Captain Renault (Claude Rains) to Rick: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick (Humphrey Bogart): My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.
Indeed, Captain Renault was misinformed as well. Casablanca is nowhere near the Sahara. But on a Hollywood soundstage, who knows the difference?
And what does it all mean for the sophisticated 21st century traveler? What does “Casa” offer now?
It still does not offer desert (sorry Rick). But it is home to one of the best treasure troves of early 20th century Art Deco and Modern architecture in the world.
Casablanca, as we know it, is largely a creation of the French, who transformed it from a city of 15,000 people to the economic engine it is today. In the process, their architects created broad alleys and squares, stunningly detailed public buildings, and sleek private villas. They built beautiful cafes with ornate wooden fittings and sipped cafe au lait, and, in the evenings, absinthe.
When they left in 1956, they left behind their patisseries, their markets, and their villas. Lovely districts like Quartier Habous and Anfa remain virtually untouched.
Casablanca is not the Morocco of Fes, but it is equally Moroccan. It is as chaotic and bustling as any medina. It is home to the largest Jewish community in any Arab country and the only museum of Jewish heritage in the Arab world.
It is the city where the late King Hassan II chose to build his greatest monument; one of the largest mosques in the world. Inspired by the Koranic verse, “the throne of God is built upon the water,” the mosque is brilliantly situated at the edge of the Atlantic with glass floors displaying the ocean below. Its minaret, visible from all over Casablanca, is the tallest in the world.
We can arrange for you to discover Casablanca’s French architectural legacy with a woman leading the movement to protect it from the wrecking ball. Or you might wish to explore the contemporary art scene.
We can also arrange for you to meet leaders of the Jewish community or the director of the Jewish museum to learn about the 2,000-year-old Jewish presence in Morocco.
Or hear firsthand (over lunch) the stories involved in bringing back to life the ruins of a once-gorgeous home. In this home, you will join an internationally bestselling author, whose first book – covering the renovation – won critical acclaim in the U.S.
About an hour from Casablanca is Rabat. The political capital of Morocco since the establishment of the French protectorate in 1912, Rabat has a more relaxed pace than most Moroccan cities and is home to many foreign embassies.
Like everywhere else in Morocco, Rabat is ancient and historically rich. Its sites include Roman Chellah, the Kasbah des Oudayas, the Mausoleum of King Mohamed V (who brought independence from the French), and Morocco’s most significant museum of contemporary art.