CasablancaCopyright: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com
CasablancaCasablanca is a hefty mix of architectural treasures that glisten with gold in the sunshine and near-decrepit old buildings. A sprawling city that brims with a cosmopolitan flair, Casablanca is Morocco's largest city and most hectic port. Sitting on the country's Atlantic coast, it blends a frenetic lifestyle with stylish restaurants and vibrant shopping opportunities, opening up in a destination that slowly starts living up to its Western counterparts.
The CityBoasting a romantic flair given by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman's 1942 namesake film, Casablanca is the capital of Morocco in all but name. Rabat has the honour, but Casablanca is widely regarded as the most important city due to its key economic, commercial, industrial and shipping activities. Such activities have conveyed the city's cutting-edge 21st century feel, an attitude that is seen around Boulevard Brahim Roudaini where modern business centres have helped to create areas of fine-dining restaurants and cultural venues in stark contrast to the tiny streets of the Old Town and the bustling souks littered by dusty colonial-style buildings. Also known as Casa and Dar el Baida (Arabic), Casablanca has a lively history. This was most notable during the 15th century Portuguese occupation thanks to the country’s desire to curb piracy by using the port to launch attacks. The city was consequentially destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, an event that lessened the Portuguese interest in Casablanca, leading to the city's renaissance under the Moroccan leader Sidi Mohammed III.
Do & See
Today's Casablanca is a wonderful, cosmopolitan city that can be entirely enjoyed by venturing out on foot, discovering the stunning Hassan II Mosque with its impressive glass floor, the Old Medina in its many traditional Moroccan facets or the Art Deco new town (Ville Nouvelle). Sample traditional Moroccan cuisine, get lost through Casablanca's maze of streets or set out on a carpet hunt in one of the city's colourful markets - Casablanca is happy clash of old and new that gives away an insight into Moroccan culture and traditions.
Casablanca is a multi-cultural city, and while many of the restaurants serve a menu consisting of only Moroccan or French delicacies, it also features Oriental, Mexican, Italian, Indian and American-style eateries. You should look out for Mechoui, a dish made of paprika and cumin-seasoned roasted lamb, or Bisteeya, a chicken and eggs pastry wrapped up in a lemony and onion sauce, topped with crushed almonds, cinnamon and sugar. Note that there may be restrictions to menus and opening hours during Ramadan.
Casablanca is renowned for its ice cream parlours and traditional patisseries, enriching the country's passion for sweet tooth's treats with tongue-tickling delicacies. Moroccan traditions encompass an afternoon coffee and snacks break that predominantly includes nuts or dried fruit-pastries and sweet bread, as well as mouth-watering honey or cinnamon desserts.
Bars & Nightlife
The versatile Casablanca does certainly not lack of a buzzing bar-scene, though it is considered fairly dangerous for single women to go bar hopping and most nightclubs would not allow them unless accompanied. That said, there are a few bars that welcome holidaying couples. Especially hotel bars are considered the most suitable option for the holidaymakers in need of a relaxing, and danger-free, evening.
Morocco is a paradise for anyone who is smitten by traditional home decor or souvenirs. Top choice is usually colourful geometric patterned carpets called kilims or shoedwi, predominately black and white. They are usually handmade and sold in the intimate shops that line alleyways around Boulevard Felix Houphouet Boigny or in the medinas. Ceramics and pottery, such as tagines, along with woven textiles gifts share popularity with carpets and can be found in most bazaars with dried fruit and spices. Note that when shopping, haggling is part of the tradition and the golden rule here is to take your time.