"I want to go to Morocco really, really bad..."
- Vanessa Hudgens
Casablanca sometimes gets a bad rap. I've heard it described as dirty, dangerous, and uninteresting. Don't get me wrong, it can be all of those things and more, but the city has a rugged, authentic energy that makes it one of my favorite cities in the world. To help you navigate this underrated city, here are my top 10 favorite things to do, in Casablanca, Morocco
FOR A LIST OF MY FAVORITE STREET FOOD SPOTS AND RESTAURANTS, CLICK HERE
1. MARCHE CENTRAL
A perfect introduction to Moroccan markets, Marche Central is the largest open air market in Casablanca. Surrounding the market are dozens of restaurants serving cheap, traditional food that make it a great place to stop by for lunch. As an added bonus you can watch locals haggle over fish prices as you enjoy your meal.
The market definitely doesn't make any effort to be more welcoming to tourists (which is a good thing!), so you'll always get an authentic experience here.
Hours: 9:00am - 6:00pm
Address: Rue Allal Ben Abdellah, Casablanca 20250, Morocco
2. PORT DE PECHE
The sprawling port of Casablanca, this is where you go watch the local fisherman bring in the latest catch and to eat some of the best food in the city.
You're greeted by a dock packed with fisherman that doesn't look too interesting at first. Then you turn a corner and you're met with street food paradise. Filled with tents cooking the fish that was just brought in. You walk up and sit down at any one of the tents (they all serve essentially the same thing). The street is setup as the lunch spot for the port, not for anyone else.
Everything is dirt cheap and if you don't know what to order (I had no idea) just point to the guy sitting next to you and order what he's having. It's really one of the best food spots in the city
TIP: Make sure you don't end up at the port de peche restaurant, it doesn't even compare.
Price: 20-40 dirham ($2-$4 USD)
Hours: No idea, but the safest bet is around noon.
Address: Port of Casablanca, Morocco
3. EL HANK LIGHTHOUSE
The El Hank Lighthouse is located at the edge of the Bourgogne district. There isn't a set price to go up, it's just one guy who has the keys (usually a local will have to go find him to let you up) but he will expect a tip of 50-100 dirham. Surrounding the lighthouse is a small community that could almost be described a slum or colony. I highly recommend walking around for a bit as the locals a very friendly (I ended up playing a game of pickup soccer with the local kids) and it shouldn't feel dangerous at all.
TIP: If you do happen to meet some local kids, try and see if they have any mussels or clams they just fished out and are willing to share (they usually do). They cook them on little fires and they are surprisingly delicious.
Price: 50-100 dirham for the lighthouse ($5-$10 USD)
Hours: Like I said, it's just about whether the guy whose has the keys is sleeping or not.
Address: El Hank Lighthouse, Casablanca
4. HASSAN II MOSQUE
Built in 1993, the Hassan II Mosque boasts the worlds tallest minaret at 210m (689ft). if that wasn't enough, the 60 story tall tower is also topped with a laser, which shines directly towards mecca. The entire project cost just under 600 million euro and can house up to 105,000 worshippers.
Although it may be difficult, I highly recommend going at sunrise, or sunset because the light reflecting off the marble was truly incredible. That being said the tour is a little pricey and isn't really necessary in my opinion.
Price: Tour, 120 Dirhams per Adult
Hours: Sat-Thu: 10am, 11am, 12am, 3pm, 4pm
Address: Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca 20000, Morocco
5. LITTLE SENEGAL
This spot was probably one of my favorites in the entire city, and I didn't find any mention of it anywhere else! It's only about a 5x5 block radius, but you can do everything here from buy food and clothes, to get a haircut. It really is an entire country packed into a small warehouse. The alleyways in between shops are only about two people wide, and are never clear. Vendors rush from place to place as people muscle their way to the front to get the best piece of fish, or maybe the latest american shirt.
It's really difficult to describe the sheer amount of what I would call "organized chaos" that goes on here. Definitely a must see if you're in Casablanca.
Hours: Usually opens around 8am and closes at 7pm (best to go around lunchtime)
Address: Souk Namoudaji, Casablanca, Morocco
6. OLD MEDINA / SOUKS
There are dozens of souks and markets across the city, but a few stand out in my mind. Namely the Olive Market, the Maarif Market, and the Marche Solidaire. Of course, the Old Medina shouldn't be overlooked either (although it is the most touristy of the bunch).
The Olive Market is located in the Habous quarter, and sells just about every type of olive imaginable. I'd recommend buying a small bag to eat as you wander through the market, watching locals haggle over prices.
Hours: No set time but usually opens around 10am
Address: The Great Olive Market, Casablanca 20250, Morocco
7. RICK'S CAFE
Obviously this one is a lot better if you've seen the 1942 movie Casablanca (if not, I recommend it!). The restaurant is modeled exactly the same as the one in the movie, and transports you back to the 1940's. The food and drinks are pretty good but the real reason you would come here is for the legend behind it.
There's also a nice park across the street where you can usually catch a local game of pick-up soccer, if you're lucky.
Hours: 12pm–3pm, 6:30pm–1am
Address: Place du jardin public، 248 Bd Sour Jdid، Dar-el-Beida 20250, Morocco
8. AIN DIAB
A popular beach for locals and foreigners alike, Ain Diab is where you come to get away from the chaos of the rest of the city. Just a 10 minute walk from the Hassan Mosque, it's the natural stop after seeing the monument.
Depending on what time of year you go it can get a little crowded, but a sunset cruise on the beach after a day at the Old Medina... it doesn't get much better than that.
Hours: Always Open
Address: La Corniche, Casablanca, Morocco
9. SACRE COEUR CATHEDRAL
If you haven't gotten your fill of monuments than Sacre Coeur should be your next stop. Now, you might be surprised to see a Catholic cathedral in a Muslim country but Casablanca actually has quite a large population of Catholics (~100,000).
The cathedral itself is quite impressive and the architecture is beautiful (EDIT: I'm told it is currently under renovation so make sure to check online to see if it's open).
Hours: Daily but exact hours are unpredictable
Address: Angle rue d'Alger et boulevard Rachdi, quartier Gautier, Morocco
10. SIDI ABDERRAHMANE
Up until 2013, the island was not connected by land, and locals had to use a boat to ferry back and forth. Now the water has receded and you can visit this tiny land on foot. The sunset from this place is the best in the city (and one of my favorites in the entire world), because the island is so small the experience is very intimate.
It's a very quaint place and you shouldn't come with any expectations. Just enjoy the people and the view from this tiny island.
Address: Îlot de Sidi Abderrahman, Casablanca, Morocco
WHERE TO STAY?
People claim there are many dangerous places in Casablanca (I've travelled all over the city and have never felt that to be the case), but there are certain places that are much better to stay in to get the real Casa experience.
The first is near Marche Central and the Old Medina. For obvious reasons this puts you in the center of the action and within walking distance to most of the main attractions. The second is Habbous, where the olive market is. A little quieter but farther away from the port and the Hassan Mosque, and the last place I recommend (which is actually where I stayed) is in Val Fleurie which is the farthest away, but has its own charm
For anyone wondering here's the exact airbnb I stayed in (tell him Cal McKinley sent you!)