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Sitting along the western coast of Morocco, Casablanca is a cosmopolitan and commercial hub—a place filled with college students, young professionals, and creative entrepreneurs. Though perhaps not as atmospheric as other popular destinations, Casablanca is the place to come to see the contemporary side of the country. Thanks to a diverse population of immigrants from across Africa and Europe, the city has a gritty-meets-stylish feel that many compare to Los Angeles. This progressive locale is home to trendy restaurants, experimental art galleries, and hip surf spots, as well as a few tourist traps for those who can’t resist the alluring environment made famous in the 1942 namesake film. It’s not all modern, however. Interspersed with cutting-edge construction is a mix of Moorish architecture, vibrant bazaars, and Moroccan hammams that act as symbols of the city’s storied past.
With a history dating back to the 7th century, the current commercial hub of Casablanca is a place where the past and present come together. This interesting mix can be seen throughout the city’s diverse districts, from the walled Old Medina to the high-end shopping center of Maârif.
Ain Diab — Located to the west of the famous Hassan II Mosque, Ain Diab is a seaside resort district known for its luxury hotels, golden beaches, and upscale shopping. Along the palm tree-lined promenade of Boulevard de la Corniche, find nightclubs, cocktail bars, and a selection of restaurants ranging from fine dining to fast food chains.
Habous — Built by the French in the early 1900s, the Habous Quartier is a magical place where old and new Casablanca collide. The district is a mix of traditional Moroccan riads and more modern European architecture, and you’ll also find Western shops intermixed with colorful outdoor markets. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Olive Souk for a real taste of Moroccan culture. At stalls tucked into a small courtyard, find an aromatic array of locally sourced olives, herbs, spices, and oils.
Maârif — Once one of Casablanca’s poorest neighborhoods in the early 20th century, Maârif is now the city’s main business district and shopping destination. Near the Casablanca Twin Center is a myriad of elegant boutiques, including top international brands and Moroccan haute couture designers.
Old Medina — North of United Nations Place is a walled district known as Old Medina. Here, along its narrow 19th-century streets, find little shops selling traditional Moroccan goods such as clothing, pottery, hookahs, and handbags. Along with the neighborhood’s local cafes is perhaps the city’s most famous food destination, Rick’s Cafe—a site that recreates the restaurant from the film Casablanca. Dine on delicious creations amid an atmosphere of niveau-Moroccan decorations, fez-wearing waiters, and live piano music including the classic “As Time Goes By.”
No trip to Casablanca would be complete without a visit to see the awe-inspiring Hassan II Mosque. Though relatively new—completed only in 1993—the mosque is one of the largest in the world, with a minaret that towers above the streets at 689 feet (210 m). Non-muslims may enter the mosque on tours that operate approximately every hour from the morning to mid-afternoon. For a nominal fee, step inside to marvel at the beautiful mosaics, marble floors, stone columns, and carved ceilings that took 6,000 Moroccan artisans more than 5 years to finish.
Join a local guide for a tour that takes you into the historic Habous Quartier. Admire the marble columns, handcrafted mosaics, carved ceilings, and other Arab-Islamic features of architecture, including Mahkama du Pacha and the Royal Palace.
Shop ‘til you drop in Casablanca with a private driver who can tailor your destinations to your interests. As home to a vast array of shopping options ranging from luxury retail centers to bustling outdoor souks, you’re sure to find anything your heart desires. Visit the ultramodern Morocco Mall for contemporary goods or the Central Market for colorful clothing, fresh produce, and artisan-made souvenirs.
Gain insight into everyday Moroccan life in a cooking class at a local home. With a mother-daughter duo guiding the way, learn all about the country’s signature tastes as you handmake recipes like zesty couscous and juicy chicken tagine. Combine your creations with a few other dishes that were made in advance for a full and mouthwatering meal.
Unwind with a visit to a traditional hammam, an important part of Moroccan culture. At any of the many spas to be found throughout the city, you can pamper yourself with a detoxifying steam, rejuvenating bath, and hot stone massage.
On top of all it’s other offerings, one of the great things about Casablanca is its proximity to many other must-see cities. With a local guide, travel out of town to visit magical Marrakech, royal Rabat, or fabulous Fes. Take your journey up a notch with a 2-day tour to Rabat and nearby Salé, complete with 4-star hotel accommodation.