Casablanca, the cornerstone of Moroccan economy, deep in the water and high in the sky, a melting-pot and an architectural patchwork has so much to offer. Both bewitching and hectic, Casablanca has always something new to offer. This is the perfect city for a getaway. Follow our lead.
Casablanca, whose ancient name Anfa was supposedly given by the Arabs or Berbers, goes through history, metamorphosing. A commercial port, a Muslim city influenced by Portugal and later on France, Casablanca is a true melting-pot. The hesitation between traditions and avant-garde is as striking as the ultra-modern design of the international airport in which you just set foot. On your way to the city center, while drivers horn in cacophony...something you end up finding amusing, you cannot help but notice how djellabas, jeans and suits harmoniously coexist under the palm trees or how minarets adjoin walls painted by street artists. Dar-el-Beida welcomes you in her very special and contrasting way.
To start you journey, let's go to the city center, by the sea: here you can meet up with history. Take a stroll in Casablanca's busy main roads surrounded by noble yet deliciously old-fashioned art deco buildings. Here, Casablanca turns into Havana: classical buildings, cafes that look like French brasseries, movie theaters stuck in the 50's, you are back in the early years of the 20th century. Between Mohamed V avenue and Verdun square, wander aimlessly in the streets of Mers Sultan, discover the small pedestrian streets and the popular squares where Casablancans meet. Further down, have a quick look at the confidential yet very trendy concept-store on Boulevard Félix Houphouët-Boigny before immersing yourself in the traditional bazars around the train station. Looking for something cultural? The Abderrahman Slaoui museum, set on Parc street, is worth seeing. Then walk back to the old city, set along the shore for a mile, to Marechal Square. Here, in Bab Marrakech market, a maze of shopping streets, you can find traditional slippers or vintage 501 jeans. Or you can shop in “Souk Senegal”, a part of the old town where sub-Saharan shop-keepers sell typical products such as wax or plantain bananas. Feeling thirsty? Have a mint-flavored tea... with a view, behind the fortified walls, by the sea, overlooking Hassan II mosque just a few hundred yards away. While you are at it, do not forget to visit that magnificent monument.
More confidential but as typical, the Habous neighborhood, built in 1920 by the city planner Henri Prost, abuts the Royal Palace. In front of you, an alley whose archway houses a series of bookshops. Further down, there is the Makhama (the court of justice), ornate with green tiles, a true beauty. In front of it, scattered with flowers, it is Mohamed V mosque. From the mosque, you can walk in the kissaria (a kind of shopping centers): each one is dedicated to a craft, from fabrics to leather, from copper to pottery... A few yards away, at the joutia (a souk), you can hear shop-keepers praising their carpets out loud. Later on, you get to Moulay Youssef mosque where shops selling traditional clothes are well-established. Keep walking and follow the different smells: spices or grilled meat that you enjoy on El Baladya square, let your nose decide! The icing on the cake? If you have a sweet tooth, head to the local bakeries and indulge yourself like so many generations of Casablancans: macaroons, ghriba or gazelle horns, the choice is yours.
On gastronomy, Casablanca has nothing to be ashamed of. From classical French restaurants to trendy brasseries where young businessmen and women have their lunch, from Japanese to Portuguese restaurants, from Spanish to Asian or Italian restaurants, Casablanca has them all. You can feast upon a traditional couscous on Friday or you can decide to have lunch on a fashionable roof-top restaurant overlooking the sea or enjoy the catch of the day at the harbor. Casablanca makes no bones about food: tapas bars, tree-shadowed patios near Moussa Bnou Noussair street, burger mania or vegan canteens, gourmet restaurants or highly modern lofts, a tasty diner with an old-fashioned vibe in an art-deco villa or a healthy lunch... Casablanca hands you the world on a plate! At night, insider tip: start your evening downtown, electro, Spanish vibes or trendy bars, your pick. Later on, head to one of the many night bars along the coast and meet up with the locals... not to mention that in Casablanca, there is a special place for Jazz music. In the springtime, Jazzablanca is an event connoisseurs do not want to miss while in summer time Casa Festival will see you dance at free concerts.
Shopaholic? Shall we let the cat out of the bag? Besides the traditional handicraft, the town is the setting of a shopping festival shedding light on Moroccan designers. On the shopping side, you have so many options: concept-stores with a selection of domestic and international designers, mainstream brands, nice purchases around the Maârif neighborhood for those of you who like a good find, luxury flagship shops or shopping malls... Looking for the finest one? The Morocco Mall, by the seashore, is your spot. The biggest shopping center in Africa, 350 shops set on 20 acres. Want something? Name it, you will find it there. From modern fashion to traditional one, accessories, home decoration, high tech shops, cultural ones and beauty corners, you will just have to pick... not to mention that you will be able to shop the most famous luxury brands from Gucci to Louis Vuitton. Still on the seaside, set between palm trees and the blue horizon, Anfa Place Shopping Centre is your other option. Just go shopping listening to the sound of waves crashing nearby, coffee in hand before heading for a bite in front of the sea, and if you are lucky enough, you will be able to watch surfers. Indeed, on that beach, every September for the past couple years, talented surfers compete to win the Quicksilver Pro. You are more of a trend-setter? Let's meet at the “ Triangle d'Or” where you will find treasures. Looking for vintage pieces? Head to the popular Souk Ould Mina in Hay Hassani, close to the Oasis train station, where you can buy anything in what looks like a gigantic second-hand shop.
Surf and bodyboard lovers need to go to the seashore, the “ Corniche' which is quite Californian. You will find surf schools where you can rent boards or take lessons. Just across the road, have a walk in the huge and lush Parc Sindibad. There you will find lions and giraffes, birds and wild animals evolving in a carefully thought environment. Beach please? Drive to Dar Bouazza, about 15 minutes away, and you will enjoy drinks and marine food while listening to good music in one of the many private beaches along the coast. Looking for a horse ride? You can take lessons or enjoy a ride in the countryside: you will get a complete change of scenery. In Anfa or in Bouskoura- 15 minutes away- let's go green on golf courses. Want to race? Head to Benslimane, rev up your engine and go karting. Let the good times roll.
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