Morocco’s rich Jewish heritage is a unique piece of history that is unknown to most travelers – and that in itself is reason enough to explore it on your next holiday to this exotic country. Although Jews historically lived in mellahs (or Jewish Quarters) in a number of Moroccan cities, including Fez and Marrakech, a majority of the Jewish population in Morocco today resides in Casablanca today. It is here that you will be able to find a thriving Jewish community along with a host of relevant monuments, communal spaces, kosher restaurants, cemeteries, shrines, and museums. One of the most impressive sights is the Museum of Moroccan Judaism (Musée du Judaisme Marocain) and often simply called the Moroccan Jewish Museum, this museum in Casablanca a one-of-a-kind history and ethnography institute dedicated to past, present, and even future life of Jewish life in Morocco. (more…)
If you’re looking for a paradise for senses, omnipresent scents, loud voices, honking cars, rainbow-colored, aromatic spices and intensive oil perfumes like from the 1000 and One Nights, Morocco is definitely a destination for you. If you’re a foodie seeking culinary ecstasy, love spicy meat, fluffy bread, and sweet sticky pastries Morocco will undoubtedly meet your expectations.
Having lived in Casablanca for over half a year, I’ve got a collection of spots which offer mouth-watering, pocket-friendly cuisine. Here are my “must-visit” places and insight on what to eat in Casablanca.
Does your ideal vacation prioritize art galleries and architecture over adventure? Would you rather sip cocktails than scale sand dunes? Does your travel itinerary look better with art deco-style buildings, museums and discos? Then Morocco is calling you.
Travelers have long ignored Casablanca in favor of more exotic locales, but what the city lacks in Islamic monuments and labyrinthine souks, it makes up for in its dizzying nightlife, a burgeoning art scene and a hodgepodge of architectural styles. Casablanca’s inhabitants, known as Casablancais, are known for being more Western in their attitudes. You can find men and women together in restaurants and bars dressed up in the latest global trends.
In the 1930s, art deco style was all the rage in Paris and New York, famously represented by the Paris Métro and New York’s Chrysler Building. The style caught on in Casablanca, and you can see some of the many art deco buildings in the Place Mohammed V and Place 16 Novembre. Galleries abound, featuring both Moroccan and international artists, including Le Studio des Arts Vivants, Galerie Atelier 21 and Loft Gallery, along with Amber Gallery, located in the high-end suburb of Mohammedia. The non-profit group Casamémoire runs a variety of projects including an exhibition space housed in an abandoned slaughterhouse on the edge of town. (more…)
Morocco is known, of course, for its captivating marketplaces, full of twists and turns and treasures. As the country develops, it only makes sense for it to embrace the marketplace of the 21st century—the mega mall. Casablanca’s luxurious mall is a consumers’ paradise for well-to-do travelers and Moroccans looking for global brands.
Inaugurated in 2011 with a Jennifer Lopez performance and the presence of the royal family, the Morocco Mall can be found just outside of Casablanca. Glitz was not spared in its construction. Outside, a musical fountain reminiscent of Las Vegas welcomes visitors with water jets. Though palm trees reach into soaring atriums, and a two-story aquarium ties in with the mall’s coastal location, the mall’s interior would not be out of place in worldwide locations from Vegas to Singapore. With three floors and more than 600 stores, the Morocco Mall aims to be a one-stop shopping destination for North Africa’s elite.
International luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Prada line its storefronts with aspirational finds, alongside more modest but coveted Western franchises like Lacoste, Banana Republic and American Eagle. In addition to clothing, jewelry, electronics and specialty retailers, shops include the Marjane supermarket, the Galeries Lafayette department store and the FNAC store, which sell the latest in technology and entertainment. The Morocco Mall has also tried to mirror the country’s rich market culture with “souk-style” stores selling the work of artisans and artists. (more…)
With a population of around three million, Casablanca in Morocco attracts visitors because of its fame (thanks to its namesake movie), attractions and international airport. Although the city offers a wealth of culture, history and entertainment, some travelers like to escape the bustle with a detour off the beaten path.
Travel an hour or so south down the Atlantic coast from Casablanca and you’ll reach the quiet city of Azemmour—a short day trip or overnight jaunt from the big city, or a convenient stop when traveling northward from the popular coastal town of Essaouira. Like much of the coast, temperatures here are relatively mild, with highs lingering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). (more…)
Say the name “Casablanca,” and, for most people, it will conjure to mind all the romance and swagger of the 1942 classic movie. Hollywood may know glamor, but the allure of Morocco’s largest city is not fixed in its history. Instead, it is the epicenter of Morocco’s 21st century economy. The Casablanca (see our Casablanca city guide on our Morocco blog and travel guide) of today isn’t the sleepy expat town of film fame (which was actually shot entirely on a studio lot in Los Angeles), and travelers should expect the bustle one would associate with North Africa’s largest port and an industrialized city of 3 million people.
