Casablanca is Morocco's largest city and also the economic center of the country. Where politics play the leading role in the capital Rabat, Casablanca is all about trade. It's a fairly modern city, that doesn't resemble any other city in Morocco.
The most famous landmark of Casablanca is the Hassan II mosque, with its minaret measuring over 200 meters in height. It is the second largest mosque in the world (after Mecca). It was a 'gift' of the Moroccan people to King Hassan II for his sixtieth birthday in 1989. The fact that most were pressured into giving a 'voluntary' donations will not be told by the guides. Nevertheless Moroccans are proud of this mosque, which is partly built on a platform above the Atlantic Ocean. It is an impressive structure and - uncommon for a mosque - is open for visits by non-Muslims.
Casablanca doesn't have important souks like Marrakech or Fez; however, you can easily spend several hours in the old and new medina, or in the district Habbous where you can find many traditional shops. Near the old medina lies Skala, a fortified bastion from the eighteenth century. From the fort, you have a wonderful view over the Atlantic Ocean and the old Casablanca.
In the evening, the Boulevard de la Corniche comes to live, when Moroccans and tourists go for a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants. Of course the meal is concluded with a cup of mint tea.
To escape the busy city life for a bit you can go to the Park of the Arab League. Next to strolling around the palmtrees, pergolas and flowerbeds you can enjoy a beverage on one of the terraces too. Near the park stands a relic from the French era: the Cathédrale Sacré-Coeur. The church is not being used as such anymore, it now hosts fairs and exhibitions.
In the second half of July Casablanca bursts from street theater, outdoor concerts, exhibitions and more. This is when the Casablanca Festival takes place. First organized in 2005 and now an annual highlight on the event calender of the city.
In and around Casablanca
Near Casablanca you can find fantastic sandy beaches with many restaurants and cafes. In the summer the beaches can get very busy, but if you like to be amongst people you will feel right at home here. Certainly those who like to dive into the nightlife, because there are some discotheques and nightclubs right on the beach.
Casablanca means "white houses". Although part of the town still has whitewashed houses, there is a real white-house-town about 70 kilometers southwest of Casablanca, Azemmour. In the middle ages the town was Portuguese and the defense wall from that era has been well preserved. There is a busy and colorful market every Tuesday in Azemmour. Furthermore, the beach is popular, in particular for wind and kitesurfing. A little further to the southwest lies El-Jadida, where the Portuguese have left their footprints as well. It includes an old fort and a church in the so-called Manueline style. During the summer the beaches near El-Jadida are especially busy, if not overcrowded.
Not far from El-Jadida lies Kasbah Boulaouane, a fortress from the eighteenth century. The kasbah is easily accessible with a rental car: the fortress is located in between the N7 from El-Jadida to Marrakesh and the N9 (Or A7) from Casablanca to Marrakesh. The courtyard is beautifully decorated with mosaics. Grapes are being cultivated on the slopes of the hills in the area, which is turned into a full bodied red wine. It is sold under the name of the kasbah: Boulaouane wine. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah this wine is an excellent companion to couscous or tagine!
Traffic in Casablanca is busy and chaotic at times, but with a little bit of adaptability you will have no trouble navigating your rental car. We recommend against parking on the street. It is better to leave your rental car on one of the many guarded parking lots or in a parking garage.
Mohammed V International Airport is the airport of Casablanca, named after the former king of Morocco. The airport is located thirty kilometers south of Casablanca and is easily accessible by rental car. From the center of town follow the highway towards Settat; from the northeastern districts of Casablanca take the highway towards Marrakech. The exit to the airport is clearly signposted.