Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco’s Industrial Port

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When we arrived in Casablanca, Morocco last Saturday, it wasn’t exactly the sexy image you might expect to see.

Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco
Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco

But I’d venture to say that all 900 of us aboard the M/V Explorer were so happy to see land after an eight-day Atlantic crossing that any sign of stationary life was a happy sight.

The nice thing about the Port of Casablanca is that just beyond its boundaries, the city begins—unlike the majority of port cities we’ll be visiting.

I had to work at the ship those first two mornings at port, so SVV and I stuck around Casablanca and went on Semester at Sea’s city orientation excursion when I was done on Saturday afternoon.

We also brought along a friend from the United States, Violet, who will be appearing in photos from time to time with her partner-in-crime Trixie, who opted to stay on the ship at this stop.

Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco
Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco

Most people we know who arrive in Morocco via Casa head straight for the train station as soon as they step foot in Casablanca to visit Fes, Marrakech, Rabat or practically any other Moroccan city instead.

Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco
Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco
It’s true: Casablanca isn’t the most beautiful of cities—in fact, SVV described it as “Detroit circa 1992”—but rather, it’s industrial and quite gritty. Still, the city orientation through Semester at Sea was interesting and offered a solid introduction to Moroccan culture and history.
Casablanca, Morocco

Before you ask, no, we did not go to the famous cafe from the eponymous movie. We did, however, head out to Corniche where all the wealthy folk live.

Which was further evidenced by the fact that our bill rang up to $12 for two Cokes and a water once we made a pit stop at a seaside cafe for energy-providing substance.

Without a doubt, the most beautiful part of the city is just down the way from Corniche, where the famed mosque guards over the Atlantic Ocean.

On any given day, thousands of mosque-goers and tourists alike mill about in the plaza in front of the building.

The mosque is 689 feet tall and can accommodate a whopping 105,000 worshipers. It’s pretty modern, too, with a heated floor, electric doors, and a sliding roof; there’s even a laser at the top of the minaret that can be seen for 18 miles!

Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco
Cruising to Casablanca, Morocco

At first, I was hesitant to go snap-happy at such a holy place, but when I saw many Muslim families climbing into the fountain for pictures, I didn’t feel as bad.

After all, if you can’t beat them, join them.

We also stopped by a Roman Catholic church on the way with the most impressive collection of stained glass I’ve ever seen in my life.

The whole room glowed like the brightest rainbow.
Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca is one of those “been there, done that” cities—the majority of SAS participants immediately took off for more exotic locales, which was definitely a smart idea—but at least now I can say I’ve seen it.

COMMENTS
  • September 8, 2011

    Great photos!

  • September 8, 2011

    Love the intricate tile and glass architecture. Otherwise, “Here’s lookin’ at you kid.”

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      We meant to watch Casablanca again before visiting the port, we really did, but somehow never found the time! So now I’m going to have to have a retroactive viewing party as I haven’t actually seen the movie in probably 10 years.

  • September 8, 2011

    so. fan.tastic. I just adore your adventures.

  • September 8, 2011

    12 bucks for 2 cokes and a water? Holy shiz! The stained glass photos are lovely though. And whats an adventure without a few expensive cokes? I just decided I had to have KFC here the other day, setting me back $26 dollars. And for Chiang Mai, that’s a fortune.

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      Let’s just say, I might have expected to pay that in, say, Scandinavia, but in Morocco? Heck no! Lesson learned: Negotiate price of a Coke BEFORE ordering =)

    • September 10, 2011

      I’m just sad that you also didn’t get a Double Royale with Cheese (yeah metric system!)

  • September 8, 2011

    I love that you guys brought your little friends. What a neat experience for a young girl! (And maybe a way to open up her own love of travel?)

    Also, the picture of you two in the fountain? Might be a little more holy if SVV wasn’t wearing a shirt that says “Eat Me.” Just saying.

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      I know, right? This also occurred the day after we’d had a “cultural sensitivity” meeting. Sigh. Boys.

