Casablanca – Places to visit

by Kshaunish Jaini

Casablanca

Casablanca, the name you certainly connect to one of the best romantic movies directed in 1942. Though, the city shown in the movie was actually filmed on a soundstage in Hollywood, the reality is that the city exists, is really beautiful and a must visit for anyone going on a Morocco tour . Tourists often prefer Marrakech and Fez over the city, but the fact is that it is the right venue for travelers who want the local experience. The city can provide you a plethora of experiences from vintage architecture of the old medina to the cosmopolitan feel of Morocco Mall and SKY28 bar. For the tourists in search for culture, you can spend time in the narrow alleys of Old Medina or visit the Place Mohammed V to experience the city’s architectural heritage. For those who wish to unwind on the beach cafes with western cuisines, surfing or sunbathing, La Corniche is the perfect place for you. Casablanca has everything from modern day malls to world’s second largest mosque overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city and the country’s main port as well. It has a lot of places to see and preserve in your memories.

The Hassan II Mosque seen at night.

The Hassan II Mosque seen at night.

Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque is located on the platform overlooking Atlantic Ocean. Completed in 1993, it is the second largest mosque in world. This is one of the few mosques open to non-Muslims through guided tours only. Best part about the mosque, you can pray right on top of a glass floor, giving you a feeling of worshipping directly over the ocean. This huge mosque can accommodate over 1 lakh worshippers at once. The mosque also has a 200 meter high minaret which is also the tallest minaret in the world. The architecture inside is inspired by both Islamic and Moroccan touch. This is an attraction worth spending time in Morocco. Visitors must be ‘decently and respectfully dressed’ (knees and upper arms need to be covered); women do not require a headscarf. Hour-long tours are conducted in French, English, German and Spanish. The timings are of the tour are as follows: 9am, 10am, 11am, 12am, 3pm and 4pm on Saturday-Friday excluding Friday noon.

La Corniche

If you are looking for a destination to relax on a hot day near the beach then La Corniche is a perfect escapade for you. The beach front district offers an array of dining experience as well as pool and beach access. You will find the entire beach full of surfers, swimmers and sun bathers. You can also go for pleasant walks or even a run in the morning to experience the fresh weather. There are lot of cafes to unwind on the beach as well.  

The Museum of Judaism in Casablanca

The Museum of Judaism in Casablanca offers one of the best cultural experiences in Morocco.

Museum of Judaism

This is the only museum in Casablanca and Jewish museum in the Arab world. This museum offers an understanding of history, religion, culture and traditions of Jews in Moroccan civilization. This is exhibited through rooms containing ornaments, clothing and paintings of that time. The museum is a symbol of peaceful interfaith co-existence in Moroccan civilization of Amazigh, Jews and Arabs. The Jewish history is very rich and had a significant impact on the Moroccan society, therefore a museum is dedicated to the same. The museum is open 10am-5pm from Monday-Friday. On Sunday it is open from 11am to 3pm.

Place Mohammed V

Place Mohammed V, planned by French architect Henri Prost, is the central administrative hub of Casablanca. It is the place of city’s important official building like main post office, Palace of Justice, French Consulate and the main bank of Morocco. The place hosts the statue of Marshal Lyautey, the French Resident-General in Morocco. It also has a grand fountain dating back to 1976, where you can enjoy music accompanied by water show during fixed times in a day. Back in history, Morocco was a French colony and has certainly preserved its architectural heritage from colonial times.  You should visit this place to experience the heritage of the city.

Cathedral du Sacre Coeur

Built in 1930 as a Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral du Sacre Coeur is an extraordinary architectural blend of art deco, Mauresque and neo-Gothic styles. The church designed by French architect in 1930s is now being used as an art center to host exhibitions and art fairs. It was deconsecrated in 1956 and unfortunately it has been left to wither in the past few decades.

The building in its current state is still beautiful and you should grab every opportunity to go inside and climb the twin towers. These towers resemble minarets and you can get a great view of Casablanca to the Atlantic from top. The tower stairs are made of concrete and brick and are covered in feathers and deposits of nesting pigeons. Beware there are no rails or safety features to be found in the Cathedral.

