9 Best Sights in Casablanca, Rabat and Casablanca

Abderrahman Slaoui Museum

Fodor's choice

One of the city’s few museums, the Abderrahman Slaoui is hidden away in a splendid Art Deco villa. Permanent exhibits feature a collection of the nation’s treasures, including delicate crystal perfume bottles, Jacques Majorelle paintings, vintage prints, and 300-year-old jewelry from Fez. The museum has a café spilling out onto the rooftop, and a shop. Guided visits are available for 100 DH and there are creative art workshops in subjects such as photography, tapestry, and drawing and painting for children.

Hassan II Mosque

Fodor's choice

Casablanca's skyline is dominated by this massive edifice, decorated with magnificent zellij (mosaic tiles). The building's foundations lie partly on land and partly in the sea, and at one point inside you can see the water through a glass floor. The main hall holds an astonishing 25,000 people and has a retractable roof so that it can be turned into a courtyard. The minaret is more than 650 feet high, and the mezzanine floor (which holds the women's section, about 6 feet above the main floor) seems dwarfed by the nearly 200-foot-high ceiling. Still, the ceiling's enormous painted decorations appear small and delicate from below.

Funded through public subscription, designed by a French architect, and built by a team of 35,000, the mosque was erected between 1987 and 1993 and is one of the largest in the world, its minaret being the tallest. It was built in Casablanca primarily so that the largest city in the kingdom would have a monument worthy of its size. Except for the ruined Tinmel mosque in the High Atlas Mountains, this is the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims are allowed to enter. One-hour guided tours of the mosque are offered daily (six per day, Saturday to Thursday; four on Friday). There are reduced hours during Ramadan. Be sure to dress conservatively, and note that you will be required to remove your shoes at the entrance.

If you fly out of Casablanca, try to get a window seat on the left for a good view of the mosque in relation to the city as a whole.

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Downtown Casablanca

The area of the city bordered by Avenue des FAR, Place des Nations Unies, Place Mohammed V, and Avenue Abdullah Al Mediouini contains the remaining examples of Mauresque and Art Deco architecture built by the French in the early years of the Protectorate (1912--56), when Casablanca was the jewel in the French Empire's crown. While much has been lost, the city is restoring large swathes of these buildings including the Central Market and the enormous Hotel Lincoln, both on Boulevard Mohammed V. Some excellent examples are Le Petit Poucet bar also on this boulevard, the Cinema Rialto on Rue Bouchaib, and the Bank al Maghrib on Boulevard de Paris. Many apartment blocks in this area sport pretty wrought-iron balconies and swags of cement flowers and fruit on the buildings.

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Also known as the New Medina, the Quartier des Habous was built by the French in a 1930s tourism drive, to offer a sanitized version of a "real" medina. Today it's a curiously attractive mixture of French colonial architecture with Moroccan details. Capped by arches, its shops surround a pretty square with trees and flowers. As you enter the Habous, you'll pass a building resembling a castle; this is the Pasha's Mahkama, or court, completed in 1952. The Mahkama formerly housed the reception halls of the Pasha of Casablanca, as well as a Muslim courthouse; it's currently used for district government administration. On the opposite side of the square is the Mohammed V Mosque—although not ancient, this and the 1938 Moulay Youssef Mosque, in the adjacent square, are among the finest examples of traditional Maghrebi (western North African) architecture in Casablanca. Look up at the minarets and you might recognize a style used in Marrakesh's Koutoubia Mosque and Seville's Giralda. Note also the fine wood carving over the door of the Mohammed V. The Habous is well-known as a center for Arabic books; most of the other shops here are devoted to rich displays of traditional handicrafts aimed at locals and tourists.

This is the best place in Casabalanca to buy Moroccan handicrafts.

You can also purchase traditional Moroccan clothes such as kaftans and djellabas (long, hooded outer garments). Immediately north of the Habous is Casablanca's Royal Palace. You can't go inside, but the outer walls are pleasing; their sandstone blocks fit neatly together and blend well with the little streets at the edge of the Habous.

La Corniche

Get a feel for Casa's Atlantic setting by stopping at a Corniche café to relish the sun and breeze. The lovely landscaped walkway along the sea is a favorite with families. On weekends, this area is bursting with people settling in the seafront line of cafés and restaurants, basking in the beach resorts, and walking up and down the wide pavement. In the evenings, nightclubs and bars open their doors for all kinds of partygoers. You can also walk along the extended Corniche from the lighthouse at El Hank to the Hassan II Mosque. 

Museum of Moroccan Judaism

Set in a lovely villa in the suburb of Oasis, this museum has a permanent exhibition of traditional ceremonial objects, clothing, lamps, and furniture from various synagogues around Morocco. There's also a temporary exhibition space that often shows photographs and art. Phone ahead to make sure it's open.

Old Medina

The simple whitewashed houses of the medina, particularly those closest to the harbor, form an extraordinary contrast to Morocco's economic and commercial nerve center just a few hundred yards away. European consuls lived here in the 19th century during the early trading days, and there is still a youth hostel and a few cheap hotels within. Today it boils over with busy Moroccan shoppers, vendors, and beggers. The medina has its own personality and charm, due in part to the fact that many Casa residents living in more affluent areas never set foot here. Near Place des Nations Unies a large conglomeration of shops sells watches, leather goods, crafted wood, and clothes. It's best avoided at night unless you're accompanied by a local you know well.

Place Mohammed V

Casablanca's version of London's Trafalgar Square has illuminated fountains, plenty of pigeons, and a series of grand buildings. This is the center of downtown and has some imposing Mauresque and Art Deco buildings. Coming from the port, you'll pass the main post office on your right, and on your left as you enter the square is its most impressive building, the courthouse, built in the 1920s. On the other side of Avenue Hassan II from the post office is the ornate Bank Al Maghrib; the structure opposite, with the clock tower, is the Wilaya, the governor's office. The more modest buildings on the right side of the square house the notorious customs directorate (where importers appeal punitive taxes). Now that the tram serves this area, it's easy to get here from nearly anywhere else in the city.

Sidi Abderrahman

If you follow the Corniche to its southwestern edge, you will see the tomb of Sidi Abderrahman, a Sufi saint, just off the coast on a tiny island. Moroccans come to this shrine if they are sick or if they feel they need to rid themselves of evil spirits. Before the bridge was built in 2013, it was accessible only at low tide, at which point you would simply walk to the small collection of white houses, built practically one on top of the other. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit and have their futures told by a resident fortune-teller, although access to the shrine itself is prohibited. The other side of the island is one of the most exciting places in Casablanca to sit and watch the wild Atlantic swell. Be sensitive to the people who live here, as they will not appreciate being taken for museum exhibits and may object to having their pictures taken.

On the sands, just in front of the tomb, you can enjoy some snails, or pancakes if you prefer, and Moroccan mint tea along with the locals.