  • September 9, 2011

    Oh dear, I’d make a terrible detective. If my eyes hadn’t falled by chance on the words “Eat Me” in the comment above, I’d never have noticed it in the picture. 🙂 I did look rather intently at the stained glass photographs though as I always find it fascinating. There’s seems to be so much of it so I’m guessing it was a rather impressive sight.

    Also, I remember being disappointed by Casablanca when I spotted it in some odd movie. I guess the film Casablanca is to blame, as I tend to attach a romantic flavour to the place simply because of it.

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      Haha, I didn’t even notice the irony of him wearing that shirt until I saw the photos once we uploaded them! And it is ironic that one of the most famous romances is set in one of the grittiest cities.

  • September 9, 2011

    I rather enjoy taking a look at places that are more industrial and workaday. they’ve always offer new insights –suchas your photos of the docks, and of the Musclim familes snapping photos at the mosque. thanks for sharing your trip.

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      Scott loves that, too–he’s the one who takes all the industrial/machinery/cargo-like photos that appear on this site, such as the first two =) You two would make good travel companions!

  • September 9, 2011

    Thinking about going to Morocco this summer . . . would you say it’s safe for kids (2 teenagers)?

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      If you’ll be with them, yes I think you’ll be fine. I wouldn’t necessarily send two teenagers out into Morocco without adult supervision, though!

      I would say look into Marrakech, Essaouira and possibly a camel trek to a nomad camp in the desert–those seem like the parts that would most appeal to kids and teens.

  • September 9, 2011

    Interesting to see the mosque and the RC church all in one post! Diversity…

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      Ha, so true. I was definitely not expecting to go into a Roman Catholic church while in a Muslim country!

  • September 9, 2011

    When I was in Morocco in January, we were with a bunch of diplomats, so what I saw was the inside of a delicious Indian restaurant, and then we took a tour of the Casablanca brewery. Which was delightful! (And frankly, surprising that they had a brewery in a Muslim country, but whatevs.) But that was it–I agree with SVV’s description of it as being Detroit 1992. Totally apt.

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      Oooh, I bet you did Casablanca in high style, traveling with diplomats and such! Where did you guys stay? I had NO idea Casa had a brewery!

      • September 9, 2011

        Since my friends are living in Rabat (as he is a diplomat), I stayed there the whole time in their lovely apartment, except for one night when we had an overnight to Marrakech and stayed in a fabulous riad. It was beautiful. It was pretty swanky, heading to Casa with the diplomats, and we even went to a cocktail party at the CG’s house. Funny, because for them it was pretty routine, but I had wide eyes the whole time. Particularly when the CG’s husband gave a talk in the library about how the house was used as a strategic meeting place for Churchill and some other notables. It was wild.

        • September 9, 2011
          Kristin

          We also stayed in a really awesome riad (El Fenn) for two nights in Marrakech! And I’m totally doing the stay-in-my-friend’s-swanky-diplomat-pad while in Japan next month, too =)

  • September 9, 2011

    Morocco is very near the top of my list of places I want to go with my kids – and now you’ve got me thinking about it again! Love the story about Violet and Trixie – will be watching to see the interesting places that they show up in.

  • September 9, 2011

    Looks incredible!

    ~Becca

  • September 9, 2011

    Sea containers! Can I have one?! (Seriously, we could use it for moving, and storage at my future FBO). How did the Coke taste? My favorite Coke comes from Canada. The worst Coke is from Mexico, and I know everyone but me loves it. Happy travels!

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      I’ve actually never had Mexican coke but people sure do seem to love that stuff. The Coke was actually Diet Coke (versus Coke Light) and other than not being cold or served with ice, it was surprisingly similar to the DC I’m used to. Though my co-worker bought a six-pack from there, and it tastes WAY sweeter than the stuff we get in the US!

      Also, Scott and I dream of swiping one of those containers and outfitting our house with all Moroccan designs from the souks. One day…

      • September 10, 2011
        SVV

        Umm, honey.. Mexican coke is definitely popular but I’m going to leap to the assumption that you’re referring to Mexican (capital C) Coke.

        It’s made from cane sugar in other countries, I believe.

