Romance in the air and long alleys filled with white villas – that’s what many visitors think of Casablanca. Oh no, no that’s not that movie. Rewind! When they come, they experience something completely different; crowded streets, tall buildings, and a terrible traffic jam.
Don’t get me wrong, Casablanca can be nice, but you have to know the places to go to! Sometimes I hate this city, sometimes I love it. When someone asks me to show them around, I always try to focus on the best, non-touristy spots. Casablanca is a jungle.
If you’re planning to come here, I have some tips for you; which places to see to feel the spirit of the city besides Hassan II Mosque. Let me unveil the mystery for you and take you for a tour around the city.
Habbous vs Medina in Casablanca
Years ago Medina used to serve as the city center. You would go to school there, get your clothes tailored there, get grocery shopping from your neighbour, or pray in the nearby Mosque. Nowadays the Old Town is just a tiny part of the big metropolis of Casablanca, and a small part of it is also a tourist attraction.
Don’t forget to go for a delicious, thick avocado, nuts and dried fruits smoothie (jus d’avocat fruits secs) in one of its juice bars, in Darija called “Mahlaba”.
Alternatively, you may take a taxi all way to the district of Habbous. It’s an old city surrounded by walls, just like medinas. Habbous is quite far from the city center so not too many tourists go there. The place is divided into various markets: olive market, sorcery market, clothing market… You can find everything there, from dead birds for witches and local specialties to temporary henna tattoos and natural cosmetics.
Port of Casablanca – Things to Do
Everybody goes to the port for fish. Most people hit the famous restaurants and pay for it big money. I always go deeper in the port and sit on a bench – the place is dirty, ugly, smelly but the food is delicious. If you’re into tremendously “local” experiences – that’s the place for you.
The only option is the menu of the day, they serve whatever the fishermen catch fresh. It’s usually a plate of fried fish, mqila (eggs with shrimps served on a metal plate), Moroccan mint tea, bread and harissa (spicy) sauce. The meal per person is 25 dhs.
If you’re not fan of seafood, you could go to the Maarif neighborhood in Casablanca. It’s modern and quite central. Head to Jura street and look for Ibil Snack – they serve camel meat and other Moroccan specialties such as harira soup or beans (loubia) and lentils (a3ieds).
Note: camel meat is not popular in central Morocco. Camel meat is eaten in the Sahara region and Ibil Snack is one of not many that you’ll find there!
On the coast in Casablanca – Ain Diab, Hassan II Mosque and the Lighthouse
Menara (the lighthouse, located at Tet el Hank street) is also an old military base and some ruins. At the first sight – nothing special. If you stroll down to the rocks you will see magical places, a breathtaking view on the ocean and Hassan II Mosque (it is around half an hour walk from the mosque).
It doesn’t cost you anything but the moments you can spend there are priceless. I once tipped the guardian and went up to the lighthouse. It is not an ordinary thing to do, but if the guardian is in a good mood – you can give it a try! The place offers peace and nature, something that is genuinely hard to find in Casablanca.
Casablanca from the Sky
I love seeing cities from above! I’ve discovered a couple of good spots for that reason. Drop by the Sacré-Coeur Cathedral, a place that gives a splendid view and is not tapped by tourists. Having climbed lots of steps, you’ll enjoy the cityscape: ocean, port, tall buildings and the Old Town. Sacré-Coeur Cathedral is located on Rue d’Alger in the city center.
To finish your trip well, and slow down after a day full of action, you can drop by Sky28. It’s a bar located on the 28th floor of Twin Center in the very heart of Casablanca. It’s a bit fancy place, but the views are worth every single dirham spent! A perfect way to say goodbye Casablanca and see the city at its glory from the sky.