For classic-film fans, Casablanca evokes swirling images of romance and intrigue — Humphrey Bogart- and Ingrid Bergman-style. Yet almost 75 years later, Morocco's largest city is a lively and inviting metropolis, the country’s financial center, and a cultural hot spot replete with art galleries and fashion boutiques. This former French protectorate still retains a bit of its European accent — with a Galeries Lafayette department store, patisseries selling macarons, and blocks of elegant Mauresque architecture — and although Islamic tradition is important here, modern convenience has its place. Zip across town on the spiffy tram, sip fresh mint tea at a café, and stroll the promenade along a sweeping beach while passing women wearing a body-covering burka, hijab (headscarf) and niqab (face veil), and others dressed in jeans, business suits, and sundresses. Casablanca is a tapestry woven of many different threads.
What We Love
The Maze-Like Medina: Casablanca’s ramshackle old neighborhood, crisscrossed by alleys and narrow streets, is dotted with carts, workshops, and specialty vendors — from blacksmiths to lamp makers — offering an eye-opening stroll.
The Local Cuisine: Feast on a traditional Moroccan meal of chicken tagine, couscous, and harira soup. There are ample restaurants — a favorite is Al-Mounia — that feature tasty authentic fare, as well as wine (often French), and belly dancers.
Best Known For
Hassan II Mosque: Rising above the Atlantic, this gargantuan structure has the world’s tallest minaret and can fit 25,000 worshippers in its magnificent central prayer building plus 80,000 more in its courtyard. It features striking arches and intricate mosaics, which visitors can appreciate during guided tours.
Central Market: Explore the colorful stalls heaped with mounds of produce — sweet oranges, garlic, olives, figs, dates, and nuts — as well as Argan oil that shopkeepers claim has 100-plus uses and curled-toe leather slippers that make fun souvenirs. Keep your camera ready, but ask permission first before taking pictures of people.
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Who It's Best For
Bucket-Listers: Casablanca is a great spot for visitors eager to see Morocco to whet their wanderlust.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Careful Consumption: Drinking alcohol outdoors in public is forbidden, and drugs of any kind (even medical marijuana) will land you in jail. But alcohol is served indoors at some restaurants that cater to tourists, as well as bars and hotels.
Laura Manske is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Redbook, InStyle, and Cosmopolitan.