Casablanca, literally translating as "White House", is mainly known for the iconic black and white film. The location as a Moroccan holiday isn't one that people may first think of but I spent a few days there and realised it was absolutely nothing like I had imagined and a much better choice for a Moroccan weekend away.
Being on the coastline, the city attracts surfers to have a go on the waves. What surprised me was how urban the destination is. Expected to expand massively in the next five years, it has recently become a hot spot for a touch of culture without the manic haze of Marrakech, as well as some of the most beautiful bars and hotels to kick back in.
The biggest tourist attraction in the area is the grand Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Morocco . Taking just six years to build, the sheer size of the place and the intricacy of the detail is mind blowing. The huge white tower is difficult to get up as a tourist but with the Mosque being a sight to see, it isn't much of a shame. The bright bright walls and decorative tile work will both make you feel in awe and make you want to redesign your home. It can only be explored with a tour guide due it still being an active place of worship, and we saw first hand the anger it invites after some male chinese tourists received after straying into the women's side. The little details within its design ar unimaginable; over 105,000 worshippers can fit into the grounds: the measurements are 200 X 100 X 65 which add up to 365, how many days it is open in a year; everything used is Moroccan, such as the material, design and traditional Moroccan workers; the hammam baths use a special plastering technique called 'tadelakt’ which mixes egg yolks and the famous black soap into the plaster.
The famous cafe from Casablanca has been recreated within the town, something we avoided having never seen the film and being informed by our friends from the hotel that it was another tourist trap. Instead we explored the city by taxi as we were told of it's improvements since the new king stepped in, ridding of many of the mafias and corruption that went as far as the refuse workers. Instead, it is one of the most important economic hubs in Morocco which is visible from the sheer scale of new buildings. Although it's french influences can be seen down hidden side streets with the old art deco apartment blocks peeking through.
Heading to the old town to attempt the local markets are worlds away from their Marrakech counterparts. No aggressive street peddlers, no confusing windy alleys; instead a calming road where you can look but don't feel forced to buy. I stepped away with a beautiful authentic rug that I bartered down from £40 to £27.
The night life is also one I wish we had explored more. It is known that drinking is not a culture in Morocco due to the Islamic culture, but as long as you're more than 300m from a mosque (something the Four Seasons Casablanca sadly isn't) then alcohol is allowed to be served. Luckily along the seafront are an abundance of bars and clubs. We headed to Le Cabestan and instantly felt like we had stepped into a romantic comedy set in Manhattan. Beautiful women, urban music, exposed brick walls, hanging plants and expensive cocktails. The only difference? The panoramic views of the sea directly beneath the bar. We even noticed a bright pink club aptly named Flamingo Beach Club with flamingos galore that we sadly missed out on.
Staying at the Four Seasons was a big part of the trip that allowed the luxury of the seafront whilst instead modern environment, offering afternoon tea, a private pool and being just steps away from the beach. Whilst Marrakech is a must for anyone heading to Morocco, casablanca shouldn't be ignored just a few hours down the road for a completely different experience