4 Hours in Casablanca

Hassan-minaret

Towering over me, I felt very small, its minaret standing 210 meters (700 ft) tall, the tallest in the world, in fact. Half of its enormous structure sits on land, and the other over the sea on reclaimed land.

hassan-II-mosque-tour

I walked barefoot inside, awed by its intricate beauty and incredible size.

“I can show you around town tomorrow”, our reliable grand taxi driver offered before he dropped us at the hotel the night before.  For 550 Dirham, Aziz endeavored to introduce us to his Casablanca in 4 hours.  First off the agenda was his and the rest of Casa’s pride.  The Grand Hassan II Mosque.

hassan-II-mosque

It is the largest in Morocco and the second largest in the world, the brainchild of the late King Hassan II when he felt that Casablanca was somewhat lacking in traditional sight.

Hassan-grandeur

It was not only built to withstand earthquake, but the grand mosque also comes with a sliding roof and a heated floor – a beautiful blend of traditional Moorish Architecture and modern innovation.

hassan-intricate-ceiling

hassan-intricate-ceiling-design

The Hassan II Mosque glistened in the morning light;

zelij

intricate-woodwork

hemmed in beautiful wood carvings, stucco works and ornate traditional Moroccan tile work called zellij.

Aziz wanted to show an old part of Casablanca; he dropped us off at the Marrakech gate of the Old Medina with its imposing clock tower.

Old-medina

We wandered through the labyrinth of narrow streets of the walled city, which includes an 18th century fortress, a jewelry market and a kaleidoscope of other stores – souvenirs, handicrafts, leather goods – all requiring more than a little skill in bargaining.

old-medina-fruit-cart

Carts laden with oranges peppered the streets, and a medley of Moorish and Portuguese architectures reflecting its own personality and charm.

old-medina-3

There were children playing and old women filling up at the water station or just sitting at the doorway.

old-medina-2

Not as bustling and quite run down compared to the glories of Fes and Marrakech, the “Ancienne Medina” is a place Moroccans venture to only if there is a need to do so.  It is a part of Casa that predates the French Protectorate, and in many ways, a closed quarter where bikes and cars are restricted.

In the 1930s, the French created the Habous neighborhood just a short ride away from the old walled city, wanting to build a nicer, cleaner medina.

moroccan-ceramics

Also known as the Quartier Habous, the New Medina is home to some excellent shopping opportunities at the Joutiya market, a handicraft market selling top artisan product.

New-medina

Capped with arches, its shops surround a pretty square that lead to a nearby Muslim courthouse, Pasha’s Makhama and on the opposite side of the square is the Mohammed V Mosque

Moulay-Youssef-Mosque

and the Moulay Youssef Mosque.  A pleasant place to while away time.

We weaved through the neighborhood until it was time to be reunited with our luggage and say goodbye to Casa.  A setback that ended in a good way, at the very least it was a delightful introduction to Morocco, a country that can be overwhelming at first.

Useful Info:

Hassan II Mosque
Sour Djedid
Boulevard Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdaliah
Tours:  Guided tours are offered throughout the day to non-muslim visitors.  Be sure to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering.
 
Old Medina (Ancienne Medina)
Between Boulevard des Almoliades & Place Mohammed V
 
New Medina (Al Habous)
Near Boulevard Victor Hugo
Advertisements

2 thoughts on “4 Hours in Casablanca

  1. oh this is delightful. the sights, the patterns, the intricate designs of both architecture and pottery. the tiled walls, the exotic smells. it all must have been one experience never to be forgotten. lucky you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s