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When you say the word "Casablanca," many people will comment on their opinion of the 1942 film; to them it is only a word that refers to historic cinema. These people may be surprised to discover that the lovely Moroccan city that shares this name is famous for more than Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and their World War II-era exploits. Interestingly, the movie "Casablanca" was not actually filmed in the city! Unfortunately, the culture for which Morocco is famous was not a central theme in the film.
Morocco is a unique country; geographically separated from the majority of the Muslim world yet so obviously a part of it. Morocco has a mysterious, sensual air, and Casablanca is no different. One might wonder how this Islamic city received such a Hispanic name; known as Casa Branca by Portuguese residents and Casa Blanca by Spanish traders, the city's Arabic name is "Dar el-Beida." All three of these phrases mean "white house." What makes this particular city so special is its variety of sights and sounds. History enthusiasts will be disappointed to note that the historic Casablanca is hard to find; natural disaster struck in the 18th century and changed the face of the city forever. As a result, most attractions are newer than expected.
As with many cities in Morocco, religious structures make up a good deal of Casablanca's attractions. These places should not be missed. The White Mosque, part of the Royal Palace, can be enjoyed from a distance, but for those who want a closer look, the Hassan II Mosque is a striking house of worship constructed with great detail. Though the exterior tiles are beautifully decorated, the real amazement can be found inside.
One of the Hassan II Mosque's most striking features is its glass floors; by gazing down, you can see the baths that lie underneath the mosque. The exquisite doorways and intricately-carved wooden ceilings add depth to the interior. By virtue of its interior alone, this is possibly one of the most beautiful mosques in Morocco. Oddly enough considering its medieval flair, the mosque was completed in the 1990s. If you are not attending for religious reasons, find out when tours are open to non-Muslim visitors. It should not be hard to find a schedule and determine what time best suits your itinerary. Take note that no other mosques in Casablanca are open to those outside the Muslim faith.
Surprisingly, one of Morocco's most impressive religious buildings has nothing to do with the dominant Muslim faith. L'Eglise du Sacre-Coeur (Church of the Sacred Heart) has a graceful white facade with simple yet elegant soaring towers. The church was constructed in the 1930s and has a mixed modern and historic style. The altar reflects those of many gothic cathedrals, sporting high, rounded archways and a striking panel of stained glass. For those who don't mind fording the steps to the top, the scenery is amazing. Not only can brave visitors see the cityscape, but also the glistening sea stretching out beyond Casablanca's borders.
Those interested in Jewish history may enjoy the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, representing the third monotheistic (one God) faith in Morocco. To get a good view of the hustle and bustle of the city, stop by Mohammed V Square. This is one of the major "stomping grounds" for tourists. Casablanca's New Medina and Old Medina are some great choices, especially for those who enjoy walking. In the New Medina, visitors can shop to their heart's content in a setting that evokes the bazaars of days gone by. The Old Medina dates from the 1800s.
Unfortunately, safety concerns do exist. As of this writing security is high due to bombing attacks earlier in the year. People choosing to visit Casablanca (or anywhere in Morocco for that matter) should stay cautious and never disregard news reports. Stay away from places that retain a high level of security; playing it safe ensures a better vacation. Research Morocco's current restrictions and find out what you need to know. Stay on top of the issues.
Planning a longer trip to Moroccan? Marrakesh, home to the famous Koutoubia Prayer Minaret, is a great option, as are Tangiers and Fez. Don't forget to spend some time at the ocean! Morocco is a country of many facets and much to see and do