Forget the usual suspects for a Moroccan break – Marrakesh, Fez, Agadir, are now sinking over mass tourism and loosing in authenticity. During a family trip, I had the chance to discover the nation’s biggest city and its unlocked secrets.
Ok, I have to admit, Casablanca is far from Marrakesh exoticism, yet even if it lacks in immediate wow-factor, the city more than makes up with its gritty charm, the kind that gets under your skin the longer you explore. We had to scratch the surface but at the end we felt much more like a local there than we did in other cities. I’ll say this is a place for people who crave discovery and stumbling upon hidden gems. Whether you’re into Art Deco architecture, urban beaches, food-filled markets, or history and culture, you’re likely to find it there.
So here is a concise list of what to do in Casablanca (with and without kids):
1) Get lost in Casablanca Medina
Me and my husband have always enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of the Moroccan medinas. Unlike a lot of other tourist destinations such as Marrakech; Casablanca Medina is the perfect place to wander the maze of tiny laneways and not be hassled to « buy, buy,buy ». The Casablanca Medina is full of people just going about their daily business. We had the chance to visit the place with very friendly locals who gave us the opportunity to discover a range of charming local shops, talented craftsmen and fascinating architectures. Strolling through the Old Medina, you’re unlikely to find any real treasures. However, around the narrow lanes and tree-shaded squares, you will find colourful spice and olive stalls and fishmonger markets.
2)Take a family break by the sea
It is difficult to call Casablanca a classic beach resort for families, yet the city encompasses beautiful water parks and private pools suitable for the whole family. We’ve opted for Tahiti private pool, where we enjoyed a relaxing day filled with sunshines, water battles, nice Moroccan food and had a lot of fun with the children in Tahiti’s private playground. It was a good way to get all the benefits of a fantastic service and great amenities without having to stay in an expensive hotel by the sea.
3) A foodie stop at Marche Central
Much smaller and less hectic than the Old Medina, in this tiny marketplace you will find flowers, cheese and deli meats, fresh honey, fish and an array of butchers shops. The Marché Central is the perfect place to go for lunch. We used to sat at a small cafe-restaurant which was serving up delicious Moroccan food to the local lunch trade (count £4.00 for a big tajine). Tables in the Central courtyard are crammed with diners feasting on cheap but filling platter of fish, vegetables, bread and tasty salads… In any case, be prepared to use your hands. There is no cutlery there, just a piece of delicious and crusty bread.
4) Explore the hotbed of fascinating architecture
Architecture lovers like myself, will geek out on Casablanca’s diverse building styles, from Art Deco to radically modern. Combining the traditional Moroccan style with French Colonial architecture, Casablanca distinguish itself with an unique style. There are plenty of beautiful buildings to see in the area, starting by the impressive Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Morocco and the testament to incredible craftsmanship. You can also walk by the palm-lined Boulevard Mohammed V, in the heart of old Casablanca, or visit Mahkama du Pacha, a Moroccan craftsmanship gem built in the early 50’s and located in the famous Habous neighborhood.
These are just a few options to experience this exciting and beautiful city but my advice would be: « Don’t miss Casablanca because it doesn’t rate high on the tourist lists ».
This fascinating city and its inhabitants will offer you an unforgettable experience, very different view of the well-trodden Moroccan tourist trails.