7 UNIQUE EXPERIENCES IN CASABLANCA, MOROCCO
The majority of people who have been to Morocco usually advise to skip Casablanca if you’re short on time, others even advise to skip it regardless of time. That's because the city is not particularly beautiful or entertaining from a touristic point of view.
I spent 5 full days there with my family who had prior been to Marakesh and kept listening to them saying things like ''This is nothing compared to Marakesh'', as we explored the souks or ''Marakesh is so much more beautiful'' as we walked around the city. I can’t assure you that you'll like Casablanca, but If you find yourself there on a layover or if you’re curious and want to explore this city, here are some of the memorable experiences that I had and genuinely really enjoyed.
I’m planning on going to Morocco again next year with friends, and I will be visiting Casablanca as I'd like to show them at least items number 1,4 and 6 on this list.
I enjoyed this city, and I hope you will too.
1.hassan ii mosque
During the mid-1980s, the king of Morocco, Hassan II, noted the scarcity of Architectural&Historical monuments in Casablanca in contract to the rest of his country which seemed to beam with cultural life and tourism. Hence, he commissioned the mosque to be built and the construction took just 7 years to complete. It is located near the sea, which gives way to a stunning scenery and the intricacy and level of details that went into its completion are testimony to an appreciable level of craftsmanship and architectural mastery.
A tour is available and is perfect to understand how the mosque was built, which materials were sourced and why, and the holy numbers that went into its construction. If you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of the sky as one part of the Hassan II mosque's ceiling is retractable.
Ticket cost: 120 Dh (12.47$)
Opening hours: From 8:30am till 1:30pm (tours at 9&10&11 AM and 12 PM) and from 2:30pm till 4:30pm (tours 3&4 PM). During the month of Ramadan (varies year to year) and every Friday, the time slots differ.
Languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, German.
+If you ask anyone around the mosque they will point you to the counter where you can go buy the tickets (located on the outskirts of the courtyard)
As we were walking along the streets of Medina (the popular souks in Casablanca), my Mother pointed out - ample of times - how different the souk here was compared to that of Marakesh and other Moroccan cities she had been to. For starters, as I numerously point out throughout this post, Casablanca is not a touristy city - which has its pros and cons. The main pro is that the locals don’t really care whether you approach their shops or not: they will casually invite you in but their level of perseverance is nowhere near that found in other shop owners in Morroco where tourists sometimes reportedly feel harassed. The main con however, is that this souk, although very beautiful, mainly consists of fake brands (say hello to your Chanels and Balenciagas). Some fruits, chickens and the occasional rug and spices that you’d expect to find at a souk in Morocco are also present, but not to the extent of what you might have in mind, overall, it lacks the Moroccan atmosphere of other cities but probably only from a tourist's point of view.
However, it’s quite big, lively, and as you stroll around from themed area to another, you'll get to walk in the living quarters of the Medina's inhabitants and they're quite different to what you might be used to which makes for a nice experience.
3.sky 28 bar
I don’t recommend sky 28 bar in specific (although it is one of the most popular rooftop bars in Casablanca) but the point of this list is to give you cool unique experiences in Casablanca, and this is one of them. There’s something magical about rooftop bars overlooking a city and I make it a point as to always go to one whenever I visit somewhere new. This one overlooks the entire city, sea, and the Hassan II mosque, but you're more than welcomed to try out another one, there are many in Casablanca
+If you drink, make sure that the place you choose isn't too close to the mosque as there's a law that states that ''establishments that are located near holy sites cannot serve alcohol'', as such the Four season hotel in Casablanca does not have a liquor license
When you think about Casablanca, the images that come to your mind are probably those of the Habous quarter. Casablanca’s name comes from the Portugese ‘Casabrance’ or ‘white house’ and I was a bit confused as to why that name was chosen when I first arrived in the city as the houses were of ordinary colors as in most cities, it is only when I payed a visit to the Habous quarter that I understood why.
This neighborhood is a rich blend of beautiful white French-built buildings, clean streets, and a multitude of courtyards adorned with fabrics, rugs, ceramics and clothing. It’s the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon at (except near the prayer time as the streets get packed with believers), stroll around, capture unique pictures, do some people-watching or some shopping.
+I bought a couple of rugs at the market and a small tip I have for you would be to always cut the price in half or more as negotiating a final price seems to be part of the culture there.
+Notable things to visit in Habous: The Royal Palace, the mosques, the souks.
5.villa des arts casablanca
The Villa des Arts in Casablanca constitutes of a beautiful white Art Deco building that dates from 1934 with a private garden and resting area. The entrance is free and the overall environment is quite relaxing and tranquil, most of the art is contemporary, part of it constitutes of a permanent exhibition, but the work tends to vary every month, sometimes exhibitis are even curated towards particular artists.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 9:00 am till 7:00 pm, closed on Monday.
6.hamam hassan II
Hammams have been part of Morrocan daily life for a while now and are always a good idea when in Morocco. The one built underneath the courtyard of the Hassan II mosque constitutes of finely encrusted mosaic that line the walls of the baths, while the ceilings are composed of elegant and traditional domes and arched beams. As per authentic hammams experiences, the baths consist of 3 steam rooms succeeding each other in temperature: warm, hot and very hot, as well as an array of small half-closed private service rooms were the exfoliation and washing takes place. There’s even a heated 300 cubic meter, 1.2 meter deep salt water pool called the ‘Bath of Health’ and a tea room.
Cost: Minimum price is 50Dhs (5.20$) for access, but real Hammam options start from 90Dhs (9.36$) (Hammam + scrub for 120minutes)and go up to 450 Dhs (46.78$) (Hammam + scrub + soaping + precious wrap + toning treatment with Argan Oil (150 minutes). You can also buy accessories like scrubbing glove, shampoo, disposable underpants and other things at a very decent price.
Casablanca is a coastal city, and a lot of the restaurants I tried there had dome of the most breathtaking locations and views I’ve ever seen. The Cabestant restaurant was one of my favorites, which is why I’m including it in this list: it sits atop a cliff overlooking the majestic Atlantic ocean.
Make sure to reserve a table directly next to the sea, either on the first or second floor, and watch the wave’s come and go on the nearby shore while enjoying a delicious meal. The food is delicious and I think their service is spotless. However, I speak French and Arabic and had no problem communicating with their staff and reading their menu, so you might need to use a translating tool if you go there? Nonetheless, the atmosphere, location, and food make the possible communication struggle more than worth it.
+Other restaurants to check out:
For a nice view of the Hassan II mosque: Le Gatsby
+We also visited the Casablanca Cathedral but it’s under construction and you can’t access it unless you try your luck at bribing the guards. I don’t feel like this experience was worth it but I’d thought I’d mention it as to complete this list.