A September 1999 trip
to Casablanca by Barb B
Quote: An intriguing blend of old and new, familiar and exotic, Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco and the busiest port in North Africa. Amid bustling bazaars, crowded markets and huge mosques I found Casablanca to be truly a city of romance and intrigue.
I loved Casablanca because of the striking differences: the traditional beside the most modern; towering skyscrapers beside impressive old Moorish buildings. We walked along the broad, Central Boulevard with narrow streets leading off onto tiny winding alleys. We saw women wearing veils and traditional clothing as well as the most current fashions.
Attraction | "First stop, the Central Market"
As we left the ship, the tour bus was waiting on the dock to wisk us off on a whirlwind tour of this city of intrigue and mystery. A city of nearly 4 million inhabitants, Casablanca is Morocco's largest city and a world-renowned center for trade. Originally named Anafa by the Phoenicians, the Portuguese occupied the city in 1575 and renamed it Casa Branca or White House.
Our first stop was the Central Market. A kaleidoscope of color and charm, we viewed the every day activities of the people as we walked among the stalls, packed with spices, meats, fish and flowers. I was surprised at the number of American brand name products lining the shelves.
When I think of Morocco, sandy deserts and hot arid climates come to mind. But here in the market, I saw an enormous profusion of colorful flowers and was told that all were grown locally on farms just outside the city. Like any city market in the world, we also saw an interesting array of local street musicians and colorful characters.
As we emerged from the Market, out tour guide was there to quickly herd us back onto the waiting buses, ready to hustle us off to view more of the sights of Casablanca.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 3, 2000
Cultural Centre of Casablanca
Set around a central fountain in the heart of the city, Mohamed V square is surrounded by splendid examples of French Colonial architecture. A large number of the buildings here, which house government and public offices, reflect the design style known as 'Mooresque.' This styling exemplifies both Moroccan and French architectural elements.
Our tour guide is dressed in his traditional clothing and speaks impeccable English. He leads us through Mohammed V Square and points out the Post Office, Palace of Justice, the Prefecture, the French Consulate and the Bank of Morocco. All are set around the a central fountain, which he tells us, comes alive at night with lights and multi-colored waters.
I became a bit disconcerted at this point, when I noticed that as we walked along, taking photos, guards armed with rifles were watching our every move. They smile, nod their heads and appear very pleasant, but I’m afraid I still felt a bit intimidated.
Just a few steps further along the busy street, we entered the Mahakma Law Courts, which were built in 1959. The inside of the courts is lavishly decorated with Moorish plaster and wall after wall of ornate mosaics. A lovely fountain and quiet courtyards are found within the Mahakma du Pacha at the Habous Quarter, which is the Islamic law court and official salon of the Pacha of Casablanca.
As our guide leads us back to our bus, I am very aware of the guards watching as we reboard out tour bus. It is not until our next stop at the attractive resort of Ain Diab that I begin to relax again. Here at the resort, with soft drinks in hand, enjoying the lovely sea view, I'm finally able tell my husband how much better I feel without those guards watching!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 8, 2000
Mohammed V Square
Avenue Mohammed V
Soon after we docked, an attractive young man neatly dressed in modern American clothing (Tommy Hilfiger shirt and Calvin Klein Jeans) told us he was a student and would be our guide. He had only a slight accent and was easily understood and articulate.
As our bus sped along the Boulevard Houphuet Boigney and the Avenue Mohammed V, one of the oldest streets in the city, he pointed out several of the modern buildings in the business district. I watched as unattended small children, darted in and out of traffic and wondered how these tiny children survive unwatched, alone in a city with traffic like this!
Our bus pulled to a stop and a grinning shop owner enthusiastically greeted us. We were led (more accurately, herded) into a "guest area" where we were seated on benches around a huge pile of Moroccan rugs. Young ladies and gentlemen in traditional costumes passed among the "American guests" serving cups of mint tea. The tea was actually quite nice with a mild minty flavor and very refreshing.
Rugs were then unrolled for us to inspect while the owner extolled the beauty of his rugs and labor-intensive process involved in making them. After about thirty minutes of this, three beautiful women performed a traditional dance and we were dismissed to the shopping area to select our purchases.
As a compulsive shopper, I know hard sell, bait and switch, fast talkers, and believe me, --- they employed them all!! We were literally compelled to buy something before we were allowed to leave the store. As we exited, we were told that the bus would leave in 15 minutes, but we were free to visit other shops in the area--just be back on time! By this time, most of us were so disgusted, we got back on the bus and eagerly waited departure!
Oh well, my shopping adventure became a "misadventure." By the way, I talked to the Activity Director back at the ship and I got my money back. Also, I now have a "tacky, overpriced teapot" that I display in my home as a reminder -- oops; I meant souvenir -- of that trip!
Member Rating 1 out of 5 on November 13, 2000
Tour of Downtown Casablanca shops
Boulevard Houphuet Boigney
This immense mosque was commissioned, as a gift, to King Hassan II for his sixtieth birthday, in 1989. The largest mosque outside Saudi Arabia, it can accommodate an astonishing 25,000 worshippers inside and an additional 80,000 outside on the esplanade. The structure is so large; that the Basilica of St. Peter's in Rome could fit inside its handcrafted marble walls. With a 650-foot minaret, it is the tallest religious structure in the world
An Eastern-facing laser, atop the minaret, indicates the direction of Mecca. Since we are not Muslims, we were not allowed inside the mosque. However, our guide told us that a museum, steam baths, a library, and Koran school and conference facilities are all located inside.
This immense architectural marvel set so sensationally at the water's edge, not only provides a stunning shrine, but also echoes the Koran verse 'Allah has his throne on the water.'
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 13, 2000
Hassan II Mosque
Napa, CA and Hereford, AZ , Arizona