We arrived at the Casablanca airport in the afternoon following a very loud Easyjet flight from Europe. The airport was small but modern, passport control was efficient and customs not a problem. Unfortunately we arrived about ten minutes too late for the hourly train from the airport to the Casa Voyageurs train station in the city. Unwilling to pay $30+ for a taxi, we bought our tickets (about $4 one-way) and waited. When the train finally arrived we were among the first to board, a good thing as it filled up fast. The ride to Casa Voyageurs was about 45 minutes, through some less-than-scenic terrain, a lot of slum housing dotting the landscape, along with the ubiquitous sheep.
The train station itself was likewise small but modern and the cab drivers were all lined up to harass and rip off the tourists. In a week in Morocco, we encountered two petit cab drivers who used the meter, the others just named their price (always hugely inflated), some were willing to negotiate, others not. Be sure to get this out of the way before getting in the cab if you can, otherwise you’re in for an unpleasant argument at your destination. Seatbelts were also non-existant, but the feeling that death was imminent did ebb somewhat over time.
When we arrived at our hotel we were told that the hotel was overbooked and had no room for us. We were then given a printout voucher and put into another cab by the bellhop and sent away. The cabbie dropped us off in the middle of a six lane intersection, and pointed us in the direction we were supposed to go in. No one had seen fit to tell us the name of the new hotel. A couple blocks later we were in the lobby of a new hotel, which thankfully had a room for us. By the time that we got all of this out of the way afternoon was giving way to evening and we didn’t have a lot of time to explore. We set out in another petit cab for the Hassan II Mosque, the crown jewel of the city, or so we’d read.
It turned out to be one of the prettiest places we saw on the whole of our trip. Our late arrival meant that we missed the daily tours, but we were just in time to watch the sunset over the water. Truly a stunning sight. The mosque itself was amazing. Absolutely huge and gorgeous architectural details. Truly an imposing sight and a must-see in Casablanca. We wandered down to the sidewalks below and sampled some snails from a vendor serving up big bowls in a salty tumeric-infused broth. A culinary experience.
We then hopped into another cab and found a recommended restaurant where we enjoyed our first Moroccan meal. After dinner it was pouring rain and we nixed any further exploration, as it was it took the better part of half an hour to hail a cab back to the hotel. Casablanca is huge and sprawling and can be completely overwhelming, especially on introduction. Especially coming from the orderliness of Western Europe, the culture shock can be bracing. That’s what we came for though, and my only regret is that we didn’t have more time to experience more. We really did not have the opportunity to do the huge metropolis any sense of justice, a task that I imagine would take quite a bit of both time and fortitude.