About Casablanca beaches
Immortalised in the film of the same name, Casablanca has, for many, a romantic, mystical appeal. In reality, however, modern-day Casablanca is a city with little time for romance; it’s a contemporary, dynamic urban sprawl of lively boulevards and noisy traffic jams. Its port, which grew steadily under French colonialism in the first half of the 20th century, is still one of the region’s busiest; its financial centre hosts international banks and corporations; and its overall atmosphere is business-oriented and forward-looking. For visitors, it’s a good place to tap into aspirational North Africa.
The best of the many beaches within easy reach of the city centre is Aïn Diab, on the edge of the chic suburb of Anfa, which has a thoroughly urban vibe: the cafes and beach clubs lining the seafront boulevard de la Corniche are the haunt of young trendsetters and local celebrities. While some locals swim in the ocean here, it’s often breezy and rough; the pools at the beach clubs and seafront hotels are a better, and smarter, bet. The clubs offer day membership for visitors and some of the hotels will allow entry to non-residents for a fee.
Beyond the beach:
Casablanca’s palm-lined boulevards and apartment blocks could have been transplanted from Marseille, but beneath the European veneer is a city which takes pride in its Maghrebian culture. The principal landmark is the immense Hassan II Mosque (boulevard Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah), the largest outside Mecca, with a 200m (656ft) minaret and room for 25,000 worshippers; unusually for a Moroccan mosque, it’s open to non-Muslim visitors. Also of interest are the fine art deco buildings in the area around place Mohammed V, meticulously laid out by the colonial French in the 1930s, and added to by Moroccan modernists in the 1950s.
While Casablanca has few dedicated facilities for visiting families, the larger hotels can provide cots, babysitters and child-friendly menus on request. Some hotels also have swimming pools, which can be a big hit with big and small kids alike.
Within easy reach of Casablanca, by road or train, is Morocco’s capital, Rabat, where you can admire some of the most impressive Arab monuments in Morocco, dating from the Almohad and Merenid dynasties. Highlights are the stunning minaret of the Almohad Mosque and the beautiful Chellah ruins, with Islamic tombs dating back to the 13th century alongside remnants of a Roman forum and temple founded in 200BC.
For a lunch to remember, book yourself a table at one of the finest restaurants in town, A Ma Bretagne (boulevard Océan Atlantique, Sidi Abderrahmane), which serves superb French-Moroccan dishes in a cool, sleek, oceanfront property surrounded by manicured private gardens. The ever-changing menu makes full use of local ingredients such as argan oil (with a delicate, slightly nutty flavour) and freshly caught fish, lobster, prawns and squid.