HASSAN II MOSQUE
The modern Hassan II Mosque is one of the city’s best places to visit, and a tour of the building is worth an overnight stay in town. Architecture fans will also want to spend some time in Casablanca’s downtown district, which is home to plenty of preserved Mauresque facades.
On the shoreline, just beyond the northern tip of Casablanca’s medina (old city), the Hassan II mosque dominates the entire city. Finished in 1993, it is the second largest mosque in the world, covering two hectares in size with the world’s tallest minaret (200 meters high).
The prayer hall can accommodate 25,000 worshippers, while the courtyard (which boasts a retractable roof) can fit another 80,000. Astonishingly intricate decoration covers every centimeter of surface. The location, right on the tip of the rocky bay above the ocean, is thoroughly dramatic.
Non-Muslims can visit the mosque on free guided tours, which are run by the mosque. The tours begin at the mosque’s western entrance several times a day.
DOWNTOWN CASABLANCA’S ARCHITECTURE
Place Mohamed V is the central plaza of Casablanca and is home to many of the city’s important official buildings, including the main post office, Palace of Justice, Prefecture, French consulate, and the main Bank of Morocco.
The building facades all sport the neo-Moorish style (known as Mauresque) that French Resident-General Lyautey planned out for the city as he set about modernizing Casablanca in the early 20th century.
The downtown district of Casablanca between Place Mohamed V and Boulevard Mohamed V is brimming with this style of architecture, which blends Art Deco and Art Nouveau with traditional Moroccan design.
In particular, take a stroll down Rue Tahar Sabti and Boulevard Mohamed V to admire some of the best preserved building facades.
Although Casablanca’s medina (old city district) doesn’t have the same historic atmosphere as the medinas of Fes and Marrakesh, the maze-like tumble of alleyways is still an interesting area to stroll.
The medina here mostly dates from the early 19th century, with the Sqala (the sea-facing defensive wall) the earliest building works here, dating from the era of Portuguese control over this part of the coast in the 18th century.
As the district is a combination of market streets and residential, it’s a great place to experience the pulse of Casablanca life.
There are also some interesting koubbas (shrines) dedicated to local Muslim holy men in the medina’s southern section.
For sea views and fresh sea breezes close to downtown, head to the Hassan II Mosque and stroll the eastern end of Casablanca’s Corniche road from here. You can snap dramatic photographs of the mosque jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean from this vantage point as well.
The Corniche road trails west from here, along Casablanca’s shore, all the way to the city’s beachfront district of Ain Diab.
Much of Ain Diab’s shoreline is now home to luxury hotels and restaurants. The public stretch of beach here isn’t particularly clean, so the private beach clubs do a roaring trade, with sun worshipers lapping up the rays and splashing in the club swimming pools.
On sunny weekends, Ain Diab’s section of the Corniche is a great spot for people watching, with plenty of local families heading here for picnicking and promenading.
You can get a tram all the way to Ain Diab from central Casablanca.
CATHEDRALE DU SACRE COEUR
This graceful cathedral was built in the 1930s, and its architecture is a harmonious blend of both European and Moroccan style.
Unfortunately, it has been left to wither in the past few decades, and is now in need of serious restoration. But even in its current dilapidated state, the structure is still beautiful.
Knock on the door, and if you’re lucky, the guardian will be on hand and will allow you inside (in exchange for a tip) to see the cathedral’s soaring interior.
Another church worth visiting in central Casablanca is the modernist-style Notre Dame de Lourdes (on Boulevard Mohamed Zerktouni), built in the 1950s and lit by a vast stained-glass window.
CENTRAL MARKET & SOUK HABOUS
Casablanca’s bustling central market (Marche Central), on Rue Allal Ben Abdallah, is a must for tourists who want to throw themselves into the midst of city life.
Right in the city center, the market is where locals come to buy and sell everything from fresh produce to household supplies. It’s also home to plenty of cheap restaurants serving up hearty portions of traditional Moroccan dishes.
For a more souvenir-oriented market, head to Souq Haboos in Quartier Haboos, south of central Casablanca. This small district was built during the 1930s in Mauresque style.
The market here offers plenty of traditional Moroccan handicrafts, from carpets to ceramic tiles.
MUSEUM OF MOROCCAN JUDAISM
This villa in Casablanca’s tranquil, well-to-do suburb of Oasis, is dedicated to the history of Morocco’s Jewish community, which stretches back for 2,000 years. The villa itself has a long connection with the local Jewish community and was used as a Jewish orphanage.
Photographs, traditional costumes, religious objects, and dioramas are exhibited here, tracing the rich heritage of Moroccan Jews, concentrating on Casablanca’s Jewish community. The collection is well labeled, with plenty of information explaining the history and cultural significance of the exhibits.
The most interesting exhibit is the synagogue, originally hailing from the town of Larache, which has been transplanted and reconstructed here.