My parents, Don and Robbie Hamper, are traveling through the majestic country of Morocco. They are exploring in-depth the many ancient and modern cities as well as the incredible variation in climates, experiences and cultural diversity that rests within one country. Today they’re in colorful Casablanca.
Guest Blog – Words and photos by Don and Robbie Hamper:Casablanca is one of those cities that takes a moment to process. It is so lively and colorful and exciting and developmentally contradictory all at the same time.
As the largest city in Morocco, Casablanca features both ancient architecture and street markets while at the same time a modern-day large mall and advertising on billboards. What stands out the most in Casablanca are the markets, the mosque, the mosaics and the unique neighborhoods.
From the moment we step onto the dirt-covered pavement in the tiny winding streets, the commotion begins. Everybody is busy buying and selling goods from rugs to olives. While there are larger, more touristy markets here, we prefer to hit the local street markets to truly get a sense of daily life in this bustling city.
Within the tiny maze of streets, the locals buy their spices and oils and leather. The further in we go, the more narrow the streets become and the more crowded the scene. There is such an energy and it seems everyone has somewhere to go –except for the elders we see enjoying a cup of tea along the sidewalks. The air is fragrant with so many natural spices and decadent food that it is tempting to eat our way through the marketplace. This moment IS Morocco.
The King Hassan Mosque is the fifth largest mosque in the world. It also has the tallest minaret in the world standing at 689 feet which makes it visible from anywhere in the city. The mosque was built to commemorate King Hassan’s 60th birthday and completed in 1993. A significant portion of this 5-acre architectural wonder is cantilevered over the Atlantic Ocean.
As we walk out onto the enormous plaza we can see down the coastline. There is a peaceful presence here–a stillness or respectfulness that surrounds us as we watch people head inside for prayer. Non-Muslims are allowed on the grounds but not inside the mosque unless on a guided tour. Intricate mosaic designs make-up the facade of every inch of this mosque. It took 3,300 craftsmen to create the mosque and the towering mosaics.
Speaking of the mosaics, you will find them everywhere. The mosaics that adorn doors and buildings and crafts are hallmark to Morocco. They add such an exotic element to this country.
There are lots of things to buy with mosaic designs, but be advised, they can be quite heavy to transport home. There is also a lot of art deco here, so creative types will love exploring the unique ways that art influences not only architecture, but everyday-use items like teapots.
Just beyond the main hub of Casablanca are a number of neighborhoods, each with their own flavor. The Quartier Habous is probably the most “local scene” as we described earlier. There’s a large public square that sits within walls; local homes; craftsmen using centuries-old crafting techniques and LOTS of local shops.
The neighborhood of l’Oasis is a 15-minute cab ride outside of Casablanca, but it features the incredible the Museum of Moroccan Judaism. It showcases Moroccan Jewish films, art, dance and music.
If you are looking for the hotels and bars, head to Ain Diab which runs along the Atlantic coast. And, if you are up for a scenic drive, head west to Bourgogne and Anfa where long boulevards are dotted with large mansions and lots of great scenery.
If you go:
- We recommend spending time away from the tourist areas to really see Casablanca in it’s truest form.
- Dress should be very understated especially for women. It is a conservative Muslim society so plain, understated clothing makes interacting with locals more comfortable.
- Casablanca is a great starting and ending point for those who plan to travel throughout other regions of Morocco.