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Casablanca

The smell of exotic spices, the shock of vibrant colours (Instagram ready!) and the feel of warm breezes on my skin are only a few of the reasons why Casablanca is a destination that recharges my soul!

traveling casablanca

Pirates put the Arrr in Morocco!

Full of hidden gems, Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco and was once a safe harbour for pirates. It is also the setting for one of my favourite travel books, “The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty” by Vendela Vida. Today, it is a wonderful place to discover Moorish culture, history and art all within a welcoming atmosphere. The warm summer climate entices me to the Atlantic beaches for a cool dip while the buzzing Medinas offer the fun of discovering local produce and handmade treasures. The currency used is the Moroccan Dirham – twelve of which equals one British Pound.

Mohamed V International Airport (CMN) is the main hub for commercial flights to and from Casablanca. The two options to travel from the airport to the city centre are taxi (40-min drive) and train (45-min ride), which will arrive at the Casa Port Station in the city centre. While there are trams to make your way around the city, taxis are the easiest option unless you know the city well. Red taxis are private and metered while white grand taxis are for larger groups and have set fares within the city.

Here’s a Pro-Tip: While haggling prices is generally done in Morocco, the taxis use a flat rate, so no need to negotiate!

Besides shopping through the souks, admiring the Art Deco architecture and sipping a refreshing cup of Moroccan mint tea, here is how I love to spend my time in Casablanca:

Hassan II Mosque – Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this enormous mosque is an architectural gem built to the glory of Allah. From ceiling to floor, it is a brilliant example of the finest Moroccan craftmanship. You can join a guided tour, explore the museum or admire the large courtyard. Please dress and act respectfully.

Villa des Arts – Run by ONA, a non-profit foundation set up by the royal family, this gallery is located in a lovely art deco villa dating from 1934. It hosts many cultural events and features a combination of permanent and temporary exhibits of contemporary arts which focus on Moroccan culture and heritage.

art deco

Just the view brings a sense of calm

Casablanca---Carpets

Magic carpet parking lot!

The Old Medina – Although fairly young in comparison to most Moroccan medinas (due to its reconstruction after an earthquake in 1755 followed by further destruction by the French in 1907), this charming area is full of shops and cafes that are certainly worth roaming. It is a popular route to take when walking from Downtown Casablanca to the Hassan II Mosque.

Quartier Habous (New Medina) – A bit more composed than the Old Medina, Quartier Habous was built as a solution to a housing crisis in the mid 1900’s. Today it is the perfect place to enjoy a tea or shop for souvenirs and local Moroccan goods like olives, argon oil and traditional clothing.

Moroccan cuisine is widely influenced by the trades made with other cultures throughout history. Spices are fundamental in Moroccan cooking as seen with the famous Moroccan spice mixture, Ras el Hanout, which contains twenty-seven different spices! While pork is rarely consumed for religious reasons, lamb, chicken and beef are often served with couscous, vegetables and homemade Ksra bread. Some fantastic customary dishes to try in Casablanca are Pastilla, Tajine (the dish name as well as the name of the cooking pot) and Harira soup. Here are some wonderful restaurants to try:

  • La Sqala – Just north of the centre, this restaurant is set in a beautiful garden atmosphere and serves delicious food prepared with traditional recipes. Enjoy live music weekly!
  • Rick’s Café – Made famous from the film Casablanca (1942), this atmospheric restaurant and piano bar serves up an international menu with local seafood and a side of nostalgia.
food casablanca

And this is only the appetizer!

  • Le Riad – Loved by tourists and locals alike, this traditional Moroccan restaurant serves delightful dishes in a warm and bustling atmosphere.

Here’s a Pro-Tip: Stop by Pâtisserie Bennis Habous for their famous pastries! Luckily, if you don’t have time, they supply most hotels and restaurants in the area.

Even though alcohol is not consumed by devout Muslims, Casablanca’s bar scene is thriving and continuously evolving. There are plenty of fabulous places to find fine wine, cold beer and flavourful cocktails all the while enjoying relaxed company. Here are the places that I love to quench my thirst in Casablanca:

  • The Secret Wine Gallery – Hidden, but not exactly a secret, this French mannered cellar bar offers an extensive selection of quality wines. This is a perfectly cosy place to enjoy an evening. Their cocktail list is also notable!
  • Le Bistrot Titan – The friendly laid back atmosphere of this classic style pub makes it the perfect place sit back and relax while sipping a cold beer on a hot day.
  • Sky 28 – The tallest sky-bar in Casablanca is, you guessed it, 28 floors up! The views of the city are spectacular and the cocktails are as refreshing as the view.
Casablanca-Tea

Fresh, mint-tea goodness

In Morocco there are many beautiful hotels and riads (traditional Moroccan houses or mansions that have been transformed into guest houses). Here are my recommendations:

  • Jnane Sherazade – Located in the buzzing Habbous nearby many bazars, this traditional Moroccan style riad is surrounded by green gardens, an ideal retreat.
  • Le Casablanca Hotel – Lovely upscale hotel with spa services on a lovely green property. Quiet location yet nearby many restaurants and activities.
  • Riad Ksar – In El Jadida near the beach, this authentic Riad is the perfect accommodation for a short stay in the area.

Casablanca is one of the only places I know that can be exciting, bustling and relaxing all at the same time. My senses are heightened in this wonderful city and it makes me feel alive!

 

Love,

 

Isabella

 

Isabella’s Checklist

What to see: Hassan II Mosque, The New and Old Medinas (https://www.visitmorocco.com/en/travel/casablanca)

Where to eat: La Sqala, Rick’s Café, Le Riad (http://restopro.ma/sqala/, http://www.rickscafe.ma/)

Where to party: The Secret Wine Gallery, Le Bistrot Titan, Sky 28 (https://www.kenzi-hotels.com/kenzi-tower/restauration/sky28/)

Where to stay: Jnane Sherazade, Le Casablanca Hotel, Riad Ksar (http://jnane-sherazade.casablanca-hotels-ma.com/en/, https://www.lecasablanca-hotel.com/en/index.html)

What to buy: Shop about the Medinas

“Here’s looking at you,kid” in Casablanca!
Isabella’s Checklist

What to see: Hassan II Mosque, The New and Old Medinas (https://www.visitmorocco.com/en/travel/casablanca)

Where to eat: La Sqala, Rick’s Café, Le Riad (http://restopro.ma/sqala/, http://www.rickscafe.ma/)

Where to party: The Secret Wine Gallery, Le Bistrot Titan, Sky 28 (https://www.kenzi-hotels.com/kenzi-tower/restauration/sky28/)

Where to stay: Jnane Sherazade, Le Casablanca Hotel, Riad Ksar (http://jnane-sherazade.casablanca-hotels-ma.com/en/, https://www.lecasablanca-hotel.com/en/index.html)

What to buy: Shop about the Medinas

“Here’s looking at you,kid” in Casablanca!

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