A shop selling lamps in the Old Medina

A shop selling lamps in the Old Medina. Photo by Fernando

The Old Medina

Like any old city, the Old Medina is a rustic and a vintage part of city where you can experience the pre-20th century ways of living. It seems that this part of the city is frozen in time and is brimming with history. You can see the remnants of the old city walls and forts, narrow alleyways, cafes on the side of road with people sipping coffee or tea and the bazaars full of people buying handmade and unique products like leather goods, oils, linens and spices. It really takes you back in time. But beware, it is very easy to get lost in the streets. So move around with caution.

The bazaar or the marketplace is usually extremely crowded on the weekends. You can also buy lot of antiques which has passed on from one generation to another as souvenir. Usually the vendors are reasonably priced or are open to negotiate.

You can also experience the old Medina via a guided city tours. This is the perfect area to get lost after your lunch break at Rick’s Cafe, but try not to visit Old Medina at night.

Morocco Mall

Morocco Mall, located at the end of La Corniche region is the largest shopping centre in Africa. It stretches over 10 hectares with 250,000 m2 of floor space, 30,000 m2 of outdoor space and 14,000 square meters of landscape gardens. It has 70,000  square meters of commercial space with over 600 unique brands such as Lafayette, FNAC and IMAX cinema to name a few. You won’t be surprised to know that mall also holds Guinness World Record for largest in-store shop façade in the world which was awarded in November, 2011.

Due to its location overlooking Atlantic Ocean, you get a spectacular view from the restaurants and the gardens in the mall. The mall houses wide variety of shopping options from fashion, culture, technology, health, equipment etc. It has attractions like 3rd biggest musical fountain in the world and a massive 1,000,000 litre “Aquadream” with over 40 different species of fish.

There are nearly 100 different food outlets in the Morocco Mall serving different cuisines in the world like Crepe de France, Burger King, Amiamo Gelato, Dar al Fakia etc. It also has lot of entertainment options like Bowling Alleys, IMAX theatre to ice rink.

The shopping store, food and entertainment options are open from 10 AM to 9 PM on weekdays while 10 AM to 10 PM on weekends.

SKY28 in Morocco

SKY28 has some of the best panoramic views of the city.

SKY28, Twin Center

SKY28, Restaurant and bar located on the 28th (highest) floor of the tallest building in Morocco, offers the guest and panoramic experience of the city Casablanca. The tallest building in Morocco are the twin towers- one of the tower has offices while the other has a 5 star hotel names as Kenzi Tower Hotel, where SKY28 is located.

Since consuming alcohol isn’t very prevalent in Morocco, this is an ideal place to sip expensive yet worthy cocktails with the DJs playing the music of your choice. The best time to visit this place is after sun down when you witness the beauty of the entire illuminated traditional Moroccan city from a distance. Well-made expensive cocktails, live music sets and DJs with a fondness for rhythm and blues are the hallmarks of this ritzy restaurant, bar and club on top of the Kenzi Tower Hotel. The restaurant and bar is open 24 hours for the visitors.

Rick’s Café, Old Town

Established by an ex-American diplomat Kathy Kriger in 2004, Rick’s Café is a tribute to Hollywood’s one of the favorite love story in 40’s named after the city Casablanca. Don’t be surprised to know that when the movie was made on the city, the café never existed. It was a hypothetical café made real by Kathy, the founder of the café. If you are a fan of the movie then you can definitely go and spend some time in the café to experience the 40’s and also get to see the movie once again as it is played on repeat on the screens of the restaurant.

Café established back in 2004, is a traditional Moroccan mansion with an interior mainly displaying photographs, and memorabilia from the film. It is open from noon to 3pm and 6:30 pm to 1am. The café server French, Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine.

Overall, the best time to visit the city is between November to May, if you want to avoid the summers. August month is the pinnacle of summer season in Casablanca with average high and average low temperature being 26°C and 20°C respectively. Hope this will help you plan your trip to Casablanca. Happy travelling!

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