Though we had a wonderful time in Casablanca Friday afternoon and evening, Saturday was the busier day. We got up early morning, and ate a quick breakfast in the hotel restaurant. It was my first breakfast here, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect! That being said, because the hotel is filled with tourists just like me, much of the food was westernized and similar to what I eat at home.
Breakfast at the hotel. The pancake-looking thing was some sort of cornbread.
After breakfast, we all piled onto a tour bus to see some of the city. Our first stop was Mohammed V Square. As the name might indicate, it was named after the former ruler. Surrounding this square are many of the public buildings and attractions like the courthouse and embassies. In addition to the main courthouse, there’s also a beautiful fountain and a fine arts theatre is being built.
The Casablanca Courthouse (Tribunal de première Instance)
Once we had taken our fill of pictures, we moved on to the Church of Notre Dame de Lourdes. This Roman Catholic church is so different in appearance from the rest of Casablanca. If I understood my tour guide correctly, this is because it was built by the French during WWII. The structure itself was modeled off the French Navy boat blueprints. I can definitely see the resemblance!
The boat-like Church of Notre Dame de Lourdes
Despite it’s unusual outside appearance, the church was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been in. All the windows were stained glass, and the entire building glowed.
The interior of the Church of Notre Dame de Lourdes
After the church we moved onto the Royal Palace Gates. Though Mohammed VI lives in Rabat most of the year, a place awaits him and his family for whenever they visit Casablanca. While we didn’t get to go in the palace, the gates into it are quite famous. One set is used for the staff and such, while the other is reserved for the king and any visiting dignitaries. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, these gates can be quite difficult to see. The palace is surrounded by a massive wall, patrolled by armed guards. It’s closed to all tourists and visitors of Casablanca. However, since our tour guide was a citizen of Morocco, he was able to use his ID card and we were allowed to accompany him on the palace grounds as his guests. We walked right up to the gates–some of us even touched them!
The Palace Gates
From there our guide had us walk through the Habous Quarter, the new part of the city. Walking up and down the aisles of this market was like something out of a dream. It looked exactly like everyone thinks a Middle Eastern market (though technically I’m not in the Middle East) looks like. I was half expecting to see Aladdin and Abu running around.
The Habous Quarter
There were some cool shops I would have loved to stop in, but we were on a mission. Our tour guide kept yelling, “Yallah! Yallah!” which means “Let’s go!” It was probably for the best though, since Casablanca is so overpriced compared to the rest of Morocco. Besides, I’m going to be going to the Meknes medina on Saturday! So I’ll be able to do plenty of shopping then.
After our adventures in the new city, we headed to our last guided part of the day–Hassan II Mosque. Though we aren’t usually allowed in mosques, this one is an exception. I’m very glad that I could go into this one. It was absolutely stunning. It took 6 years to complete, so it’s clear that the Hassan II Mosque was a labor of love. The finished product is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. During big worship services, such as the ones during Ramadan, the mosque can hold up to 25,ooo worshipers! When the guide told us this, I believed it. I wish my pictures could show the scale a bit better–it was massive! However, the best part about our visit was intangible.
When we all entered the mosque, a hush fell over the group. Even though many of us are not Muslim, or even religious, to be in such a revered place was awe-inspiring. It’s indescribable beyond that.
Hassan II Mosque
The mosque was a fascinating way to end the day. Though it was a whirlwind, I loved my days in Casablanca!