The neighborhoods of Casablanca, economic capital of Morocco
The architect and landscape architect Henri Prost, commissioned by the General Resident Lyautey, will make Dar el Beïda a modern city in keeping with the image of its European colleagues and its port, an important economic pole.
The new city housed the largest European community in Morocco, 60% of the population in its city centre and in the districts of Maârif, Black Rocks or Burgundy. Moroccans resided preferably in the old medina or in the Habous district, the new medina designed by the French and the shantytowns that began to grow in Ben M’ sick and the Central Quarries.
The heart of the new city, designed under the protectorate, extended, at the level of the avenue des FAR (Royal Armed Forces), south of the Burgundy neighborhoods and the old medina and corresponded to the current Derb Omar neighborhood.
True laboratory of modern architecture, the Art Deco buildings built from the 1920s onwards, which made its reputation, are now falling into decay. In fact, the neighbourhood, cluttered with rubble and garbage cans, stoned streets and noisy cafés, saw its legendary animation fled to neighbouring neighbourhoods such as Maârif.
The Medina of Casablanca
Behind the old 16th century ramparts, there is a tangle of narrow streets, mostly pedestrian and lined with hundreds of more or less artisan stalls. It is one of the facets of the old medina: medieval in its authenticity and a profusion of cheap’ made in China’.
It is located in front of the port in the northeast of the city and is originally composed of three districts: the medina itself, the mellah and the popular district of Tnaker.
Of modest size in comparison with those of the imperial cities, the medina of Casa is surrounded by four kilometres of walls pierced by several gates, including that of Bal el-Marsa, the naval gate, which directly overlooks the port and the ancient Portuguese dart.
This is the only one to have kept its original appearance. Bab Marrakech, built on Rue de Goulmima southwest of the ramparts, commands access from the city centre.
Ignored by the first Prost urbanization plan, the lots of land purchased from the Arabic-speaking tribe of Chorfas Maâroufis, which will constitute the future Maârif district, will form a village inhabited by Europeans from 1912 onwards.
In the thirties, there will also be emigrants of Oranese and Spanish origin…
After the installation of bus companies and tramways, French officials and merchants from mainland France will set up there in turn. The Moroccans lived in the outskirts of the present Derb Ghallef district.
Maârif has become the busiest and busiest place in the city, and has become a modern business district, with chic shops and fashionable stores. It is also a festive area with many western restaurants, bars, discotheques and trendy nightclubs.
Presumably in any megalopolis of the world, the Twin Center, the twin towers of Casa, 115 m high, serve as a beacon to the district while offering a splendid panorama.
At the crossroads of Zerktouni and Al-Massira Al-Khadra boulevards, the 28-storey building houses a shopping mall consisting of various shops and a five-storey supermarket and 93,000 m² of office space.
Inaugurated in 1998, the Twin Center was inaugurated in 1998 until the Morocco Mall was opened in 2011, the largest shopping centre in Africa.
New Medina. Habous quarter
Built under the protectorate from the 1920s onwards, it was designed as part of the urban planning plan commissioned by General Lyautey and directed by the French architect Henri Prost, as a traditional medina. It was initially home to a rural population from all over Morocco.
With mosques, hammams, souks, kissariat and foundouks around small squares and pedestrian streets giving it a Provençal look, its charm quickly conquered a relatively easy Moroccan population.
The new medina gathers many arcades offering a wide choice of craft products from all over Morocco: pottery, dinanderie, carpets, teapots, leather, traditional wooden furniture… to which are added many flea markets.
The Royal Palace, built by the Pertuzio brothers, is located in the northeast of the Habous district. Built in the early 1920s, it encloses magnificent Mediterranean gardens designed by Forestier in 1916.
Nearby, the Pasha Makhama, built after the war, served both as a courtroom and reception hall for the Pasha of Casablanca. The many rooms have all kinds of decorative motifs typical of the Spanish-Moorish architecture. Today, the Makhama is home to the Méchouar prefecture.
Jouxtant the districts of Maârif and Habous, it is the district of the joutia, a little the equivalent of a flea market.
There is an informal market, electronic parts and multimedia devices abound among manufactured goods and counterfeit goods, furniture, clothing, at generally affordable prices for a large part of the visitors.
Aïn Diab, the source of the wolves, extends southwest of the city between the marabout Sidi Abderrahman and the Anfa district.
The rocky point of Boulevard de la Corniche separates the beaches of Lalla Meryem and Aïn Diab. This last one, 2 kilometers long, stretches up to the marabout of the rocky islet Sidi Abderrahman.
