Welcome back! Today, I'm excited to share my day in Casablanca, Morocco with you; it was a unique experience!
Above: Hasan II Mosque and courtyard, located on the coast of Casablanca.
Morocco is a country located in North Africa, part of the Maghreb region, in addition to Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, and Libya, with which it shares cultural, historical and linguistic ties. Morocco gained independence from France on March 2, 1956 and the city of Casablanca is now developing a tourism industry.
Above: A street (not atypical!) in Casablanca.
Casablanca is in western Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean and is Morocco's largest city as well as its chief port. Casablanca is considered the economic and business centre of Morocco, while the political capital city of Morocco is Rabat.
Above: Looking down the Boulevard de Paris in central Casablanca.
The city combines Hispano-Mauresque and Art Deco architectural styles, and is dotted with markets, street vendors and dusty streets. We explored the city in a large group which worked out well as I would have felt lost and a little intimidated on my own!
Above: A cafe in one of the market areas.
Almost all Moroccans speak either Berber or Moroccan Arabic as mother tongues. Many Moroccans master both languages at native-speaker level. Some of the locals we talked to also spoke a little French (which was useful), a legacy of the French sovereignty.
Above: One of the markets, located in the old Kasbah.
Casablanca is home to the Hassan II Mosque, designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau. Located on the ocean front, the mosque has room for 25,000 worshippers inside, and a further 80,000 can be accommodated in the mosque's courtyard.
Above: Visiting the Hassan II Mosque.
The minaret at the Mosque is the world's tallest at 210 metres and the mosque itself is the largest in North Africa, and the third largest in the world.
Above: Hassan II Mosque's Minaret, the tallest in the world.
Work on the mosque was started in 1980, and was intended to be completed for the 60th birthday of the former Moroccan king, Hassan II, in 1989. However, the building was not inaugurated until 1993. Authorities spent an estimated $800 million on the construction of the building.
Above: The impressive entrance to the Mosque.
Sadly, we did not have time to take a tour inside the Mosque (other than catching a glimpse through a door), but one of the guides was happy to let us wear his fez (for a tip of course):
Above: Fezzes are cool.
The Parc de la Ligue Arabe (formally called Lyautey) is the city's largest public park. On its edge is the Casablanca Cathedral (Cathédrale Sacré-Coeur).
Above: The Parc de la Ligue Arabe with Casablanca Cathedral in the background.
The Cathedral is longer in use for religious purposes, but it is open for visitors and a splendid example of Mauresque architecture.
Above: Casablanca Cathedral.
Above: Looking across from the park, towards a government building.
It was an incredible experience walking around the city. Many of the streets were very dirty and unpleasant but there was a real vibrancy and life to the city. Even more so than the Caribbean, this felt like a totally new culture, watching locals walking around in robes and seeing taxi drivers, kneeling by their cars in prayer.
Above: Taxi drivers praying.
We will be visiting another city in Morocco, Tangier, in August so I will be sure to bring you photos and stories from there. One of the most impressive things about the city, was the port where we docked. The Port of Casablanca is one of the largest artificial ports in the world, and the largest port of North Africa. It is also the primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy.
Above: Leaving the port where we had docked.
I'll leave you with the Moroccan sunset that bade us farewell as we headed for the Spanish coast.