high, and is covered by a light that shines eastward (towards Mecca). In addition to its traditional design, the mosque is also modern with an earthquake-proof foundation, retractable roof and even underfloor heating.
Guided tours are available in different languages for non-Muslims, but as this is a religious site, dress accordingly. Be sure to bring your camera for these picturesque panoramic shots of the coast.
Get a taste of local art
In a city where things can get big and pompous, the Abderrahman Slaoui Museum is a welcome little hole in the wall. Located in a small building downtown and named after Abderrahman Slaoui, a local businessman and art collector, the museum is a showcase of all of the things he has collected over the years that in some ways represent Morocco. Vintage posters, figurative paintings by Moroccan artists and handmade jewelry are on display. The exhibitions change regularly, mostly with contemporary Moroccan artists.
Spend a moment in an oasis
Although technically not an oasis, Parc de la Ligue Arabe is a centrally located park that offers a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Casablanca. The park was built in 1918 and is the largest green space in the city. The palm tree lined avenue offers plenty of shade and the park itself is full of African plants. Visitors can find small cafes where they can have a coffee or mint tea and hang out and do a little people-watch. For a sneak peek at the city’s colonial past, visit the Cathédral de Sacré Coeur, a former French Roman Catholic church just outside the park. The church is now a cultural center but retains its original Art Deco style.
Have a drink at Rick’s Café
Although the film was shot in the United States rather than Casablanca, that hasn’t stopped the city from capitalizing on the fame of the 1942 classic. Any movie lover or even someone just looking for a drink in a cool vintage atmosphere will have a good time at Rick’s Café. Based on the bar of the same name in the film, you can feel like Humphrey Bogart, enjoy a cocktail and enjoy the live lounge music on the piano. The bar was opened in 2004 by a former American diplomat and is decorated to feel as authentically as possible to the 1940s. Palm trees, brass chandeliers and table lamps add to the aesthetics, while the baby grand piano hidden in the archway sets the mood.
Try authentic Moroccan food
Casablanca is an international city. No matter what you want to eat, you will find it here. Fine French cuisine ranks next to take-away sushi, but when you travel you want the authentic and nothing is more authentic than the food at La Sqala. Just outside the old medina, La Sqala is tucked away between the walls of an 18th-century fortified bastion. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and dine in a quiet courtyard surrounded by trees and an Andalusian-inspired garden. Live entertainment is a staple here, but of course you don’t just come here for the atmosphere, but also for the food! La Sqala offers authentic Moroccan dishes like spicy tagines and fluffy couscous dishes that will make your mouth water the moment you sit down.
Grab a bird’s eye view of drink
The Sky 28 is located in the Kenzi Tower Hotel and is probably the tallest bar in North Africa. The building is reputed to be the tallest in the area and once you get to the top you will be inclined to believe it. With elegant designs such as plush armchairs made of red velvet, large windows with 360-degree panoramic views and the most unusual cocktails, guests can get a little taste of luxury, if only for a short time. In the afternoon the view offers views of the coast with the Hasan II Mosque and at night the illuminated city offers a romantic backdrop for every date. Live music and light meals are available, and hotel rooms start at $ 150 a night in case you don’t want to leave early.
Learn about the history of the Jewish people of Morocco
The problem of the Jewish people in the Arab world has existed for centuries and understanding the complexities of the problem requires a great deal 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 known simply as Anfa. They returned slowly after the city was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1468, but the population increased again in 1750 and the first synagogue was built in Casablanca. Although much of the city’s Jewish population left the country in the 1950s, about 2,000 to 4,500 Jewish residents still live in Casablanca.
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 such as menoras and mezuzas. The museum not only shows the influence of Judaism on Moroccan culture, but also wants to highlight the history and interreligious coexistence.
Stroll through the old medina
The city of Casablanca is a place where you’ll find an old Art Deco theater on the corner, followed by a Moorish-inspired house that sits next to a modern glass and steel skyscraper. These variations of styles and designs set the city apart and, like most ancient cities in the Arab world, there is a medina. While other medinas in the country are undoubtedly older, the old Casablanca medina will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The original city walls were destroyed but rebuilt in 1755 after the great earthquake that destroyed much of the city. Eventually the walled city was destroyed again by the French in 1907 before being rebuilt. This is important to know as the area where the old medina is currently located feels like an incongruous patchwork of buildings and winding streets that give the area a certain charm. It might be a little difficult to find your way around, but the fun part is walking in blindly and seeing what goes on. Stroll through the shops and stalls, buy olives or spices, or sit in a coffee shop and enjoy a hookah and mint tea. Make sure you brush up on your French and Arabic.
Treat yourself to a snack in the Pâtisserie Bennis Habous
If you are looking for a simpler place to hang out instead of the old medina, Quartier Habous is the place to be. Built in the 1950s for the influx of immigrants, the neighborhood is filled with intricately sculpted street arches, whitewashed buildings, and Moorish designs. All of this added to the town’s charm and beauty, but one place in the area that has stood the test of time is the Bennis Habous patisserie. Built and opened in the 1930s, the bakery is one of the most famous in the whole city. Inspired by French pastries with Maghrebian flavors, the Pâtisserie Bennis Habous serves handmade delicacies such as Cornes of gazelles It’s a crescent-shaped biscuit, filled with almond paste and a light coating of orange water. If you bring up more European dishes, the almond macarons are always a hit. Go to the nearby Café Imperial and wash it down with a Moroccan coffee.
Casablanca is a city of contrasts. It’s the old world of medinas and souks alongside modern shops, designer goods, and street cafes. It’s a city where you can eat a French pastry in the morning, lounge in the afternoon sun with a hookah, and enjoy a masterfully made cocktail in a high-end bar in the evening. It is a clash of cultures that somehow all come together right there on the Atlantic coast of Africa. I am already planning to go and Kati to return to Casablanca. This is where you look at yourself boy.