        • September 12, 2011
          Auntie Joy

          I believe that Mexican coke is also made with cane sugar, which is why it is popular.

  • September 9, 2011

    If you uploaded this pictures on the ship, I greatly admire your patience. Be sure to try the Cokes in Mauritius.

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      An M/V Explorer alum, I see 😉

      I learned the very first day that photos + ship Internet access do not = easy posting, so I’ve been trying to upload the majority of my photos on land and then add the text and publish once we’re sailing again!

      Coke, Mauritius, got it!

  • September 9, 2011

    Beautiful photos. We skipped Casablanca and headed straight to Marrakech. I had heard mixed reviews, and that it was more of a gritty seaside port than a destination, so given time constraints we passed. Looks like had a great time, though. Be sure to have a martini at Rick’s.

    • September 9, 2011
      Kristin

      We tried, but our tour guide told us that Rick’s no longer operates as a bar, just as a restaurant that is reservations-only! We did go to Marrakech for my two days off; I’d been there in 2005 and, man, I really love that city.

  • September 10, 2011

    105,000 worshipers?! I can’t imagine how big the mosque must be. Rio has a cathedral which has room for 20,000, and it’s huge, so I can’t quite wrap my brain around 5 times that.

    Glad you were able to make the best of Casablanca even if it’s not the most popular city in Morocco.

    • September 12, 2011
      Kristin

      I grew up in a church with 1,000 members, and I thought that was big!

  • September 11, 2011
    JeJe

    Now I never have to go…

    • September 12, 2011
      Kristin

      You can go back to Marrakech with me when Scott and I return to outfit our fictitious home.

  • September 11, 2011
    Hal

    Sounds like a fun experience. My only encounter with Morocco was many many years ago on a day trip with my parents when we took a hydrofoil across from Spain (Marbella) over to Tangier. Now, if you want to talk about places that don’t meet up to storybook expectations, this was it, although I’ll admit more locally to me nowadays Key Largo comes in a close second in old-time movie into reality letdowns (Denny’s is there, Lauren Bacall is not). Are you continuing eastward into the Med? I’d be living on dramamine by now if I was you, but I guess you both have strong sea legs. Safe and more fun travels meanwhile!

    • September 12, 2011
      Kristin

      No Med for us. We’re currently sailing along the west coast of Africa and will round the tip of the continent in another couple of weeks.

      I’ve been to Tangier before, though, so I know exactly what you’re talking about: We got in and out of there as quick as humanly possible! Scary place.

  • September 12, 2011

    That second stained glass photo is absolutely stunning!

  • September 12, 2011

    Most people don’t care for Casablanca, but I REALLY enjoyed my brief time there. I visited the same places you did and would love to return now with my better camera. I loved the stain glass windows in the Catholic church!

  • September 12, 2011
    CJ

    Lovely pictures! I am curious- what lens were you using? (Specifically for the couple before the fountain pictures- I love the subtle distortion.)

  • September 12, 2011

    The stained glass! The tile! Lawsy, how gorgeous!!

    xox

  • September 19, 2011

    Take it from me, definitely don’t judge a city by the surrounding port when you first disembark from the ship. Nearly every port we hit looks like s–t and makes me wonder what the city will be like. I love discovering that most of the rats and filth stay in the port.

  • March 15, 2012
    Ghis

    Hi,
    I just stumbled on your post about Casablanca, and do so not agree that I feel the urge to comment, even though it is a bit late:-)
    I have lived here now for over a year and Casablanca is a fascinating city for those who are willing to look beyond the gritty exterior. There are many things to do and see, and what i love about this city are the extreme opposites. From very chic neighbourhoods with all the well known brands to the popular parts like the fish market where you can eat fresh fish, to the camel meat market, where you choose your piece of meat and they grill it before your eyes.
    It even has a new and old medina, with all the crafts and the little alley ways. And than there is so much more.
    This is the 6th country I live in, and have traveled extensively, and truly believe Casablanca is undersestimated as a travel destination. Next time you’re around let me know, I’ll give you a tour 🙂 Otherwise love your blog!

  • December 23, 2012

    Gorge! I really want to go to Morocco!

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