A magical experience on the bridge between Europe and Africa
Morocco’s biggest city and commercial capital, Casablanca (Dar el Baida in its literal Arabic form) is the Maghreb’s largest port, and busier than Marseilles, on which it was modelled by the French.
Casablanca’s most obvious sight, a not to be missed stop in any Mediterranean cruises, is the Mosquée Hassan II, and it also has the only Jewish museum in the Muslim world, but the city’s true delight remains the Mauresque and Art Deco architecture built during the colonial period. When you are cruising the Mediterranean Sea with MSC Cruises Casablanca, just over Gibraltar, can be a bewildering place to arrive, but once you’re in the centre, orientation gets a little easier.
It’s focused on a large public square, Place Mohammed V, and most of the places to stay, eat, or see, are located in and around the avenues that radiate from it. A few blocks to the north, still partially walled, is the Old Medina, which was all there was of Casablanca until around1907.
Just to the west of both the port and Casablanca’s downtown area, the Old Medina dates largely from the late nineteenth century. The Medina has a slightly disreputable air but it isn’t sinister, and it can be a good source for cheap snacks and general good on an MSC Mediterranean cruise excursion. A small eighteenth-century bastion, the Skala, has been restored, with some old cannons and an upmarket café-restaurant. Raised on a rocky platform reclaimed from the ocean, the Hassan II Mosque was designed by French architect Michel Pinseau; it is open to non-Muslims on accompanied one-hour visits that also visit the mosque’s huge and elaborate basement hammam.