When I told a few of my friends that I am going to Morocco, majority of them said that I should go and see Marrakesh and Fez as these are the must-see places in this North African nation. I, however, opted to see Casablanca – Morocco’s economic and financial capital.Honestly, I wasn’t certain what to expect in Casablanca. My early knowledge about this city is that it served as an inspiration to the old Hollywood movie “Casablanca”. My mom used to tell me to watch the film. Since it was too old for me, I really didn’t give in to her advice to see it. However, when I was in college, I finally got the chance to see the Ingrid Bergman – Humphrey Bogart movie. And yes, it was romantic.
Fast forward: Last week, another dream was put into reality as I traveled my way to Africa for the first time. From Dubai, I took an Emirates direct flight to Casablanca, Morocco. Without much expectation, I allowed myself to be surprised and be satiated with what this Moroccan modern city has to offer.
My Casablanca trip made me realize how much I have changed as a solo traveler. If you have been following my posts in various social media, you’d probably know by now how much I like taking a lot of photographs, sharing travel stories, insights and more. My recent trip was quite different in such a way that I wasn’t too keen in pushing myself to explore all possible places to see/ visit. This time, I decided to take everything slowly. I took my time to enjoy every meal I eat, I took time taking my shower, cuddling up in bed longer than I used to do, and walking around without worrying much about my time. My friends were surprised when I told them I haven’t been taking as many photographs as I used to do. I even ended up not going to all the places I have jot down my list. Surprise, surprise.
So what did I personally enjoy and love during my 4-day visit? Read along.
I enjoyed marveling around the Grande Mosquee Hassan II. The Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in Morocco (and Africa) and the 13th largest in the world. Its minaret is also the world’s tallest at 210 metres. I am not really good at describing details, but I am pretty certain everything about this mosque’s architecture is intricately and beautifully made. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go inside because when I was there, it was prayer time. Nonetheless, its exterior is beyond lovely.
Speaking of architectural designs, Casablanca is a feast to the sense of sight. The diversity of the buildings’ designs – art deco to modern would not only delight architecture enthusiasts but also regular travelers like me. Even their palm-dotted boulevards and corniche (a road cut into the edge of a cliff, especially one running along a coast) are artistically made.
One place I enjoyed walking around is Casablanca’s Old Medina. A “medina” is a distinct city section found in a number of North African cities. The word itself simply means “city” or “town” in modern-day Arabic. Sauntering around a medina will give you a glimpse of the people’s life, culture and more. If you like to buy souvenirs, clothes, food, fruits and other stuff, a visit to the medina is a must. Why? It’s cheaper and you have an array of choices to choose from. The experience maybe quite topsy-turvy and grubby, but I like it anyway. I also bought 3 pairs of babouche (Moroccan slippers) because they are really good, comfy and stylish.
As in every country I visit, I look forward to tasting their local dishes. Some of the food I have tried (and actually enjoyed eating) include their couscous (kuskus) – is a Maghrebi dish of small steamed balls of crushed durum wheat semolina, usually served with a stew. It is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
I also tried their version of kebab, Bolognese pasta (which is really really good!), some arabic bread, and another fave of mine, fish chermoula (a dish with a blend of lemon, fresh herbs, and spices that is perfect accompaniment to fish and seafood).
Then there is Ain Diab, one of Casablanca’s coastal districts. It boasts off a scenic promenade lined with modish hotels and beach resorts. The beach may not possess white sand BUT its brown colored sand is uber fine and clean. No wonder a lot of people flock their way to just stroll along or play football at the beach. Also, I have noticed that a lot of resorts offer surfing activities. Well it isn’t surprising as the waves seem really great for surfing.
There are other places and activities you could do in Casablanca like dining at Rick’s Café (restaurant, bar and café designed to recreate the bar made famous in the movie Casablanca), Sindbad Park (an adventure-themed park with a roller coaster & other rides, plus a zoo with African & Asian animals), Park of the Arab League (place where one can get away from the busy city life because of its greenery, and an ideal place for jogging, strolling or even meditating), and of course, Casablanca can also serve as a jump off point to other Moroccan cities like Rabat (the capital), Fez, Essaouira, and Marrakesh since trains are easily accessible from the city.
So don’t be a wasted soul, be “juanderlust”. Take it easy everyJuan.