Casablanca; Morocco not the movie!

Not only was it the cheapest flight we could find from Sao Paolo but also the most convenient, as we had a 24 hours transit at Casablanca waiting another airplane. Diner, 4 stars hotel and breakfast offered by the flight company. So what for most people is a ‘no-go’ is for a low-cost backpacker a ‘can’t-refuse’.  Another stamp on the passport an here we go for our “Blitz-visit”.

With a population of almost 5 million, Casablanca is the largest, most liberal and progressive of Morocco’s cities. Its past interactions with different cultures, -founded by Berber fishermen around the tenth century, used by the Phoenicians, Romans, Merenids, to be destroyed and rebuilt again by the Portuguese who abandoned it after an earthquake. Then rebuild again at the hand of a Moroccan sultan but plagued by Spanish traders who established trading bases there and to finally get occupied by the French in 1907-, taught this city to cope with change and evolution.  Nothing in this city is truly endearing and that’s exactly the reason why you should visit it.  You’ll get the right idea that nobody expects travelers as other cities already serve very well that purpose.  Casablanca has a “medina” or walled old city of winding alleys, except here it’s smaller than most and quite run-down, with most shops devoted to day-to-day items that are of little interest to the tourist so do not expect immense labyrinthic medinas like Rabat, Fez or Marrakech have.  It does not offer a walk through the High Atlas and neither overnight camel ride through wavy, deep reddish-orange dunes. It’s not as characteristic as the blue city of Chefchaouen. It’s the unpretentiousness together with modernity, Moresque and Art Deco architecture that are the true delight.

Wandering through the city a traveler gets to see the real Morocco and not the well prepared tourist theaters as in other towns.  We haggle for some leather souvenirs without the typical scenes. At the Medina we try olives, dried fruits and spices without having to buy any.  The unforgiving nature of time forces us to go back to the hotel, the airport and eventually home.  Casablanca, it was nice to meet and greet and do not worry sooner or later we’ll be back!

Recommendations:

  • The Old Medina is nice cozy
  • The Hassan II mosque, one of the biggest mosques in the world and just at the waterside. Unlike most mosques in Morocco, non-Muslims are allowed inside, but only on guided tours for 10€ a person.
  • Mohammed V Boulevard, lined with buildings from the 1920s and 1940s, (2km from the Old Medina)
  • Square of Mohamed V
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