Well to start with , ‘the morocco trip’ will remain the most special of all the places I have ever been to , because this happens to be the first one I had with my husband . So undoubtedly the first travel blog I opted to write about had to be this exotic vacation destination. There are a wealth of things to do for families on a vacation, couples traveling alone and also for independent visitors, this North African country offers a rich variety of activities whether you are interested in architecture, history, the arts, food, outdoor adventure sports or relaxation.
So I travelled to morocco from London and landed in CASABLANCA and interestingly though most of the international flights to morocco first land here , tourists mostly tend to skip this city , as it is often overlooked as a travel destination, since most tourists coming to Morocco make a beeline for the more exotic parts of the country- Marrakech, Fes etc . Instead of writing off Casablanca and immediately hopping on a train or connecting flight, it’s worth it to spend at least a day or two in Morocco’s industrial capital.Bustling downtown Casablanca will leave you feeling like you stepped into a time machine. Overall, this neighborhood is an authentic slice of Morocco’s history as a French colony. This is a living, breathing city that will draw you to its heart. It’s a cosmopolitan place packed with art galleries, fine restaurants and cutting edge nightlife.
Going forward , here is a disclaimer that whoever plans to visit Morocco and Casablanca in particular should have two things at hand (which I learned after being there and kept it handy) – an English to French translation app and INTERNET in your phone , that you may easily have an access to (apart from wifi of the hotel )by buying local SIM cards . The app because , especially in Casablanca you will hardly find anybody understanding English at all , be it the taxi drivers or the staff at restaurants and hotels . It’s frustrating to use sign language for ordering food , yaaa ! The internet obviously , so that you may know what to visit and keep a track – again because you will hardly find anyone understanding your language in this city (Ps the scenario is not that bad in the other tourist cities I visited – Marakech and Agadir).However, getting around the city is simple enough. The red taxis of Casablanca will happily escort you from door to door. It is best to have the name and the street address of your destination written down.It is also advisable to bargain with them .
My first morning in Casablanca started with a fabulous brunch at La Sqala . It is one of the best restaurants of Casablanca and this pretty garden restaurant is a tranquil escape from the downtown bustle. Built in the remains of an old fortress, this place is worth as much as a cultural attraction as it is a restaurant. The atmosphere tends to be a little on the touristy side, but the food is a good modern look at traditional Moroccan foods. After our brunch I had a chance of walking through the city and strolling around the town area and reaching a popular local market of equal cultural importance – Al medina . This was the window to peep into the real lives of people here .While there are more historical and attractive medinas in Marakech and Fes, the Casablanca medina is worth checking out simply because there are few other tourists there. It’s a rare peek into the daily life of the city’s Moroccan residents. I didn’t spend much time shopping here – most of the souvenirs are imported from other parts of the world and therefore more expensive. I also visited the largest mall of morocco at night which according to the locals is the best of Casablanca (best of South Africa apparently ) . It was pretty massive and had everything from Zara to Louis Vuitton , and also a food court , finally !
The following day , I got to visit the most popular site of the city – King Hassan II Mosque ,Casablanca .The largest mosque in Morocco and the seventh largest in the world, with the tallest minaret in the world.Sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, its one of Morocco’s top architectural wonders .Of particular note is the vast, decorative prayer hall and the beautiful glass floor .To visit the Hassan II Mosque, you must be dressed appropriately. Men should wear pants and shirts, no shorts or tank tops. Women must cover their heads, arms and legs. It’s huge – by huge I mean massive , spread all across the area . Thousands of visitors are present but they seem scattered like tiny creatures in the mosque . Overall King Hassan Mosque is a must visit in Casablanca , one of its kind and culturally beautiful .
Just a few minutes by taxi drive from Hassan II Mosque is Ain Diab and la Corniche, popular beachfront spots for those looking for a bit of sun and sand. There are resorts and restaurants along the stretch of Corniche. The restaurants along this beachfront are all sub-par and not that great for taste buds , but if are hungry and need a quick bite to eat – beggars can’t be choosers. Hence I walked around the corniche romancing the beach with my husband and ended up having our brunch at one of these restaurants . Following afternoon , wandering around the corniche , I came right next to Ain Diab, Casablanca’s main beach. Around a mile long, it has pale sand, great views out into the Atlantic and many beach clubs to visit.
Here comes my favourite part of the Casablanca visit and that was to spend my evening and witness sunset right in front of the Atlantic ocean. An experience of a lifetime and the most serene of all ‘maghribs’ for me. It was an out of the world sight to see the huge ocean all around me with the sun setting down into the ocean . I was absolutely enthralled by the view , such was the captivating charm of the ocean and that particular sunset .
Following the mersmerizing experience , we headed to celebrate life in one of the cutting edge night lounge (as I mentioned earlier too) – Le Cebestan . A must must must .. date with your better half if you are on a quixotic trip . An upscale, waterfront restaurant and sheesha bar , with ocean views, beautiful patrons and top-notch food. Well, that was quite an extravagant night having dinner and best of Moroccan shisha with the spectacular ocean view and that too sitting in that lavish lounge (which isn’t a case in most countries as indoor shisha isn’t allowed- yea , so that gives a brownie point to this place ). Ps Undoubtedly Le Cebestan was cherry on the cake to my visit to Casablanca .
What Casablanca lacks in history, it makes up for in modern conveniences: restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Though, to be sure, there are a few must-see sights in and around the capital of Morocco .Casablanca is a cultural melting pot, a progressive city that welcomes visitors with open arms.
And that was the end to my two day experience in the morocco capital . My trip continued to Marakech and then Agadir which were two contrasting faces of this South African wonder country . I leave that for my future blogs .
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