The most densely populated region and the economic heart of Morocco, Greater Casablanca (a prime area) has a regional population of nearly 4 million. Of this number, some 3.3 million reside in the famous city of Casablanca. This region along the Atlantic coast is divided into 2 provinces, Médiouna and Nouaceur, and 8 prefectures (boroughs): Ain Chock Hay Hassani, Ain Sebaa-Hay Mohammedi, Ben Msik-Sidi Othmane, El Fida-Derb Soltane, Mechouar Casablanca, Sidi Bernoussi-Zenata, Mohammedia and Casablanca-Anfa.
A view of Casablanca is breathtaking, with a sweep of white buildings along broad boulevards. Made famous by the Humphrey Bogart film, Casablanca is Morocco’s largest and most modern city. Although the political capital of Morocco is Rabat, Casablanca is often and justifiably referred to as the economic capital of the country. It is also the country’s main transportation centre, being the site of the bustling port of Casablanca and one of Africa’s largest airports, the Casablanca Mohamed V.
Also known as Casa or Dar el Baida, Casablanca was a small trading post until the beginning of the 20th century. These days it buzzes with industrial and commercial activity, as it is where the leading Moroccan and international companies are based. It has a vast central market, burgeoning with seafood straight from the Atlantic Ocean, fresh produce of all kinds, and African blooms. There is a great variety of shops here, from Moorish antique and décor shops to international designer boutiques.
Casablanca now largely resembles a modern Southern European city. One of its main tourist attractions is its cosmopolitan nightlife, with a wide range of entertainment ranging from chic European bars to colourful Arabic discos. But the old city is still there, recognizable from the film. Casablanca’s vintage architectural gems include some outstanding 1920s-30s structures with a mixture of European and traditional Moroccan elements. Landmark Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings can be found along the Boulevard de Paris, Boulevard Mohammed V and Avenue Lalla Yacout, and in the Gauthier district. Reminiscent of the 16th arrondissement in Paris, the buildings are adorned with details like wrought-iron balconies and curved ornaments. Downtown, the quirky pastel-coloured 1940s Rialto Theatre stands out. But the most magnificent building in the city is the Hassan II Mosque, with its lofty 656-foot minaret and palatial interior decorated with mosaics and chandeliers. It is the third-largest mosque in the world and one of the few mosques in Morocco where non-Muslims are permitted to enter. Ain Chock is a neighbourhood in southeast Casablanca, known mainly as the site of the schools of the Hassan II University.
Situated by the Atlantic Ocean, Casablanca is temperate during summer and mild and rainy in winter. The best time to visit Casablanca is from July to September. Just a few kilometres north of Casablanca are some seaside resorts. Their facilities are not the best in Morocco, but the Mohammedia has a fine golf course.
According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting, which provides advice to multinational companies on international assignments, Casablanca is 119th in the global ranking of the world’s most liveable cities based on 39 key quality-of-life issues, including political stability, currency-exchange regulations, political and media censorship, school quality, housing, the environment and public safety.
The beach suburb of Ain Diab has a fine oceanside promenade, the Boulevard de la Corniche. Some of the best restaurants in Casablanca can be found here, and it is a delightful place for a stroll, especially at night, with its many street vendors and vibrant nightlife.
This area is also home to some stunning Art Deco structures. In the eastern zone of the market place Corniche d’Ain Diab are a famous lighthouse and the Palais Ibn Seoud library. This commune is also famous for hosting a round of the Formula One world championship back in 1958.
Ain Sebaa is an industrial district in north-east Casablanca. Settlements for factory workers can be found here.
Upscale and westernized Anfa is a major business district of Casablanca. It is seeing plenty of urban development in recent years, with a huge medical complex being constructed in it.
A quiet, elegant district, Gauthier is known for its many fine Art Deco structures.
Coastal Bourgogne is a mixed-income, westernized district, with upscale and middle-class neighbourhoods not far from lower-income areas.
The central quarter of Bélvèdere is a beautiful area, with parks and wide boulevards. It is a mixed commercial and residential district with several schools, offices, and commercial establishments.
Oasis is a one of Casablanca’s most upscale neighbourhoods. It has a number of sports clubs and is known to be a quiet area.
California is an upmarket Casablanca neighbourhood, with gated communities and lovely green spaces.
Quartier des Hopitaux
True to its name, the Quartier des Hopitaux is the location of several medical centres. It is also very close to Casablanca’s downtown.