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Casablanca 2015

Originally published on www.businesstraveller.asia 31/12/2014 - Filed under: Home » City Guides » Middle East and Africa »

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La Corniche 

Start your tour with a stroll along the beach on the Boulevard de la Corniche, a lovely promenade with great views over the Atlantic. If it’s a nice day, start at the Morocco Mall – the largest shopping centre in Africa, and give your legs a good stretch. Surrounded by restaurants, upmarket beach clubs, hotels, cinema complexes and swimming pools by the sea, the area is sometimes referred to as the French Riviera of Africa and is always bustling with local families and tourists alike. At night the area really comes alive, with a buzzing party-like atmosphere. 

Hassan II Mosque

Follow the coastline towards the Port of Casablanca and you’ll pass the Hassan II Mosque on your left, the largest mosque in Africa, with the world’s tallest minaret. It will take a good hour if you’re walking from the Morocco Mall, otherwise hop in a taxi for a quick 10-minute trip costing around MAD30 (US$4) . This monumental building was commissioned by its namesake, King Hassan II, and was completed in 1993. It is perched on a rocky outcrop over the sea, due to a verse in the Koran that suggested Allah’s throne was built on water, and there is a section of glass-panelled flooring so worshipers can see Allah’s water below. Other features include heated flooring, a retractable roof and a laser on top that points towards Mecca. English-speaking, one-hour guided tours are available for visitors at 9am, 10am, 11am and 2pm, Saturdays to Thursdays. The cost is MAD120 ($US13) per person. 

La Sqala 

Continue on the Boulevard Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah for about 20 minutes and stop into La Sqala for a quick coffee or lunch to enjoy this historic building. The restaurant is located inside an 18th-century fortress on the edge of the medina (old walled city) near the Port of Casablanca. This rustic retreat is a welcome oasis from the dry streets with a charming outdoor garden. There is no alcohol, but it is a great spot for Moroccan food, with tagines being a particular speciality. The price is fairly reasonable, with mains costing around MAD 90-160 ($US10-18). Alternatively, hail a taxi and stop off at the Sheraton Casablanca for a bite of lunch at Dafra restaurant. Each day there is a seasonally inspired set menu available with a focus on fresh local ingredients from the nearby markets, in addition to buffet and à la carte options. restopro.ma/sqala

Place Mohammed V 

From the Sheraton Casablanca, head east on Far Avenue towards Zallaqa Square. Once there, turn right onto Rue M Smiha, before turning left onto Boulevard Mohammed V. This administrative centre is the heart of modern-day Casablanca and a top tourist destination, where architectural wonders from the 20th century surround a gorgeous fountain. Notable buildings include the courthouse, City Hall (or the “Wilaya”) and the General Post Office. At certain times of the day, the fountain dances along to music. On the eastern side, Place Mohammed V has a public garden where locals and tourists can enjoy relaxing. For some authentic, local flavour, keep your eyes open for the water sellers in their bright-red costumes. Apparently the custom of selling water dates back many years – but take note – if you want to have your picture taken with them expect to pay a small fee!

Habous Quarter 

No tour would be complete without a visit to Habous Quarter, also known as the New Medina. It’s about a 30-minute walk to the south, but is probably easier to jump in a cab. The journey should cost about MAD24 (US$3). In this traditional neighbourhood you can buy handcrafted souvenirs from various souks and bazaars, admire the mix of 1920’s colonial French architecture and traditional Maghrebi buildings, and enjoy a wide range of local foods. For an afternoon treat, try one of the award-winning pastries at Patisserie Bennis Habous – one of the city’s most famous patisseries. Other nearby highlights on Boulevard Victor Hugo include sights such as the Royal Palace of Casablanca.

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