I was in Casablanca for less than 24 hours and don’t even really feel comfortable blogging about it. However, if you’re also using Casablanca as a connecting city from Northern Morocco to Southern Morocco, this may be of use for you. But I’m just gonna be honest, I don’t know shit about Casablanca, and my perceptions and recommendations might be hella basic.
Before Leaving America, The Language, and What to Pack
Visas are not required for American citizens. At customs, they’ll just stamp your passport and you can move on.
What to pack depends on what time of year you’re visiting. Morocco is a cold country with a hot sun. During the summer I would pack my lightest clothing, and during the winter you could get away with shorts while the sun is out, but at night bring a light jacket. In addition, you’ll need to pack an electrical adaptor and converter for European style outlets.
Arabic is the most used language here followed by French. English or Spanish will get you nowhere.
If you want to change your money at the airport, that’s fine. The difference is not that much in the city if you’re changing over $320 (you get a special rate). In general, 10 dirham is equal to approximately $1 USD.
How to get to Casablanca
I came by bus from Chefchouen, but you can also fly or train in from any major city.
The bus from Chefchouen to Casablanca cost 100 dirham + 5 dirham/bag ($10 + $0.50). However, I don’t recommend this mode of transportation. Use CTM bus company if possible. Unfortunately, the CTM office was closed when we booked. We ended up with a ticket on a bus company called Voyage’s, (yes, with an apostrophe “s”) which ended up being ratchet as hell.
Firstly, Voyage’s buses don’t have heat or air so in the winter it’s like a prison cell. It’s so cold you can’t even sleep to numb the pain. This bus will take you across Morocco not in the promised 6 hours, but in 8 because it stops at every village in existence. Sometimes it doesn’t even stop; people just hop on while it’s still moving. You’ll also see people from all walks of life, similar to your local city bus. For example: an old man complete with a long white beard, floor length robe, and cane entered the bus, walked up and down the aisle chanting, and then got off the bus. Or two women in hijab and bathrobes who hopped on only to be kicked off because they refused to pay for a seat.
Also keep in mind, people give no fucks. So if they titty slap your face on the way to find their seat, don’t expect them to apologize or even acknowledge that their long breasts aggressively touched your forehead. I recommend the window seat. In addition, personal space…LOL, what is that? There could be 100 empty seats on the bus, and the Moroccans will choose to sit right next to you. I promise.
Regarding safety, I think you won’t die. But don’t put any of your luggage in the overhead compartments because we saw people steal from each other as they went to use the restroom. And when confronted, they still gave no fucks. The bus driver gives absolutely zero fucks in that he ran into another bus, like on purpose. Then shouted at the other bus driver as if it wasn’t his fault. Then the other bus driver gets out of his bus and starts shouting at our bus driver. Then we continue on our way like nothing ever happened. Actually, I changed my mind. You should take this bus if you want a full Moroccan cultural experience. Cause this shit is real.
Once you get into Casablanca, there will be taxi men bombarding you. Just tell them where you’re going, they’ll write you a ticket and stick you in a petite taxi and take you direct to your address. The petite taxis in Casablanca are red. If you took CTM, you’ll be at a different bus stop and you can walk across the street of Mohammad V, where you can take the tramway to any destination you like.
Transportation within Casablanca
Uber works in Casablanca, so if you have wifi I would use that. If no, there is a tramway that takes you to all of the major landmarks. Here’s a map for you, not sure if it will be of much use.
The tramway is above ground and gets crowded. The cost is 6 dirham ($0.60) per trip. You’ll need to pay in coins or credit card. Then to get in, hold your card up to the machine in front of the gates, and you can walk in. In order to get out you’ll need to scan your card again. Don’t be basic and hold up the line like I did by not having your card out and ready, cause I was like why the fuck can’t I get out? It starts running at 530AM and stops running at 1030PM.
Petite taxi is the most expensive and fastest way to get around in Casablanca, but still relatively inexpensive. It’s cheaper if you speak French or Arabic. They are RED cars with TAXI signs at the top, and you can just flag them down. Depending on the attitude of your taxi driver, he could be chill or he could be old school and use his taxi as a bumper car where he gets into mini-accidents by nudging other cars with his car during traffic, as if telling them to move.
