Casablanca is home to a small walled portion of the town in the north of the city, in the Old Medina. While it’s a great pit stop for a visit, its not as impressive as those in Fes or Marrakech. A must see is the King Hassan II Mosque. It’s the largest mosque in Morocco and third largest in the world, but does boast the world’s tallest minaret. It’s got a stunning interior with water features, a huge hammam in the basement which isn’t used, and it opens up to the sky. It’s one of only two main mosques in the country which opens its doors to non Muslims to have a look around. It’s well worth a look.
The Shrine of Sidi Abderrahman is also worth a look. While non-Muslims are not permitted entry, you can view it from the outside and wander the small medina like neighbourhood that has been built up around it. Mahkama du Pacha is a Hispanic-Moorish building which has ornate rooms and ceilings that is a must see including its tiled floors and wrought iron gates and railings. This impressive building can be a bit overwhelming without a guide, so having someone to help show you the inner alleyways and halls is a great plan if you want to get the most out of the visit.
Having a Turkish style bath known as a hammam is a great way to experience the culture up close and personal. Depending on where you go and what you’re willing to pay, you can find some that are more like western hotel spas or you can find the little “hole in the wall” local places. Bear in mind, even western spa styled ones are well-priced, often being a fraction of what the same kind of package would be back home. Be prepared for some hard scrubbing and a lot of steam, but you will never feel as clean as after a hammam – we promise!
Casablanca, like much of Morocco has fairly warm temperatures throughout the year, but due to it’s coastal positioning it enjoys much cooler temperatures rather than those of more inland cities like Fes or Marrakech. Daytime highs in the city are around 23 degrees in the hottest month, August, which is temperate and comfortable by many European standards. The coldest month is January where daytime highs sit around 13-15 degrees and February is the wettest month with a whopping 70mm of rain!
That being said, the best time to visit Casablanca will depend on what you want to do as well as where else you may plan on going during your time in Morocco. Summertime is comfortable in coastal towns of Casablanca, Tangier and Essouira, but inland it can be uncomfortably warm, sometimes exceeding upwards of 40 or even higher. If spending most, if not all of your time in Casablanca, July and August are the ideal times to go, but if not, going in the shoulder seasons of September/October or March/April are good to avoid the scorching temperatures of the interior and Sahara regions. Casablanca is temperate in the summer in terms of its daytime highs and lows, with them being only a few degrees apart on average, so it’s an ideal time to go.
Casablanca is an enjoyable city most of the year when it’s warm and the sun is shining. That being said, it is on the coast so in the winter months or even shoulder months you should consider bringing a waterproof coat of some kind. In the summer time as well, the evening temperatures may require a longer sleeved shirt or light jacket of some kind.
Casablanca’s International Airport is well serviced by a number of airlines from around the world, including flights from North America, Europe and other parts of Africa. Visas are usually on arrival for most nationalities in Morocco and are valid usually for 30 days.
Taxis from the airport can be a hassle, but there is good public transportation, often for significantly cheaper than the taxis will quote you. Insist on taxi drivers using the meter or arrange a price before you get into the car. Some drivers will insist that there is a baggage surcharge for luggage.
Trains and buses are plentiful in Casablanca to get away from the city, and trams and bus lines link many areas of the city together. Taxis can be hailed, but public transport is good and clean. Red Taxis in particular are good and the drivers are incredibly knowledgeable and can get you where you’re going easily. Locals are welcoming and provide assistance if necessary, although usually in French or Arabic, but English is spoken occasionally, albeit sometimes a bit broken.
Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco with a population around 4 million. It’s also a very liberal and progressive introduction to the country. It’s use as a port city has made Casablanca an integral part of trade and commerce for Morocco through the ages.
Casablanca was originally founded by Berbers and settled in the 10th Century BC. It became an important port that was used by both the Phoenicians and later the Romans who prized the city for its use as a commercial port which was directly linked to ports further south in Mauritania. They were particularly interested in using the port to obtain things such as dyes from Mauritania’s Iles Purpuraires, where purple dye originated at the time. This was used to dye fabrics of Imperial Senatorial togas. The Berbers and Romans both had interests in the area – the Romans for commerce purposes and the Berbers possibly due to the proximity to areas of water with two prominent rivers being near. Evidence of Roman commerce has been found in the area dating from the 2nd century AD, with coins and even evidence of oil trade having taken place here.
In the 14th century, the Merinid Berber Dynasty helped Casablanca rise in prominence and grow to become an important port town. Unfortunately though this caused an emergence in pirates of the time coming into Casablanca as a safe port and this drew attacks by the Portuguese, who levelled the town in 1468 only to rebuild it as a military fortress in 1515. The village that grew around it was known as Casabranca, which means “White House” and was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, which is when the Portuguese abandoned it.
The Medina and town of Casablanca today was founded by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah, who began to rebuild the region with the help of the Spanish. They retained the name Casabranca, but changed it to Spanish to be Casa Blanca. The street plan of modern day Casablanca is modeled after a street plan by French architect Henri Prost who had placed the original market of the original settlement at the very centre of the city from where all roads originated. Eventually into the 19th and 20th centuries Casablanca grew to accommodate trade from France and Britain and eventually was governed by France for a period of time which occasionally saw anti-French rioting and even terrorism in the 1950s based off French rule. Morocco as a whole gained independence on March 2nd, 1956.