Cosmopolitan Casablanca

By Stephen Addison
This item appears on page 30 of the March 2019 issue.

Ablution area in the lower level of the Hassan II Mosque — Casablanca. Photos by Stephen Addison

Casablanca is probably the first city that comes to mind when thinking of Morocco. There's the movie, of course, and the city's name conjures up the exoticism of North Africa.

Visitors to Morocco's other imperial cities (e.g., Marrakesh and Fez) will experience exoticism aplenty, but in Casablanca, not so much. As ITN subscriber Fran Koort noted in the May 2018 issue (pg. 35), "Casablanca could almost be a European city."

Based upon the May 2018 visit that my wife, Paula Owens, and I made, "cosmopolitan" is now my first thought of Casablanca. In many ways, it's a surprisingly modern, international city. There is still the medina and plenty of historic architecture, to be sure, but the look and feel of downtown Casablanca is more European than African.

French is widely spoken, and English speakers are not uncommon. There are lots of restaurants featuring a wide variety of cuisines. And, yes, there really is a Rick's Café (www.rickscafe.ma), but it dates only from 2004.

Casablanca is more a business and commercial center than a tourist destination. The energy level is high. Traffic is heavy, almost chaotic, even on weekends. Modern trams traverse parts of the city. Sidewalks are crowded with men and women dressed in a wide variety of clothing, from the conservative attire of strict Muslims to modern fashion.

Casablanca's airport appears to have more useful connections than any other airport in Morocco.

While planning our Moroccan trip, I was dismayed when the tour operator I had selected (Dec. '18, pg. 36) recommended only a single day in Casablanca for our 10-day visit. Additional research on my part, though, confirmed the wisdom of that plan. While there are interesting sights in Casablanca, most notably the magnificent Hassan II Mosque, there are more appealing and unique sights outside of Casablanca.

By all means, visit Casablanca and enjoy its ambiance, but if your time is limited, focus on other parts of Morocco.

STEPHEN ADDISON
Charlotte, NC


The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.

Casablanca's medina in the foreground, with the Hassan II Mosque and modern buildings in the background.