Day Trip: Casablanca, Morocco
Visit Hassan II Mosque
Pass by Rick’s Cafe
Wander through Mohammed V Square
Visit Mahakama du Pacha
Dinner @ Al Mounia
Night @ Sofitel Rooftop
Writing this as I sit in Casablanca airport, waiting to board my flight to New York. It’s been a whirlwind of activities these last few days, from Cairo to Casablanca to back home. The 18 hour layover I planned in between my flights home, turned into 30 hours, as I missed my morning flight. After running out of the hotel, rushing in a cab, missing my flight by minutes, then paying the extra fee for a new ticket – I am now sitting in the lounge, waiting, accepting that this is life. Things happen out of our control and all we can do is be grateful, I accept that everything happens for a reason.
If you’re in Casablanca for the day, here’s a little post on my exact firsthand experience.
Airport to City
There are multiple ways to get to the city from the airport, but Uber is not one of them. I don’t like taxis, especially in foreign countries, so I opted for the train. I had a very difficult time locating it – FYI, it’s in Terminal 1. There are barely any signs, but don’t worry, near the prayer area there are escalators that take you down one level, from there follow the halls and eventually you find the ticket counter. To get to Casablanca city, board platform1 and ask for a ticket to Casa Port.
Depending what time you arrive, if you happen to make it to Casablanca early, Hassan II Mosque is the place to see. It is the largest mosque in Africa, and the 5th largest in the world. Around 1980, King Hassan the II commissioned the mosque to add a true landmark for Casablanca The mosque was supposed to be complete by King Hassan’s 60th birthday in 1989, but despite the huge efforts by the artisans, it was only completed in 1993.
Info: the mosque is open to everyone, including non-Muslims. Only with a guided tour and during specific hours outside of prayer times, from 9am - 3pm. Check here for the latest hours.
The guided tours cost 120 DH which is about €11 or $12.50 US. Women don’t need to cover their hair, but both men and women must cover knees and shoulders.
Nearby is Rick’s Cafe, I walked from the mosque to find old courtyard-style mansion restaurant, with architectural and decorative details reminiscent of an Old Medina Casablanca classic film.
I wandered through the streets of Casablanca and found my way to Casablanca Cathedral, which looked abandoned but I snuck in for a quick peek. I continued walking until Mohammed V Square and the United Nations Building. For the most part, Casablanca streets reminded me of Cairo.
I ordered a car (Careem – the Uber alternative) to visit Mahakama du Pacha, random little stop, but it is such an inspiring architectural beauty. It had everything I imagined Moorish architecture to contain, amazing woodwork, Islamic motifs, beautiful columns, arched entry ways, and open layouts of simplicity with ornate details. It’s free to enter and not an official tourist spot, if you are lucky enough to gain entrance, it is quite possible that you can literally be the only one there unless you bring your own tour group. I was able to sneak in for about 40 minutes and basically tour the first level grounds by myself, uninterrupted. Occasionally one of the guards would walk by but other than that, it was peaceful, serene, quiet, and the perfect atmosphere to stroll through.
For a late afternoon dinner I went to Al Mounia. It’s back by the Mohammed V Square, hidden behind an inconspicuous bouncer, unobtrusive entrance, you find a beautiful garden in the courtyard. It's a very historic Moroccan atmosphere with staff dressed historical suits.
I ended the day overlooking Casablanca from the rooftop bar, Le CasArt, on the 24th floor of the Sofitel hotel. There’s probably a lot to do at night, but I was 1. pretty exhausted from the trip and 2. learned I’m not much of a solo traveller, so the idea of walking around at night wasn’t exciting. Casablanca is a beautiful city and it worked out pretty great for a one day (layover) trip, that is until I missed my morning flight (lol).