Inside Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

The port city of Casablanca is a commercial hub sitting along the Atlantic Ocean. It has a French colonial past, which can be seen in its Mauresque architecture, which reflects the European Art Deco style of ornate wrought iron balconies, carved façades and friezes. Islamic architecture and Moorish style includes the horseshoe arches, central courtyards, Riad gardens, intricate carved wood designs and decorative tile works, which gets its roots from Andalucía in Spain and also Portugal. Casablanca's boulevards have been designed by French urban planners with a 20th Century feel.

Standing partially over the water the Hassan II Mosque is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. The minaret is the world’s 2nd tallest at 210 metres with a laser beam that points towards Mecca. The Mosque has some exquisite marble columns, chandeliers, wood carvings and horseshoe arches all produced by local artisans.

Located between the iconic Hassan II Mosque and the downtown area is Casablanca’s Old Medina. It may not have the historic vibe or appearance of other Moroccan Medina's but you can still see how the locals have lived for hundreds of years, while taking a slow walk through the narrow alleyways and enjoying the lively shops and stalls.

Sitting along the Casablanca coastline is the Boulevard de la Corniche with its palm lined boardwalk. On one side you will find some of the nicest sand beaches and on the other side local restaurants, bars, exclusive nightclubs and fast food chains. The sunset from the Corniche is one to savour. At the west end of the Corniche you will find the Morocco Mall the 2nd largest in the country.

A quiet alternative to the Old Medina is the Quartier Habous. It has plenty of intricate streets lined with horseshoe arcades, whitewashed buildings and cafés where you can stop for a coffee or a mint tea. The Habous is a traditional Moorish style Medina where you will be able to find all types of goods including Moroccan sweets, spices, tagines and leather goods.

The Muhammadi Mosque is another site to be enjoyed while in the Quartier Habous. It is a remarkable neo-Moorish style Mosque, named after Mohammed V. With spectacular chandeliers, polygonal columns and a courtyard modelled on the Moorish Mosques of Andalucía with a striking fountain made of marble.

Casablanca has over 2,500 in Jewish population. Here you will find kosher restaurants, schools and even a Museum of Moroccan Judaism. The museum is dedicated to Judaism in the Arab world. There is also a recreated jewellery making workshop from Saul Cohen displaying his tools and workbench. There are plenty of artefacts in the museum to enjoy including the 1944 Bimah from the Beni-Issakhar Synagogue. Casablanca has over 30 Synagogues and the Temple Beth-El has some of the nicest interiors to be seen due to its gold leaf, stained glass and chandeliers.

Other areas to explore and enjoy while staying in the city are the Place Mohammed V or as the locals call it “Pigeon Square”, this striking area comes alive in the evening when the fountain’s water has a light show display. The Derb Ghallef boasts the 2nd largest flea market in the country trading everything from antiques to clothes and electronics, it is a real bargain hunter’s dream location. The Mahkama du Pacha is a Parliamentary building that holds Casablanca’s Court of Justice. As per its name, this was also previously a residence for the Pasha (Governor). Complete with a Moorish style inner courtyard and an octagonal fountain this is worth a visit while in Casablanca.

If you want to feel some of that movie nostalgia, then the Interior of Rick’s Café is where you should head for that 1942 Bogart magic. At the north edge of the city’s Medina a replica of Rick Blaine’s gin joint is nestled, having opened in 2004. Inspired by the movie set, Rick’s Café is actually an upmarket restaurant in a historic courtyard mansion. Here you will find the horseshoe arches, stencilled brass light fixtures, balustrade balconies and palm fronds casting the mood over the white walls. There is even a genuine 1930’s Pleyel piano with live music from the 30's-50’s being played. One thing that won’t disappoint is that they will play 'As Time Goes By' at least once every night.

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