Further southwest, between the beaches of Aïn Diab and Madame Choual, lies the Morocco Mall. Inaugurated in 2011, this gigantic shopping centre, the largest in Africa, offers 250,000 m² dedicated to leisure, catering and a showcase of major names.
We also discover the world’s 3rd largest aquarium and one of the world’s largest musical fountains.
Visits and monuments of Casablanca
Great Hassan Mosque II
True jewel of Islamic architecture, its minaret reaching 200 meters in height, and its surface area of 20,000 m2 gives it the title, at the time of its construction, of the third largest mosque in the world after Mecca and Medina.
Partly erected on the Atlantic Ocean, built over a total area of nine hectares, it includes a large prayer hall that can accommodate up to 25,000 faithful, 76 granite pillars support this masterpiece.
The vast esplanade surrounding the mosque can accommodate an additional 80,000 faithful. The complex is completed by a media library, an Academy of Traditional Arts and a Koranic school, and the ablutions ponds have been installed in the basement of the building.
Combining the most modern techniques with traditional Moroccan architecture and local craftsmanship, it was designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau and carried out by Bouygues. Construction began in 1986 and was completed in 1993. It will have mobilized about 3500 craftsmen and workers.
Among the modern techniques used: a rail sunroof allowing, according to the wishes of the deceased monarch, the air to be joined with the other three elements, an elevator to access the women’s floor, a floor heating system and vertical opening titanium doors mounted on jacks.
For the latter, the craftsmen carved no less than 53 000 m² of wood, manufactured and assembled 10 000 m² of zellige.
Access: The mosque is located between the ends of Corniche boulevards, Moulay Youssef and Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah. Public transport from Casa Voyageurs station. Count from 40 min to 50 min.
Visits: every day from 8 am to 5 pm. Admission: 10 €.
Museum of Moroccan Judaism
In the Oasis district, in an old orphanage for the protection of Jewish children, the Moroccan Judaism Museum is managed by the Judeo-Moroccan Cultural Heritage Foundation.
The museum has 4 rooms, one of which is used for temporary exhibitions. The other three are devoted to the important role played by the Hebrew community in Morocco since remote times. Numerous jewellery, traditional objects of religious or everyday life, furniture specific to the community are highlighted.
Address: 81 Chasseur Street Jules Gros.
Timetable: Monday to Friday from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m. Closed Saturday, Sunday and Jewish holidays.
Entrée: 2,50 €, guided tours: 4 €.
A Abderrahman Slaoui Museum
Abderrahaman Slaoui is an industrial, aesthete and humanist, a true discoverer of treasures. Throughout his life, he will constitute a collection of antique jewellery.
After its death in 2001, the Foundation will open this eponymous museum in a house from the 1940s in the heart of historic Casablanca, just south of the old medina, a few tens of meters from Boulevard de Bordeaux and Avenue des FAR.
In the museum rooms dedicated to Si Abderrahman’s private collection, we discover a unique collection of traditional jewellery, ancient orientalist posters, illuminations and Bohemian crystal caskets.
On the top floor, the Museum Café offers a reading room while sipping a glass of tea. Cocktails and conferences can also be organized there.
Access: 12 rue du Parc. Tramway: Mohammed V.
The following days are from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m., except during Eid holidays.
Enter: 3 €, reduced price for children and students: 1 €.
The Arab League Park
Formerly called Lyautey Park, the park, crossed by a vast palm grove, was designed in 1918. It is home to many exotic plants from Australia and Asia, such as hibiscus, yuccas and unknown palm varieties from the Maghreb.
In the vicinity of the park, rue d’ Alger, the Sacré-Coeur church was erected in 1930 in an Art Deco style.
On the edge of the old medina and Derb Omar, under the white arches topped by azulejos of this partly covered market, you will have a real festival of smells and colors.
Freshly caught, seafood and fish are a pleasant burden on the stalls. Flowers, meats, pyramids of fruits and vegetables, spices as varied as they are colourful, accentuate the senses in a joyful cacophony.
Don’t hesitate to make a few purchases there to cook them at low cost in one of the nearby gargotes…
Access: Mohammed V. Imajkazin Tramway. Stop 116.
Schedules: every day except public holidays from 7 am to 3 pm.
In June 1960, when the foundation stone was laid for the construction of the Samir refinery, the small port city of Fedala was renamed Mohammedia in honour of King Mohammed V, a symbol of Moroccan independence. Having become a major industrial hub, its port is Morocco’s main oil port.
