Casablanca conjures up thoughts of the famous film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and its famous 'Play it again Sam' reference but this city has a long and exciting history dating back to the Berbers in the 7th Century BC.
Flights to Casablanca take around 3 hours from the UK, landing at the Mohammed V International Airport (CMN. Casablanca flights go direct from London and from a number of European airports. Set 30kms north-west of the city, trains, buses, taxis and hire cars are all available at the airport for the journey into Casablanca.
Casablanca is perhaps the most westernised of all the cities in Morocco and is known as the commercial capital of the country although the political capital is Rabat 87 kms further north-east along the coast.
The city has had a chequered history, having been under occupation at various times by the Romans, Phoenicians, Portuguese and the French. The old walled medina at the heart of the city contrasts with the more modern buildings that have sprung up along the shoreline. An unmistakeable sight against the skyline is the twin tower complex of two skyscrapers offering hotel accommodation, shopping centres and offices.
One building that must be visited is the Hassan II Mosque, built on the seafront and reputed to be one of the largest in the world. Although completed less than 20 years ago the mosque is built according to well-established traditions and features incredible mosaic work, calligraphy and massive titanium doors. By contrast, the Sacrr-Coeur Cathedral built by the Catholic French early in the 20th century fell into disuse after occupation and its neo-Gothic architecture plays host to exhibitions and fairs.
French architecture is much in evidence in Casablanca along with some street names. The Boulevard de la cornice is a promenade along the sea front dotted with leisure facilities, clubs, resorts, restaurants, hotels and plenty of cafe culture for those who prefer to watch the world pass by. The beaches provide golden sand and safe waters for swimming and snorkelling. This area is famous for its art deco architecture which helps to give the city its cosmopolitan feel.
Place Mohammed V is at the centre of the French project to regenerate the city between the Wars and is the administrative centre of Casablanca. They also built a new medina, known as the Quartier Habous which is a blend of French and Moroccon styling and is a popular centre for tourists in search of craftwork from the region.
The Museum of Moroccan Judaism is worth a visit for its insights into the blending of Jewish and Moroccan culture in the period before the World Wars and is one of only two museums of its kind in the Arab world.
Boulaouane Kasbah just south of the city is an 18th century fortress that boasts a tower offering spectacular views across the surrounding countryside and is a cool haven away from the heat of the city.
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