Atlas North: A Tour through Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria
Arriving in Casablanca and spending a day to tour the city with stops at Hassan II Mosque, the Old Medina, Habous, La Corniche, and the Morocco Mall.
To spend a day exploring Casablanca, we had to start off early from Fez. Catching a 5:10 a.m. train, we arrived in the city just over three hours later.
We jumped into a taxi and headed to our hotel, Art Palace Hotel.
After we checked in and settled into the roomy suite, we started our tour of the largest city of Morocco.
Hassan II Mosque
We started with a short walk to the largest mosque in Africa, sitting right on the edge of the Mediterranean. It is also the 7th largest in the world by area. Designed by the French Michel Pinseau, it was completed in 1993 at an estimated cost of $400 – $700 million.
Downstairs is where you purchase tickets (120 MAD) before entering the mosque. This is the only mosque that can be visited in Morocco by non-muslims.
They offered tours in multiple languages, so we entered and joined the English one. The lady was friendly and spoke very precisely. The tour took us through the main room with explanations on the way.
We also saw the sea view, went down into the hammams and baths.
Next we grabbed a taxi to the old city of Casablanca.
The old medina was a short ride from the mosque. The main entrance is by a busy street. We walked around inside, but the medina was no where near as impressive as the ones we saw in Marrakech and Fez.
Not needing any cheap souvenirs we passed through the old walls.
We wandered around downtown a bit where people were busy with their work day and then caught a taxi to habous.
This area also called the “new medina” is famous for its traditional clothing shops and souvenirs. Built by the French in the 1930s, the surrounding buildings are a mix of Moroccan and French styles. Though picturesque with a good selection in the stores, there wasn’t much more expect shopping.
After a coffee break, we took a forty minute taxi ride to the largest mall in Africa. I had a good nap in the car.
This mall was very modern, located on the coast, quite far from downtown. There was an IMAX theater, high-end stores and eateries. Opened in 2011 it is the largest mall in Africa with 250,000 m2 (2,690,978 sq ft) of floor space. It held the Guinness World Record for “largest in-store shop facade”.
Towards the end we found the massive 1 million litre aquarium, “Aquadream”, with a public viewing area. There was plenty of armed security around as well.
We sat outside for a delicious ice-cream then left the mall for a walk along the beach. There was a small village built on the rock outcrop around the The Shrine of Sidi Abderrahman, which is only open to muslims. There was a new bridge to give access to the area that once was only accessible at low tide.
As we were quite near a shanty town with some shifty characters about, we hailed a taxi to the coastal nightlife area.
There were some upscale hotels and a lot of bars in this seaside area. We stopped at a cafe for a drink. For some reason I decided to try an avocado shake which was basically drinking guacamole.
When most of the establishments on the street were cafes or bars, we eventually decided to eat at the prevalent McDonalds. In general I try to avoid fast food when visiting a new country, but I must say that this specific McDs was the most amazing one I’ve ever set foot into. Firstly it occupies an entire waterfront view with outdoor seating, a kid’s play area and a cafe and ice cream stand. The interior looked more like a cigar lounge with leather couches and artsy furniture. Why are fast food joints always so special in other countries? Like the KFC in Ulan Bator.
We tried a chicken burger which tasted like chicken and rice with white sauce. After our feast, we jumped in a taxi to the hotel.
Settling in for the evening, we soon slept.
The next morning, Napo and I would complete our Moroccan adventure and I was on my way to Tunisia.