It is home to two international airports, so many travelers will find that Casablanca is their first taste of Morocco. Explore the can’t-miss sites of the city, such as the impressive Hassan II mosque and the art deco architecture of New Town, and then consider visiting some other nearby attractions that make for an easy day trip from Casablanca. The Roman ruins of Volubilis, the medieval Portugese fort at El Jadida and the capital city of Rabat are all within an easy train ride, and the cities of Marrakesh, Fez and Tangiers are accessible within a day’s travel from Casablanca. Even if your time in Morocco is limited to only a few days, Casablanca makes an excellent modern hub for day trippers looking to whet their appetite for traditional Moroccan culture. (more…)
When people decide to take a journey to Morocco, they tend to seek out the predefined exotic destinations in the country, and while Casablanca (see our insider’s guide to Casablanca) lacks that label, there are several interesting things to do in Casablanca before traipsing off into the desert for a camel ride. Situated on Morocco’s northwestern coast, the city is known as dar el beida in Arabic. The name Casablanca means “white house.”
Casablanca was founded in the 7th century as an independent Berber kingdom. Later it was seized by the Arabs and subsequently by Almoravids and the Merenids, then finally by the Portuguese and the Spanish. These last two cultures gave the city its name. In the middle of the 18th century, the town was destroyed by an earthquake. It was later rebuilt by Moulay Ismael, the grandson of the second ruler of the Moroccan Alaouite dynasty. In 1907, the French took control of Casablanca; they remained in control until 1956 when Morocco gained independence. (more…)
The city of Casablanca was immortalized in the movie of the same name staring Humphrey Bogart. It was actually established in 1906 and had a population of approximately 20,000 people. Today, the city boasts a population of over 4 million and, as the heart and soul of Morocco, it resembles a Southern European city more than the rest of the cities in the country itself. The city is probably the most liberal and progressive of all of Morocco’s cities and it’s not uncommon to see young women clad in designer labels and men sporting suit, ties and briefcases. (more…)
On the Sale side of the estuary, it seems that time has been forgotten. It still carries some practices from earlier eras. Sale is a walled city. Central to life is the Grand Mosque and medersa, built in the 1300s. The Mosque itself is closed to non-muslims but the medersa is open to visitors as a museum. Near the back of the Grand Mosque is a shrine to Sufi, Zawiya of Sidi Abdallah ibn Hassoun, patron saint of Sale. The most interesting excursions would be the Souq-el-Ghezel or wool market. Your Morocco tour operator can advise you best on where to go and what to expect. (more…)
After you’ve spent some of your Morocco holiday time in Casablanca, What else is there to do?, you may have wondered. As your Moroccan tour operator will be glad to point out, there is a whole country to explore out there. If you’ve only got one or two days in Morocco, then travel northbound where Morocco’s exoticness abounds under local culture, customs and cuisine. (more…)
Morocco has always held some mystery for travelers. This part of North Africa bridges mainland Europe and the African continent, though separated slightly by the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. With the Atlantic Coast thousands of miles long and the Sahara thousands of miles across, Morocco has many different prospects of topography and offers a complete and unique experience for each individual traveler. (more…)
Founded in the seventh century by the Berbers, and it remained a small independent country known as Anfa, until the Almoravids conquered it in 1068. Merinids took over in the fourteenth century and she gained importance as port city. The Portuguese destroyed the city in 1468, Anfa had become a safe harbor for pirates and thieves. In 1515, the Portuguese came back and built a military fortress. A town was built up around the fortress that was known as Casabranca, Portuguese for “white house”. The name eventually became Casablanca, the Spanish word of the same meaning.
An earthquake destroyed the city in 1755 and the Portuguese abandoned the area. Sultan Sidi Mohammed II, grandson of Ismail Moulay, rebuilt Casablanca during his reign from 1756-1790.
In the 1800s, Casablanca’s economy and population started to grow. Morocco exported wool to England and imported tea. In the 1860s, approximately 5000 people made their home here. That number had doubled by the 1880s. After the French conquest, the population grew to 12,000, by 1906. With the influx of the French colonialists, the number went up to more than 100,000. Today the population is near the 4 million mark.
Casablanca’s past has not always been rosy. After the French took over, they decided to build a railroad near the port. Unfortunately, it passed through a graveyard. Residents were incensed and attacked the French. France called in troops to restore order. Rioting against the French continued and was at its worst in 1940s and 50s.
During World War II, the city was the host of the Casablanca Conference in 1943. A strategic port, it was used by the Americans as the staging area for aircraft that were used in Europe.
The center of Casablanca, today, is big, clean and impressive. It looks nothing like the city of the popular movie of the same name. Casablanca has an old city area that is home to smaller dwellings, however, she does not have an ancient medina. Casablanca is not the popular idea of what old Arabian cities should be like.. Casablanca does have some good markets in which to explore like other Moroccan cities.
Casablanca shows her Muslim roots with the building of Hassan II Mosque. It was built on a promontory that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The mosque has a huge glass floor through which the Atlantic can be seen. Built in such a manner, the faithful pray over the ocean. More than 100,000 worshippers can pray here at one time. Designed by French architect, Michael Pinseau, it has the tallest minaret in the world at 210 meters. King Hassan II declared that the mosque should be built on water because the throne of God is on water. Funded by donations the mosque’s total cost is thought to be around the eight hundred billion mark. It took 2500 men, working around the clock to build this in a relatively short time. Hassan II Mosque shows the Moorish influence and the minaret has lights that are pointed toward Mecca. This mosque is one of the few open to non-Muslims.
Written by: Carole Morris