210 Km north beyond Marrakech lies Casablanca. Eternally immortalised by the film classic ‘Casablanca’, the name of this city has an inviting and slightly mysterious ring to it. Except for its name, Casablanca is far less renowned than the imperial cities of Morocco but certainly worthwhile visiting.
I should however mention that before our recent visit to this exciting city I would not have recommended Casablanca to anyone. Enchanted as I am with the rural areas of Morocco as well as the Berber and Moroccan Islamic architecture, I remained biased towards Morocco’s modern metropolis. Casablanca is a city of trade, noisy and turbulent with perilous traffic. Apparently one only sees what one wishes to see because until now my eyes were mainly focussed on its ugliness and I always felt reluctant to visit. In fact, this time I was pleased to get away from the heat of Marrakech and without my reluctance the city showed itself as a marvellous blend of beautiful colonial and North African architecture and some great sites to explore.
In the centre of Casablanca is the Derb Omar market. The market has a history of 140 years of trade and apparently contains more than 2.300 shops to choose from! It’s a lively, colourful place and foremost heaven for those who appreciate fabrics. Unlike Marrakech where a visit to the souk can be highlighted by hassle, insults and deception by the sellers, we encountered nothing of the sort at the Derb Omar market. The traders were friendly, patient and surprisingly fair when it came to prices.
Casablanca is reasonably equipped for pedestrians, allowing us to explore part of the city on foot and discovering a few reminders of the French colonial past in the many little antique shops that are scattered throughout the city.
It is all of the above and more, that captures a unique atmosphere making Casablanca incomparable to Morocco’s more celebrated cities. Although it is doubtful that Casablanca will ever become my favourite city in Morocco, it definitely has won my appreciation and curiosity to see more.