How to leave Casablanca
The train to and from Casablanca picks up/drops off in Rabat, Safi, Kenitra, Aeroport Mohammed V, Kourigba, Oued Zem, El Jadida, Settat, Berrechid, Oujda, Taza, Fes, Meknes, Nador, Beni Nsar Port, Selouane, Taourirt, and Marrakesh. So if you’re in a place like Chefchouen or Tangier, you’ll need to bus to one of those cities and then pick up the train. The train company is called ONCF and is 100 times more comfortable than the bus. You can stop at your local train station and pick up a pamphlet that shows the timetables for each line. However, the trains don’t always come on time. Be sure to buy a first class ticket.
The train station in Casablanca is called Gare L’Oasis and is a short walk from the tramway stop Gare Oasis so wherever you are in Casablanca, just take the tram to the train station.
Things to do in Casablanca
Like I said before, we were only here for 24 hours and were just coming to rest on our journey from northern Morocco to southern Morocco. The obvious thing we made sure to see was the Hassan II Mosque. My most honest reaction was,“This is beautiful, but they could have done more.” I guess after you’ve seen the dramatics of the cathedrals in Europe and are expecting just as much if not more extreme detail that you so often see in Arab tiling and mosaic, it was just like meh. Why is there so much beige? It looked as if they started to tile, and then got tired and gave up. However, the complex is enormous, a lot larger than I was expecting. In addition, it’s set right against the sea, which is absolutely stunning. Read about it’s retractable ceiling and architectural details and history here.
You can get there by tramway by getting off at the stop Place Nations Unies, making a left and walking through the medina. You’ll see the mosque in the sky. Follow the minaret (which is the tallest in the world). At night there will be a laser shining from the top toward Mecca.
There are guided tours of the Mosque, which I was surprised by since normally you’re not allowed to enter a Mosque if you’re not Muslim. But you are extremely welcome to go inside with the tour (cost 120 dirhams or $12 for adults) and learn about the history. I would just make sure to be respectfully covered. (I don’t think that’s a rule, but just saying don’t be basic.) The tour times seem to change depending on the season so it’s best to check when you get there.
What to avoid in Casablanca
I would not say to avoid this, but just to be aware that the medina is not a pretty place by any means. It’s what you see in regular third world market places. It kind of threw me off since Casablanca is more modern than the rest of Morocco, but its medina was so grimy. You’re 360 degrees surrounded by people who are in constant motion. You’re bound to get hit by a cart, motorcycle, or grumpy old lady. There are no storefronts. The goods are just displayed on the floor, tarp roofs if you’re lucky. These aren’t really hand-crafted goods, more like used clothing, pipes, buckets, shit people need for everyday.
Where to stay and where to eat in Casablanca
The best thing about Casablanca was our accommodations. Zellige’s house aptly named L’Oasis was built when the French came to Morocco and rebuilt the city. Her husband’s family was the original architects and builders of the new Casablanca and has been there for 5 generations. The house is immaculately decorated, the garden is stunning, and it’s a true escape from all the shit outside. It’s also a 5-minute walk to the tramway and train stop.
We ate at Rick’s Café, the one used in the movie Casablanca, and about a 20-minute walk from the Mosque. The dinner was fantastic. A T-bone steak complete with sides was $18. A half a bottle of Moroccan wine was $22. (It was my splurge day, usually I spend $12 on all 3 meals during the day.) It was too much to finish and the ambience was really romantic. But keep in mind that the Rick’s Café in the movie is actually a replica, and that not one Arab was used in that movie. So basically, it’s fake and romanticized. That’s not what the rest of Casablanca is like.
I’m gonna be real, I didn’t come here for the movie, I came here because I needed a glass of wine and it was one of the few establishments that sold alcohol. #BAAASSICCC. Don’t even care.
Life & Culture
Ok, so where the fuck is the white house? Like why is it named Casablanca if there is no damn white house? Also, why is it in Spanish when everyone speaks French? Apparently, it comes from when the Portuguese ruled the area and called it Casabranca because there were white houses around the city. Then during the Spanish rule it changed to Casablanca. Mmmmmk.
While Casablanca is much more modern than the rest of Morocco since it’s the economical capital, it still ain’t shit. I would not plan a trip to come here. And I use the word modern with hesitation. It looks like it used to be a nice European city regarding architecture. It also has electronic billboards and high-rises. However, all the buildings look like they were never kept up and never truly got rid of it’s 3rd world personality. So, like your ghetto friend that tries to act bougie, that is Casablanca personified. At night, when you can’t see all the dirt, things looked a lot more romantic than during the day.
In summary, skip this city.