The name Casablanca conjures up the romance of the old black and white film of the same name – lingering looks between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, and Sam playing the piano at Rick’s Café. Many tourists are surprised to learn this modern city is now Morocco’s busiest metropolis.
The city grew rapidly from a tiny settlement to an extremely busy port town under French rule. Casablanca is less an exotic tourist retreat and more a city where people come to make a living. A few Art Deco buildings hint at the city’s French past, yet the skyline is dominated by whitewashed houses that evoke old-world charm and bring the city’s name to life; ‘Casablanca’ translates as ‘white house’.
Casablanca is mostly visited by cruise passengers using it as a gateway to other cities in Morocco, including the luxurious capital of Rabat and the most exotic of all Moroccan cities, Marrakech. However, Casablanca itself has plenty of the vibrant bazaars, colourful sacred mosques and delicious spices this country is famous for.
The food and bazaars cater to locals more so than tourists, and they therefore offer plenty of opportunities to try authentic flavours and experiences. Prepare to treat (and test) your tastebuds; traditional Moroccan cuisine mixes sweet with savoury and is always heavily spiced.
With beautiful beaches, a vibrant bazaar, stunning mosques, shanty towns, and a mix of French and African architecture, Casablanca is an authentic slice of Morocco that shouldn’t be missed.
The Port of Casablanca is a large commercial port close to the centre of town. Shuttles are typically offered to the Old Medina and taxis are also readily available.
There are no facilities at the dock, but the city centre is only 1 kilometre away.
Facilities in the city of Casablanca include:
Banks and ATMs.
How To Get Around
The best way to explore Casablanca is by petit taxi (small taxis that fit up to three passengers). They are cheap and easy to find throughout Casablanca. The network of city buses is efficient; however, some locations (like the Medina and the beaches) are best taken in via a stroll.
Travel times from the port in Casablanca:
It is a 28 minute journey to the central market
It is a 38 minute journey to the Old Medina
It is a 54 minute journey to the Hassan II Mosque.
It is an 11 minute journey to the Old Medina
It is a 12 minute journey to the central market
It is a 12 minute journey to the Hassan II Mosque
It is a 20 minute journey to Aïn Diab.
Currency – The currency in Casablanca is the Moroccan Dirham (Dhs), divided into 100 centimes. Notes come in 10, 50, 100 and 200 Dhs denominations. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes and 1, 2, 5 and 10 Dhs.
Time Zone – Casablanca follows Western European Time (WET), which is the same as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Daylight savings changes Casablanca to 1 hour ahead of UTC between March and October, except for a period from mid-June to mid-July when daylight savings is paused.
Weather – Casablanca enjoys a subtropical Mediterranean climate, with relatively dry, hot summers and mild winters. August is the hottest month in Casablanca with temperatures averaging 22.9 degrees Celsius. January is the coolest month, with temperatures averaging 13 degrees Celsius.
Hassan II Mosque – If you are moved by striking architecture, head straight to the Hassan II Mosque, which rises dramatically above the bay just north of the Old City. This exquisite building is epic in scale, with room for 25,000 worshippers inside and a further 80,000 outside. But don’t be fooled into thinking this a relic of a bygone era; construction of the mosque began only in 1980. The best way to take in the mosque is to book a guided 1-hour tour. Remember to cover your shoulders and wear long pants or skirts to show respect, and leave your shoes at the door.
Medina – The traditional marketplace awaits in the Medina (or Old Town). Here you’ll find the true Casablanca: a snapshot of traditional Moroccan life, where children run by playing with hoops and marbles while locals sit in tiny cafés sipping sweet mint tea. Traditional tradesmen sell all manner of foods and supplies.
Aïn Diab – When you need to feel the sea breeze on your face, it’s time to head to this lovely beachside suburb to the west of Casablanca. Aïn Diab is strewn with beach clubs offering swimming pools and private sunbathing. When you decide you need to stop and cool off, make sure you visit a gelateria and try a sweet ice cream in a waffle cone while taking in the lovely view of the Atlantic.