Casablanca is Morocco’s most cosmopolitan city filled with diverse architecture and hidden gems just waiting to be explored. Take a break from busy, city streets to stroll alongside the ocean or admire one of the world’s largest mosques.
Casablanca is Morocco’s largest and most modern city affectionately called “Casa” by the locals. This multicultural metropolis is the business capital of the country; several domestic and international companies have based their headquarters here, but aside from business, there’s also a thriving art scene here. Art Deco architecture can be spotted throughout the city and you can easily discover more about the culture of Morocco by visiting Casa’s many museums.
Hassan Mosque II
This spectacular mosque is one of the largest in the world. Its architectural design was created by French architect, Michel Pinseau. The construction of this magnificent structure took around 8 years to build with the help of over 6,000 artisans from around the country. This mosque has the world’s second tallest minaret that reaches towards the heavens at an impressive 650 ft. high.
The interior is a world all its own with exquisite décor of high ceilings that accentuate gigantic chandeliers, grand arches, marble columns, and fountains add to the serenity that lies within. This religious and cultural complex includes a prayer hall that can accommodate up to 25,000 worshippers at one time! There are also baths, an ablution room, a library, a museum, and a koranic school.
Unique features are the retractable ceiling that can open up to the heavens and the glass floor of the prayer hall so worshippers can see the ocean and pray with the rhythm of the waves. A guided tour is recommended to learn even more and have a deeper understanding of this divine sanctuary.
The “new medina” this quarter of the city was built by the French in the 1930s and its architectural style merges traditional Moroccan style with modern French. This area is more relaxed to wander around and shop compared to the old medina. There is more of a European atmosphere here due largely in part to all the sidewalk cafes.
Got a sweet tooth? Definitely visit the famous patisserie, Bennis Habous and indulge in traditional Moroccan pastries that are simply amazing. This part of the city is a great place to start your day and pick up authentic souvenirs.
What would a trip to any city be without wandering through its very heart and soul, its old medina. Go with the flow and become a part of the crowd as you drift along the sea of locals. Here you will find artisanal leather goods, fruit stalls, antique stores, and spices among other traditional Moroccan goods. Chances are you will discover shops that have been in business for generations and treasure is bound to be discovered. There are also many outdoor cafes that line the narrow streets for when the time comes for a tea break.
One major advantage of Casablanca is its close proximity and easy access to the ocean. Stroll along the boardwalk to get a feel for a different side of the city and break from the chaos. This sandy beach will transport you a world away so you can regain your sanity after running around the city. Who doesn’t love a meal with an ocean view? You can take your pick of one of the many restaurants here, then go dance the night away at one of the nightclubs that line the beach.
Abderrahman Slaoui Museum
This impressive, personal collection of Moroccan businessman, Abderrahman Slaoui, takes up three and includes a temporary exhibition room for contemporary works. There is also a café on the top floor. On display are a plethora of artistic heirlooms: Moroccan jewelry, ceramics, paintings, and orientalist posters. This is a great opportunity to learn more facts about Morocco’s culture. The museum also offers art workshops open to the public. Try your hand at weaving, photography, or calligraphy.
To experience the vibe of the classic 1942 Hollywood film, Casablanca, make sure to book a dinner reservation here. Located in the old medina, this reproduction of the film set of actor Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick Blaine’s bar captures the spirit of the film. A fun fact: the original movie was filmed on a Hollywood set, not in Morocco. Opened in 2004 in a traditional Moroccan mansion, the interior of the bar/restaurant mirrors the Hollywood version.
Curved arches, antique brass floors, balconies, a sculpted bar, lamps with beaded lampshades, with authentic tile and woodwork closely resemble that in the film. Another draw is the pianist who plays popular tunes from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. Grab a cocktail and soak up old Hollywood nostalgia.
Visit Notre Dame de Lourdes
Although the simple façade of this Catholic church may be deceiving, the interior is phenomenal. Stained glass masterpieces windows transform the ordinary and create a kaleidoscopic, ethereal atmosphere. Designed by French glassmaker, Gabriel Loire, these stunning windows run floor to ceiling offering an artistic transcendental experience. The entrance is free and the church is open daily.
Villa Des Artes de Casablanca
Casablanca is home to many traditional and contemporary art galleries so it’s not surprising the city boasts fantastic art and cultural center. Housed in a 1934 Art Deco villa, this cultural foundation supports contemporary Moroccan and international artists, offers seminars, lectures, music performances, and educational workshops. Its doors opened in 1999 and are managed by the ONA, an industrial holding company.
The Museum of Moroccan Judaism
Located in the residential Oasis neighborhood, this museum is the only museum devoted to Judaism in the Arab World. A vast collection of cultural and ritual artifacts and photographic documentation of Morocco’s Jewish heritage. Ritual artifacts include traditional jewelry, costumes, scriptures, and books. There is also a permanent collection and a library. Established by the Jewish community in 1997, this museum is an intimate look into a culture within a culture.
Explore Art Deco
Casablanca’s architectural heritage is impressive and eclectic. Art Deco can be found all around the city as there are several historic sites with striking architecture in this style. Art Deco and Art Nouveau were dominant styles during the mid- 20th century and the French definitely influenced the creation of these buildings. These buildings reflect the luxury in Morocco then and now.
Although Casablanca is not as popular with tourists as other Moroccan cities, this North African city’s cosmopolitan vibe entices with amazing ocean views, diverse architectural styles, and historical hidden gems that are not to be missed.