Casablanca Travel Guide
The Moroccan coast hosts a modern metropolis made famous by a 1942 classic -- like the film, the city grows more endearing with time. Though both movie and city were not created with huge visions or expectations, both have grown to fit their iconic roles. It is obvious that Casablanca is as famous as the movie, but a visit exceeds expectations; Casablanca progressively encapsulates modern Moroccan culture. As one of the largest artificial ports in the world, and with a Western influenced lifestyle that has moved beyond the fame, exoticism, and legendary glamour, the city of 4 million is still settling into its own identity which appeals to romantics and seasoned travelers alike.
Initially a central port (Anfa) back in the 10th century BC, Casablanca received its name (translated as "white house") from Spanish traders that established posts nearby. From the beginning of the 20th century, the city was occupied by the French until 1956 when, like the rest of Morocco, the city gained independence. Casablanca --the city-- cannot be mentioned without a reference to the Academy Award winning Michael Curtiz film (which was actually filmed in Hollywood), so let this one recognize protagonist Rick Blaine's unexpected love triangle after he was accidentally thrown into the plot. This along with the difficulty to remain neutral, are themes within the film, and metaphoric to what visitors realize during their stay. The clash between extremes in Casablanca can only be appreciated up-close, when you throw yourself into the everyday lives of the natives, immerse yourself in, and realize you cannot remain indifferent in Casa.
Both natives and tourists have a symbiotic relationship here; the city's historical influences resonate within a fusion of extremes. Being the second largest African city, an absence of museums, kasbahs, riads, or other relics seems to take away from an authentic Moroccan experience in the economic capital of Morocco. The sacrifice fails to be a major upset; the intricate Euro-Moroccan balance is in the details of construction and decor. Moroccan merchants and hints of lace-work architectural design dot the palm-lined boulevards and whitewashed buildings. Exquisite Moroccan bazaars and sidewalk cafes contribute to the overall vibe.
Casablanca itself is full of contemporary and Arabic art and architecture; art deco is easily noticeable everywhere. Central to Casablanca and located right by the clocktower and gate to the old medina, is Place des Nations Unies, or the United Nations Plaza, which is strategically a traffic circle. From this focal point, major avenues radiate outward to the rest of the city. If though, you are searching for cultural gems of Casablanca, you will find tourist attractions that cater to visitors. The Hassan II Mosque, one of the world's largest, was designed by a French architect but built in name of King Hassan II and his wishes to endow Casablanca with a single landmark monument. Indeed, this mosque, constructed in the early 80's, features the tallest minaret in the world, European inspired structures with Arabic patterning, a majestic waterside view, and guided tours for non-Muslims that occur daily. The Arab League Park features a children's amusement park and small restaurants. Rick's Cafe, opened in 2004, is a recreation of the film's main setting and atmosphere, serving Californian-Mediterranean dishes and Asian-inspired cuisine. Venturing away from the appeal of this downtown area may provide a more ethnic understanding; sixty-two miles away from elegant downtown is a port city named El Jedida, quite popular for those who use Casablanca as home base for their travels.
Even necessary aspects of your travels like dining, room and board, are filled with constant reminders of a faded grandeur. Staying at the conveniently situated Hyatt Regency or the elaborate Royal Mansour Hotel provides access to bars or decor that are reminiscent of the film or the city's romantic Euro-African architecture. The restaurants and dining range from exotic to fast food. It may be the passion of its Spanish name, or the romanticism of French-inspired constructions, the comfort of the western life or the hints of Moroccan mystique. But really, Casablanca is all of this and how delicately balanced and hidden these details are; prepare yourself for the most subtle of treasure hunts.
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