From Madrid, we went to Casablanca, Morocco. There are two ways to get
there: train and ferry, or fly. The first way is cheaper, but will take you anywhere from 12-24 hours to get to your final destination. The train from Madrid to Algeciras is $50 USD, and then another $30 USD for the ferry from Algeciras to Tangier. However, if you have a few extra dollars, I highly suggest flying.
A ticket to Casablanca, care of Iberia and Royal Air Maroc, is approximately $200 USD. The flight is less than an hour, and saves you a lot of time and hassle, especially if you are toting around more than a backpack. However, be careful of “porters” and taxicab drivers. They are ruthless when it comes to getting your business, so be weary.
Places to Stay
There are a lot of accommodations in Casablanca, but some are definitely
better than others. The Hotel Excelsior on Rue el-Amraoui Brahim is only a 15-minute walk from the station, and costs 273 dirham. It’s a decent hotel, but it is definitely old.
A better hotel in which to stay is Hotel Laussane (Rue Poincare #24, Tel: 26 86 90). It’s much cleaner and modern, and for 350 dirhams, you can get your own suite with two single beds, full bathroom, TV, mini-fridge, living room, and balcony (room #19)!
Places to See
A must-see in Casablanca is the Mosque of Hassan II, the former ruler of Morocco. Completed in 1993, this mosque seated at the edge of the Atlantic, is the biggest mosque in all of Africa. For 100 dirhams (50 for students), you are able to take a tour of the mosque in English, French, German, or Spanish. Make sure to visit this historic place, since this is one of the few mosques in the world that allow non-Muslims to enter its doors.
Shopping abounds in Casablanca. For traditional, souvenir-type of shopping, visit the medina, the original center of the city. You could also visit the habbeus, located near the king’s castle. The shops are filled with feasts for the eyes and the wallet! For the more modern shopper, visit the Twin Center, the center for business and retail (mall shopping).
Places to Eat
Across the way from the Mosque of Hassan II is Le Petit Roucher. At night, this restaurant offering Mexican cuisine with a Moroccan touch, offers you a breath-taking view of the moonlit Mosque. If you fancy something a little more upscale, dine in one of the hotels. The Safir Hotel, for instance, has nice Moroccan cuisine.
However, if your budget is a little less forgiving, there are a number of
small cafes that have excellent food, such as Chawarma on Mouly Youssef Street (#227). The food is delicious, and the owner speaks English! If you are looking for something light, try this cute little café located next to the Twin Center, called Venezia Ice. We recommend the crepe sucre and brownie venezia. And if you are feeling a little homesick, there’s a McDonald’s in Casablanca too!
The US dollar equals about 11 dirhams (currency converter). Make sure to keep cash on you at all times (though not too much) since the Moroccan economy is very cash-oriented. You will find yourself having a hard time to use a credit card here. Furthermore, if they accept a credit card, there is usually a service fee.
Friday is the “sabbath”, and government offices and banks have very limited hours. Make sure you do all of your transactions in advance. However, if you happened to oversleep from the previous night’s activities, the Hyatt has an ATM.
The train system in Morocco is actually quite good. We took a train from the airport to the Casaporte station (5 minutes from the center of Casablanca). A ticket costs 30 dirhams and the ride takes about an hour.
The streets are filled with little red cars called Petit Taxis. They are very convenient for getting around, but make sure you ask them how much it will cost you to get to your destination before hopping in.
To get from one city to another, the most economical means is by train. You can visit Supra Tours (ONCF), and they can give you information on trains running from Casablanca to Marrakech and Casablanca to Fes, among other routes. They open at 8:30am, and are located next to the Tourism office.
E-mail and other services
One of the most hospitable internet cafes in Casablanca is Euronet (firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 02 26 59 21), located at 51 Rue Tata near Citibank and the post office. They only charge 10 dirhams per ½ hour.
One thing you will notice in most hotel rooms is that there aren’t any telephones. This is very common in Morocco. You can either go to the nearest post office, or one of the various “telephone boutiques” in the city.
The nightlife is the only thing that is less than glamorous in Morocco. If you happen to frequent a bar or nightclub in Morocco, be warned of two things: the price of alcohol, and prostitutes. Getting a drink may end up costing you up to 120 dirhams. And most of the women in the clubs and bars in the lobbies of hotels are in fact prostitutes.
However, there are some interesting places to go. One is the Casablanca Bar at the Hyatt. Go see Lennie Bluett (every night except Sunday), for those good ol’ classics.
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our Africa Insiders page.