When you see the Neo Moorish colonial architecture that dots the Boulevard Mohammed V and Place Mohammed V, you know you're in Morocco. But Casablanca, the biggest city in this previous French protectorate, does not seem to exude the same exotic flair of its sisters Marrakech, Rabat and Ceuta. In the predominantly Islamic nation of Morocco, Casablanca seems to stand out like a thorn with its liberal ways and practices. Men and women mingle freely in the beaches, clubs and restaurants around the city. Younger Moroccans address each in French. And the more revealing get-ups, especially among the women remind you more of a progressive European country than a conservative Islamic state. But this seeming contradiction is not forced. It's simply a celebration of Casablanca's unique historical heritage.
The Hassan II Mosque, with its imposing minaret that's said to be the tallest in the world, is a landmark in Casablanca. The only Jewish museum in the entire Muslim world, The Jewish Museum of Casablanca is worth visiting. North of the Place des Nations Unies lies the Old Medina, which offers a glimpse of the old Casablanca before the French started rebuilding the city. The Quartier Habous or the Nouvelle Medina is a more French-version of the Old Medina with its neat row of shops and modern facilities. The Parc de la Ligue Arabe, with the Yasmina amusement park and the rundown Cathedrale du Sacre Coeur, is a good place for a stroll. If you fancy trying a hammam or a Turkish bath, go to the one run by Solidarite Feminine -- it's clean and gives you the chance to help single mothers in Casablanca who are deprived of many opportunities. You can also relax in the beaches along the wealthy Ain Diab neighborhood.
There are Moroccan and Western-style food at the restaurants in The Corniche, a beachfront neighborhood just west of the Hassan II Mosque. For cheap chicken and sandwiches, check out the stalls and restaurants at Rue Chaouia located just opposite the central market. There are also good eats in and around the Old Medina as well as the Quartier Habous.
While not exactly an ideal shopping destination, the Quartier Habous has a good selection of traditional Moroccan crafts. Good quality pottery, tagines, leather goods and the like, however are available at Exposition Nationale d'Artisanat. For belts, bags, shoes, shops in and around the Old Medina offer a variety of cheap options. If you're in the market for Arab and Berber music, check out Le Comptoire Marocain de Distribution de Disques and Disques GAM.
79 rue Chaouia
Bd. Sidi Mohamed ben Abdallah
Boulevard des Almohades, Casablanca, Morocco
40 Bd de la corniche