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casablanca - a modern morocco

Casablanca is one of the more overlooked cities in Morocco. It is the country's largest city, the cultural capital and the economic heartbeat. It's also the most liberal and progressive of Morocco’s cities. And yet, it is often bypassed by foreign visitors. Maybe this is because the city’s modern appearance doesn't fit with the romantic vision conjured up when we envision Morocco?

The 'white city' is beautiful in its own way, but it is not for the faint of heart. It is congested and rough in parts. Vendors will be in your face, people seem to constantly be arguing and the pollution can be overwhelming. If you aren't deterred by the culture shock and find yourself in Casa, below are my recommendations.


I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Casablanca, just a few steps away from the Medina and the Art Deco buildings, in the historical center of Casablanca. If you're there with the sole intention of lazing by the pool, I'd suggest checking that there isn't a private event going on during your stay and/or that the pool has been opened for the season.

View from my room at the Hyatt Regency Casablanca


The Old Medina is a bazaar, where craftsmen and merchants sell leather goods, antiques, shoes, lanterns, linens, spices and knock-off handbags. If you go early in the morning, even on a weekend, it's fairly quiet in the souk. It's not nearly as frenetic as the medina in Marrakech. Allow yourself to get lost in the little alleyways and hidden corners.

Be sure to visit the Hassan II Mosque (outside of prayer times). This is the only mosque in the city where non-Muslims are permitted to enter. The combined indoor and outdoor space can accommodate 105,000 worshippers (25,000 inside and 80,000 in the surrounding courtyard). It is the largest mosque in Morocco and the 13th largest in the world. This masterpiece took 10,000 artisans nearly six years to build - completing in 1993.

The Arab League Park is an urban oasis in Casablanca. It's the city's largest and most significant public green space, offering a tranquil retreat amongst the city's chaos.

On the north-west corner of the Arab League Park you'll find the Church of the Sacred Heart. This was constructed between 1930 and 1953. In the 1970's the building ceased to be a church. Today, mis-named The Cathedral of Casablanca, it is no longer a place of worship but rather a cultural and exhibition center.

Ain Diab is the most famous and popular beach in Casablanca. It features a long stretch of sandy shoreline and offers a lively atmosphere with beach clubs, cafes and restaurants.


Dar Dada has made the 50 Best restaurants list with good reason. It's a hotspot for Casablancais and tourists alike. Nestled within a charming riad this space and cuisine are a mix of tradition and modernity. The lamb tagine is delicious and the belly dancing performances are fun to watch. Be sure to make a reservation as it fills up, despite how vast it is.

Inspired by the movie 'Casablanca', Rick's Cafe transports visitors back in time, making them feel like part of the iconic film. Built in 2004, this is a replica of Rick's Café Americain gin-joint from the 1942 classic film. A visit to Casablanca would not be complete without having a meal/drink at Rick’s Cafe.

Al Mounia is a cherished restaurant in Casablanca, with its quintessential Moroccan atmosphere/food and a lovely patio with a centuries-old tree.


  • Taxis: The Careem ridesharing app was a convenient and affordable way to get around Casablanca, but it was also extremly controversial. I was informed, by a taxi driver, that Careem operates illegally in Morocco, but I found no evidence confirming nor denying this online. The taxi drivers are lawless, angry and violent - not only towards Careem drivers but also towards passengers. I would recommend using hotel-provided cars where possible and either walking around town or hailing licensed taxis (identified by their red color). Make sure you have cash on you as most taxis don't take credit cards.

  • Currency: The Moroccan dirham is a closed currency; as such you can't get any in advance and you are not allowed to take any with you when you leave. Many places in Casa (restaurants, hotels, taxis and some stalls) will accept Euros, but you'll often get dirham as change, with a poor exchange rate.

  • Language: Moroccan Arabic is the official spoken language. French is not officially recognized, but is often used for business, diplomacy and government for non-Moroccans and non-Arabs.

  • Clothing: Both female and male travelers should dress modestly to avoid hassles and unwanted attention. At the beach, you can wear shorts, dresses and swimwear. Pack comfortable footwear that’s suitable for uneven roads and a scarf to cover your shoulders.

  • Drinking: Do not drink tap water in Morocco; bottled water only. Alcoholic beverages are not served in many establishments. Do your research to make sure restaurants you book do serve booze.


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