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Casablanca, Morocco

Author: pakce  |  Category: Destination Casablanca Morocco

Hassan II Mosque

If you Google “Casablanca,” the first entries will be almost certainly be about the film of that name made in 1942, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. We did pass “Rick’s Bar” on the way out of the docks. We stopped for a photo-call, but didn’t go in. It was closed … and the white-painted art-decoish exterior looked nothing like the one in the film, anyway.

We were bound for one of Casablanca’s landmarks, the Hassan II Mosque. It’s the largest mosque in Africa, and indeed the world outside Saudi Arabia. It’s also one only two mosques in Morocco where non-Muslims are allowed inside … “but, we must be out by midday: this is Friday, our Holy Day.”

It was funded by public subscription from all over the world, and completed in 1993. They built it on land reclaimed from the sea … part of it is built over the sea itself, for there’s a verse in the Qur’an which says ” … the throne of God was built on water.”

The mosque, with its tall tower, was visible from our ship as it docked; indeed, it’s visible from most parts of the city. But, it needs to be seen from close-up, and from inside, to admire the artwork and the architecture. My top tip here is: wear socks! You’re asked to remove your shoes on entry, and that marble floor is beautiful — but cold!

Shopping in Casablanca

Habous Quarter

Our next visit was to a co-operative, where we could buy souvenirs, mainly high-quality Moroccan crafts. These, I personally swear by. One of my favorite garments is the leather jacket I bought in Morocco some years ago. It’s all good stuff; you can even see some of it being made. And, a big plus since many people in the western world are uncomfortable with haggling, everything is a fixed, marked price. They’ll accept euros, too, which meant we didn’t have to change any money.

Outside, though, the “other Morocco” showed itself, as a street vendor tried to sell some “genuine” Rolex watches.

We made a quick photo-stop at the Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic church, a reminder of the former French occupation of Morocco on the way to the Royal Palace. The King only stays here when he’s in Casablanca, we were told. His main residence is in the capital, Rabat. We were quite welcome to take photographs … but cautioned not to photograph the many police and Army personnel around the place.

Next, a walk through the picturesque Habous Quarter, where all the shops and markets are. But, there was to be no shopping here. Not that we’d get cheated, or offered poor quality goods, it’s just that, in Morocco, as in most places in North Africa, shopping is a rather leisurely business, not to be rushed, and the bargaining can be quite prolonged.

We concluded our tour of the Habous Quarter with a peek inside the Prefecture office … the equivalent of County Hall … which looked like most people’s idea of the interior of a mosque.

Mohammed V Square

Our final stop was in Mohammed V Square. This is the main square of the city, a pleasant, tree-lined green spot, dominated by a huge building, and surrounded by another legacy of French occupation; the art-deco architecture of the buildings.

Probably our biggest surprise was that, although we’d arrived in the middle of December, most of us were in shirt-sleeves, and remarked on how warm it was. Samir, our guide, disagreed. This is cold, he said. I’m wearing my winter djellaba (robe). But, he did admit that it was warm enough not to wear his gandoura (overcoat) over it.

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