Mohamed V International Airport – “No more luggage, finish”, said the porter. “What do you mean? We still don’t have our luggage!” I yelled in frustration. “No anglaise”, he looked at me and shrugged. A lady, also missing her luggage, told me that the guy is only a porter, and he doesn’t understand me. I should talk to the people at the baggage service counter. Valid point. But not exactly the welcome I expected.
Casablanca. The bustling port city whose name mean “white house” and made famous by the Humphrey Bogart 1942 classic. It may not echo the same romantic air the 1942 film brings to mind, but a trip through the city’s swanky lounge and bars can still evoke the spirit of the café from the movie.
Casablanca was a jewel of the French Colonial empire, famous for luscious art deco, neo-classic and a blend of Moorish architecture that is unique to the city. An architectural style known as Maurasque with trademarks such as wrought iron balconies, staircase and windows; carved facades and exterior corners; floral and geometric design on stuccoed walls. Boulevard Mohammed V and Place Mohammed V still retains a trace of its unique colonial architecture heritage.
With our luggage arriving on Emirate’s next flight the same time tomorrow, we gained half a day, allowing us to explore more of “Casa” as the locals call it.
“Grand taxi?” a guy approached us as we stepped out of the Gare Casablanca Voyager after purchasing train tickets for tomorrow. We said no, we wanted a metered taxi. “You’ll need 2”, he said. “A petite taxi can only sit 3, at the most”, he added.
In Ibis Casa Voyageurs next door and our home for a night, the guy at the reception confirmed that the taxi driver was correct and gave us an idea on how much it would cost. And so our negotiations with Aziz began. We shook hands at 100 Dirham (US $13). He would take us to Corniche d’Ain Diab,
where high-end bars and trendy nightclubs line the area. “ It’s overlooking the water, where the yuppies go”, the guy on the train from the airport told us.
He suggested that we might want to dine there, but the movie buff in us, out of curiosity, had our eyes set on Rick’s Café,
so instead, we walked around the boardwalk and took shelter sipping “Whiskey Morocco” (Moroccan mint tea)
in a café when it got too windy.
Dinner, though not our cheapest in Morocco, did not disappoint.
While we found the goat cheese balls drizzled in honey starter and chicken with lemon and olives tagine quite enjoyable,
and particularly liked the lamb chops with mint pesto, it is the ambience — down to the piano and the sax player named Issam (close enough to Sam) — that made it one of the best “gin joints” in town.
Founded by a former US diplomat, Kathy Kriger, Rick’s Café opened in 2004.
With potted palms, ceiling fans, whitewashed walls, low archways, ornate lamps casting shadows everywhere, traditional Moroccan carved and inlaid woodwork, balconies and balustrades, antique brass… all provided the right atmosphere and feel of the 1942 cult classic.
The nostalgia alone is reason enough to come for a visit.