Morocco: Good Ol' Casablanca
Everyone seems to have mix feelings about good ol' Casablanca. I keep hearing from Moroccans and visitors alike that there’s not much to see or do so why did I choose to go there instead of Tangier or Rabat? Well, the main reason was because flying to this city was a much cheaper option (shoutout to all the frugal travelers). Casablanca is Morocco’s industrial and largest city with well over six million people. I later came to find out there’s something about Casablanca that got me hooked, not because it was the setting for the movie Casablanca; i'm not a movie buff and i’ll admit i’ve never seen that movie either. It’s certainly not because of the nightlife scene, and definitely not the familiarity of a big city. It was the friendliness of the people. I was blown away.
I arrived at Mohammed V International Airport around 7:30am and every piece of fibre in my being was ready to embrace Northern Africa. Getting through immigration was no hassle and no questions asked. Once I connected to wifi, I reached out to my taxi driver and Airbnb host via whatsapp to let them know that I had landed. My taxi driver brought all the energy and a grand welcome. As I tried to locate where he parked I heard, “Maria, Bienvenue a Morocco” and so the journey began.
En route to Grand Casablanca, my taxi driver played traditional Moroccan music, he was singing, clapping and recording all while driving, it only made sense that I joined in the fun though a little nervous that he was not fully paying attention to the road. Of course I told him about it, but he did not listen. This is true of most Moroccan taxi drivers, the driving is a bit lawless, but I somehow always made it to my destination with lots of near miss accidents.
When I arrived at my Airbnb homestay I was mesmerized. I knew the home was beautiful and vibrant in color per pictures shared online, but it was even better in person. This house is my dream bohemian house. I was gladly greeted by Mamia, the mom of my host, Farrah. Mamia spoke only Arabic and French, so I immediately opened google translator because we all know the struggle is too real when you cannot understand a language. Mamia gave me a house tour and I loved every corner and detail. Later, we sat down to eat traditional moroccan biscuits and mint tea
Jetlag had me feeling tired so I took a nap after the home tour. I slept way longer than expected. By the time I was ready to leave it was already late evening so I decided do something close by since I had to be back in time for dinner with my host family. Mamia knew I was clueless with no sense of direction to La Corniche so she asked a young man to show me the way to the tram station. La Corniche is a popular beachfront and promenade with various restaurants and shops. I arrived just in time for the cloudy and overcast sunset, but nonetheless it was still the perfect start to my first day in Morocco. My walk along La Corniche was pensive, peaceful and beautiful. It was the perfect start to my first day in Morocco.
On my way home I ran out of coins to purchase my tram ticket — no ticket booth in sight, and a ticket machine that only accepted coins (wish I knew). I felt a bit silly as I was digging through my wallet hoping to find just one more coin. As the line queued up behind me Othmane and his coworker noticed I did not speak french nor arabic and they offered to pay for my ticket. They later became my travel buddies for the tram ride home.
It was a late start to day two and my last day in Casa. I spent most of the morning chatting with Mamia and soaking in the beautiful interior design of this dream house. Around midday, I left to visit the landmark monument and probably one of the most visited place in Casablanca — Hassan II Mosque. Designed with granite, marble, plastic and wood by Michel Pinseau the Hassan II Mosque stands about 689 ft tall and sits just off the course of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest mosque in Morocco, the second largest in Africa and the 13th largest in the world. Unfortunately the mosque was already closed once I got there (not speaking the language is a challenge and my taxi took me to the wrong location). I took photos from the outside and decided to visit the mosque museum instead. I know the museum photos are nothing compared to inside the mosque, but this will do until my next visit.
After the mosque I took a petit cab for a 20min ride to Quartier Habous — This is a little village where you'll find lots of shops and outdoor cafés, but it does not stop there. The Quartier Habous also has a crowded and busy outdoor street market that extends for about 1 mile. Navigating my way through the crowded the market was one of my favorite moments in Casa. By sundown I stopped by Cafe Imperial for some freshly squeezed orange juice and then Zaena for my first tajine dinner.
On my way home I got lost, my petit cab driver had no idea where he was going and he was driving really reckless. At one point we had to stop to ask another cab driver for directions. Once I realize I was close to home, I got out the taxi and stopped by a restaurant to ask them about the best way purchase a 1st class train ticket to Fes. At the cafe I met a french speaking American who frequent Casa for work/business. In a country where people barely speak your language, it’s always a relief when you meet someone who could understand you. We spoke about many things including Morocco’s economy and he explained that Casa is like a machine that’s running without oil, but somehow it manages to keep grinding and functioning well enough too. If you ever happen to visit Morocco, don’t skip Casablanca, if one thing is true the people in that city are more genuine than any other city in Morocco.
If you ever happen to visit Morocco, don’t skip Casablanca, if one thing is true the people in that city are more genuine than any other city in Morocco.