From independence to independence in the 1980s, located only 25 km north-east of Casablanca, with a casino, closed since then, a marina, a royal golf course, a racetrack, major hotels, restaurants, Mohammedia was essentially a seaside resort very popular with Europeans in Casablanca.
In the northeast of Mohammedia, several beaches follow one another, some of them such as Mannesman or Port Blondin, which were used for the landing of the allies in North Africa in 1942.
The others, such as Yasmina, Santa Monica, La Siesta or Les Sablettes, are particularly suitable for surfing and the city has a water sports centre.
Several festivals are held within the city walls: the International Short Film Festival in April, the Flower Festival in June and the Mohammedia International Festival, which offers cultural activities, environmental awareness campaigns and concerts between the end of July and the beginning of August.
Equipped with a French cultural centre, the city is also equipped with horseback riding clubs, a karting circuit and a shooting club.
Mohammédia is connected to Casablanca by train and motorway, it is also served by many private or national bus companies.
80 km south-west of Casablanca, the ancient Mazagan founded by the Portuguese, still preserves its ramparts and bastions, witnesses to this Portuguese military architecture of the Renaissance, dominating the Atlantic Ocean.
The city was renamed El Jadida,”the New”, by the Alawite Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah when he took it back from the Portuguese in 1769.
Protected by ramparts topped by bastions, four of which were restored in the 19th century. The Angel’s bastion still retains its cannons pointed towards the ocean. The old town features white houses with beautiful ironwork balconies underlining the Portuguese influence.
Next to the old church of the Assumption there is a mosque whose minaret was built on the ruins of an ancient watchtower with 5 sides.
To get an overview of the city and a panorama of the ocean, it is best to walk the round path connecting the bastions.
The old fortress encloses the’ Portuguese cistern’, an old weapons depot transformed in 1541 into a huge cistern fed by rainwater. This one, because of the lighting on its architecture, 25 pillars assembled in keystone, associated with the plays of light reflected in the water, seduces a large number of photographers.
The National Haras of El Jadida
The National Haras of El Jadida
Built by Marshal Lyautey in 1913, it is the oldest of the Moroccan stud farms. Originally a purely military service, it was integrated into the civil service of the Ministry of Agriculture in 1946.
Renovated in 2014, the stud farm abras houses several dozen boxes, about fifty stalls, a saddlery and a forge, a carpentry and an equestrian center. It is also a place of general training for the equine sector.
Access: El Jadida is connected by train to Casablanca: 1 h 20 mins. and to Marrakech: 5 h 10 mins. and by several daily bus connections to both cities. Not to mention collective taxis.
The beach is separated from the Atlantic coils by a lagoon. Oualidia is located 80 km south of El Jadida or 160 km from Casablanca.
The lagoon beach is ideal for surfing, but it is nevertheless prone to tides. Vigilance of the currents is therefore required despite the supervision of a lifeguard in summer. The beach outside the lagoon is not recommended for its dangerousness.
What also makes the reputation of this small friendly resort is its seafood and especially its oysters raised in the lagoon.
daily connections by bus and large collective taxis for Safi and El Jadida.
Azemmour is a small town whose beautiful medina with white houses overlooks the mouth of the river Oum Er-Rabia, 17 km north of El Jadida and 80 km south-west of Casablanca.
Azemmour is a small town with white houses.
Still sheltered from mass tourism, its typical and preserved medina offers a quiet stroll, out of time, in its narrow lanes lined with craft shops.
Entirely encircled by ramparts covered by a walkway, several historic monuments, bastions, gates, mosques, hammams and large traditional houses with Portuguese architecture reminiscences nestling along the Er-Rabia Um, recall a past that was glorious time.
In his ancient mellah, a small synagogue still survives, recognizable by its Hebrew inscriptions which, like some of David’s stars carved on the doors of the mellah, recall the presence of an important Jewish community in the city.
Nevertheless, many historic buildings and buildings such as the Captain’s Office, Bordjs (former Portuguese forts), Dar El Kadi, or Dar El Baroud, the house of powder, are beginning to degrade.
2 kilometers from Azzemour, El Houzia offers a vast beach popular with surfers, windsurfers and bodyboarders.
For the little anecdote, one of its inhabitants, sold as a slave around 1503 and renamed Estevanico, is one of the four survivors of the Navaez expedition that ran aground on the Florida coast. He was the first, as a scout of the Conquistadores, to cross and discover Arizona and New Mexico before being killed by the Zuni Indians at Cibola, one of the mythical seven gold cities, in 1539.
Access: many daily connections by train or bus with El Jadida and Casablanca.