Dispatch from the White House

Day 3
En route to Marrakech, Morocco

Casablanca (or the “White House”) is a grimy, polluted and congested city. Crossing the street is like playing a game of Frogger and the blasting horns of the petite cabs are constant. Not surprisingly, few travelers visit Morocco’s largest city, and as tourists, we stick out and have tended to draw the stares and touts of those unfamiliar with Americans. We spent yesterday afternoon walking around the dusty and fume-filled downtown, visiting the Ancienne Medina and checking out the Art Deco architecture, remnants of the city’s French colonial past. The highlight, quite possibly, was the delicious glass of orange juice that Charlotte got at a small cafe.

Dinner at La Fibule in Ain Diab, a neighborhood northwest of the city center, was very good. We started with an assortment of traditional Moroccan salads and then shared a steaming chicken tagine, a slow-cooked and tender piece of lamb and a bottle of sauvignon from Meknes, a city east of here that we’ll be visiting once we get to Fes. All of this with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, the El-Hank Lighthouse and the Hassan II Mosque, where we just returned from.

The mosque is Casablanca’s only “tourist” attraction — and it alone might be worth a visit to this city. It is a tremendous religious structure that can accommodate 25,000 worshippers and an additional 80,000 in the surrounding courtyard and squares.

Partly built on backfilled land that juts out into the Atlantic, the mosque’s location was picked by Hassan II in referral to the Koranic verse: “The Throne of God was on water.”


To say that the 20,000 square meter prayer hall is vast might be an understatement. It’s large enough to house Paris’ Notre Dame or Rome’s St. Peter’s. A team of 10,000 craftsmen worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 years to complete its many intricate carvings. It is also one of only a handful of Islamic buildings that non-Muslims can enter into.

The color, design and attention to detail are just as mesmerizing outside:

Although the structure looks like it could have been built hundreds of years ago, it was actually completed in 1993. So, it also incorporates many modern features, like heated marble floors, a retractable roof and a laser beam that shines towards mecca from its minaret, the tallest in the world at 210 meters.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the sqala, a fortification from the 18th century on the north side of the medina. There were panoramic views of the port and surrounding area:

We had our cab driver take our picture before heading back to the hotel. You can see the Hassan II Mosque directly behind me.

Our train bound for Marrakech departs in an hour.

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Comments

  1. Marc and Charvagalotte– SO stalking the bloggy and it is by far the best reading of the day! The mosque in Casablanca is absolutely breathtaking in the pictures so I can only imagine. Have a great time in Marakech (maybe in your owner I’ll go to the resaurant of the same name for dinne rand dance with the belly dancers).
    xoxox Carly

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