City guide: Casablanca

Morocco’s economic center offers unique culture and cuisine.

Casablanca, Morocco’s economic center, is a gem of art and culture. The port city mixes urban grittiness and contemporary elegance. Its stunning buildings are a dream for architecture lovers. With a population of more than four million, Casablanca is the country’s most populous city and economic center. Arabic and French influences are apparent in all aspects of daily life—marketplaces, boutiques, restaurants and the city’s vibrant arts and nightlife. Casablanca is often a brief stopover between international destinations, but it rewards business travelers who take time to explore.

Getting to and from the airport

Mohammed V International Airport, Morocco’s busiest airport, is in the suburb of Nouasseur, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the city center. The train station is on Level  1 in the arrivals area of Terminal 1. Trains depart to Casablanca once an hour between 3 a.m. and 10 p.m. The journey takes about 30 minutes, and the cost is 30 Moroccan dirham (USD$3.21, using the exchange rate US$1 equals 9.35 Moroccan dirham, or MAD). CTM buses depart from the airport, and some airlines offer bus service to local destinations. Taxis are on Level 0 of Terminal 1 in the arrivals area; they’re available 24 hours a day. The rate for a journey to Casablanca is about 300 MAD.

Where to stay

For luxury accommodations, check out:

  • Hyatt Regency Casablanca, Place Des Nations Unies, Casablanca 20000; Ph: +212-5224-31234
  • Kenzi Tower Hotel LVX, Twin Center, Bd Zerktouni, Tour B, Casablanca 20100; Ph: +212-5229-78000

For upper-upscale lodging, try:

  • Sheraton Casablanca Hotel & Towers, 100 Avenue Des Far, Casablanca 20000; Ph: +212-5224-39494

Things to see and do

One of the country’s most prized architectural masterpieces is Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Morocco. Housing a library and a museum, the elaborate structure took more 6,000 Moroccan artisans over seven years to complete. A ticket costs about 134 MAD. Guided tours are from Saturday to Thursday. Non-Muslim visitors are allowed but must respect a strict dress code: no shoes and knees and shoulders must be covered.

Got a free afternoon after your meetings? Catch the vintage jewelry and bohemian glass exhibit at Abderrahman Slaoui Foundation Museum. The art deco villa is now a gallery showcasing the collection of Moroccan businessman Abderrahman Slaoui and art from rotating shows. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on certain holidays. Entry costs 30 MAD.

Pick up some souvenirs at the luxurious Morocco Mall, and on the way catch a gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean. Bypass the chain stores for traditional Moroccan crafts. Make a day of it. Stop by the aquarium, check out a 3D movie in the IMAX theater and grab a bite to eat at the global food court.

Where to eat

At Le Cuisto Traditionnel expect beautiful décor, traditional Moroccan cuisine and a friendly owner who shares local traditions and guides guests through the menu, offering personal recommendations. Find it at No. 3 Rue Abderrahman Sahraoui; Ph: +212 5222-73911.

If you can’t resist a tribute to the classic film bearing the city’s name, visit Rick’s Café. Less known for its food, the restaurant is a shrine to the movie down to the piano player nightly from Tuesday to Sunday. You’ll also find a roulette table and a large screen showing Casablanca. The menu features fresh vegetable and seafood dishes. The place swarms with tourists. The address is 248 Bd Sour Jdid, Place du jardin public; Ph: +212 5222-74207.

Dar Beida, in the Hyatt Regency Casablanca (Place des Nations Unies: Ph: +212 5224-31234), offers delicious authentic Moroccan cuisine. Come for the apricot lamb, seafood pastille and pastries. Stay for an experience that includes belly dancing and singers. Warning: They often invite guests to be a part of the show. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

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