Moroccan charm

Your essential guide to Casablanca


Casablanca – the name conjures romance, intrigue and suspense. The 1942 film, set during World War II, was about just that. Bergman and Bogart had a date with fate in Morocco’s largest city. Today, visitors discover the same magic in the large boulevards, tall well-kept buildings, charming older houses and colourful gardens.

This exotic port city is a jumble of Arab, Islamic, Berber, African and European influences. Its open-air markets are a paradise for shoppers seeking colourful rugs, intricate woodwork, jewellery and the softest leather in the world. Be prepared to bargain. If you don’t, you’re likely to insult the shopkeeper and leave empty handed. It’s best to have a price in your head, start low, sip the sweet mint tea on offer and bargain your best. Take cash, not plastic.

Less intrepid travellers who find bargaining tedious should not venture into the quixotic Old Medina (central Casablanca), a trip back in time. The original Arab town, partly enclosed by the old wall, is a maze of narrow streets, whitewashed brick or stone houses and chock full of shops with everything imaginable for sale.

The New Medina (south Casablanca) known as the Quartier des Habous, or ‘district of holy men’, was built by the French in the 1930s. This beguiling blend of the modern with traditional Moroccan courtyards and marketplaces also boasts the best pastry shop in the land, Chez Bennis, for lunch on the go.

Wander to the Royal Palace, built in 1920 and surrounded by lush Mediterranean gardens. Admire typical Arabian architecture in the Mahakma du Pacha building featuring carved stucco, colourful tile work, wrought iron decorations and cedar panels.

The towering Hassan II Mosque – built on a rocky outcrop – is the biggest religious monument in the world after Mecca. It’s certainly one of the most impressive, with space for 25,000 at prayer inside and 80,000 outside. Explore with the help of a guide or join one of four daily tours.

Other musts:

  • Catch a movie at the Rialto art deco cinema palace built in 1930.
  • Visit the biggest port on the African continent – via the fishing harbour – housing trendy Centre 2000 with luxury shopping and good restaurants.
  • Soak up art deco at Villa des Arts exhibition centre.
  • Enjoy the blend of exotic and French cuisine. Couscous, tagine (a flavourful stew of meat and vegetables slowly cooked over a fire in an earthenware dish), kebabs and spicy harira soup are accompanied by dates, nuts, prunes and oceans of slowly brewed mint tea.
  • Visit Parc de la Lique Arabe, a gorgeous garden south of Place Mohammed V. Tree-lined streets and formal flowerbeds are flanked by art deco and art nouveau houses. Stop by Eglise du Sacré Coeur to see majestic stained-glass windows.
  • Finally, live the legend at Rick’s Café: visit for drinks, dinner and music. Lounging in an old courtyard-style mansion built against the walls of the Old Medina, you too can dream about choosing between love and virtue. We’re sure you’ll do the right thing in Casablanca.


Le nom de Casablanca évoque ce film mythique, où Bergman et Bogart avaient rendez-vous avec le destin. Aujourd’hui les visiteurs redécouvrent la même magie dans la plus grande ville du Maroc.

Cette ville portuaire présente un mélange unique d’influences arabes, africaines et européennes. Aventurezvous dans le labyrinthe de l’ancienne Médina, véritable voyage dans les siècles passés. Parcourez les souks, lieux privilégiés du petit commerce avec leurs tapis somptueux, bijoux, cuir souple…

La nouvelle Médina avec le Quartier des Habous, offre le double visage de la ville moderne et traditionnelle.

Allez jusqu’au Palais Royal, érigé en 1920 entouré de jardins luxuriants et admirez l’architecture arabe récente de la Mahakma du Pacha: sculptures en plâtre, faïence, fer forgé et plafonds en bois de cèdre.

La Mosquée Hassan II, qui culmine sur un rocher, est un chef-d’œuvre architectural, qui peut accueillir jusqu’à 80,000 fidèles.

Autres lieux à visiter:

  • La salle art déco le Rialto, architecture de 1930.
  • Le plus grand port du continent africain, carrefour du shopping de luxe.
  • Le centre d’exposition de la Villa des Arts.
  • Le Parc de la Ligue Arabe.
  • Le Rick’s Café, somptueuse villa de style arabo-mauresque