IMG_4634Casablanca is such a contrast between modernity and history, between rich and poor, between beauty and ugliness. It’s an assault on the senses, yet it feels mostly benign, not menacing.

14.Vue balcon
The view from our AirBnB. In the very center, greenery is scarce, but the city lives up to its name: white house.

Earlier I posted about our visit and about the restaurants we went to. This time, we’re just going to tool around town, observing life, how it’s the same yet different.

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Just beyond the warren of streets in the center, palm-lined boulevards carry lots of cars.
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I love the reflection of the palms on the glass façade and the plants on the terrace near the roof. It could be any southern city, right?
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More integrated greenery. Note the grill at the top–for cutting the sun.
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Cacti on this roof. The overhangs are so smart–the windows stay shaded from direct sunlight.
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Note the open windows on the blue-green glass building. I kept looking at Casablanca’s weather during the summer. Highs around 79, thanks to cooling sea breezes. Very pleasant. No need for A/C.

One foggy morning we went to the huge Mosque Hassan II, the fifth largest in the world. Walking back, we sought out some other sights.

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Closed for renovations.

The Casablanca Cathedral, also shown in the top photo, is an Art Deco gem. It opened in 1930. It’s no longer a church but is used for cultural events. I’m a sucker for Art Deco.

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The lacy cutouts reflect the local architectural styles. It doesn’t look out of place at all.

Casablanca has a shiny new tram, which was decked out in honor of the national World Cup team. The tram was clean, quick, comfortable and cheap (about 70 cents a ride).58.Tram équipe du MarocI’m so conflicted over trams and metros. On the one hand, they tend to be viewed as better than buses, and in Casablanca the buses were rickety and packed to the gills. However, they require a huge investment, and they’re stuck in place, whereas buses use existing streets that serve other vehicles and it’s easy to change bus routes.

The Casablanca tramway has two lines. The second line is 17 kilometers (10 miles), cost €262 million and serves nine districts with a total population of over 1 million people. While it’s a lower-carbon alternative to the fume-belching buses, I think you could buy a lot of new, even electric, buses for €262 million.

51.Petit taxi
Red for local rides.
13.Rue appartement
Lots of taxis!

Taxis are another way to get around, and amazingly cheap. The petits taxis are red and are for trips within the city only. If you want to go farther, say to the airport, you need a grand taxi. These are usually white. Either way, you get a white-knuckle ride.

26.Parking cyclomoteurs
Two-wheel parking lot.
16.Livreur
We saw lots of these three-wheeled delivery vehicles. This one had to be pushed over the bump to cross the tram line–it couldn’t quite make it with the engine alone!
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Delicious pineapple.

There also were some donkey carts and human-pulled carts, like the pineapple vendor above. Can you imagine a life of pushing your pineapples, probably quite far, because Casablanca is relatively expensive and you probably would have to live on the edges of the city. You navigate your precious cargo to a spot in the center of the city, where passersby have jobs that allow them the luxury of spending a few dirhams on a whim, like for a wedge of juicy pineapple. If you don’t sell, your pineapples will rot. You have no cushion, no salary. Just income from what you manage to sell, trying to survive another day. Nobody grows up thinking, “boy, I hope I can sell pineapples by the slice one day. What a life that would be!” No, it’s what you do when all else fails.

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The Grand Theatre of Casablanca, aka CasArts.

Down the street but a world away, the Grand Theatre of Casablanca is taking shape. Designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc, the theater is supposed to resemble a medina, with fluid lines, and many alleyway-like entries that will provide natural ventilation, shade and places for people to relax. The entrance will double as an outdoor soundstage.

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The theater is directly across from the fountain that dominates Square Mohammed V.

I really couldn’t get over the palm trees. And the bougainvillea.40.Palmiers1P1100386

18.Bananiers
Bananas too.

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56.Bière casablanca
Even palms on the beer!!!
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This house was like a lot of “inner” Casablanca–undoubtedly beautiful at one time, but no longer kept up.

I still have more photos to share of this fascinating place.34.Plage4

 

 

 

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Play it again, Sam

  1. For years, HH travelled often to Morocco for his company. He mostly told me about the dust, dirt, smells and ‚smoking everywhere‘ but he hardly ever stayed for longer right in Casablanca. This gave me a short armchair-travel-moment. Thanks 🙂

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      1. Here in the Paris region, we are surrounded by Africans who fled their country and I‘ve seen more poverty than I would have thought possible in a European country! Knowing what we know NOW also made us (I think and sincerely hope) better persons, with a much better and in-depth understanding of different forms of living, perspectives, of these people‘s DNA and way of thinking….. A school for life, as you surely also discovered. And it has made us less patient with those who ALWAYS have something to complain about, for ridiculous reasons…

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  2. Palms and bougainvillea — looks like my old home, San Diego! By the way, not a banana, a giant bird of paradise (strelitzia), note the flowers. This plant is very often mistaken for a banana but it has leaves on opposite sides of the stem, and bananas go all the way around, and they are floppier. I was in Morocco for a week or so ten years ago, Fez and Marrakesh. Fez was especially good, we stayed in houses in the Medina in both places (4 of us) and thought it beautiful, the interiors of those medina houses are spectacular, fountains, tile, balconies etc. The “new” part of the towns were not very charming, and the air pollution was terrible. That little truck looks like an Italian Ape (not a primate, named for a bee as they are so busy), Italy is full of them. One of the best things we did was take one a long distance taxis from Agadir to Fez, 6 hours, shocking driving, donkeys, camels, really an inside look at Maroc.
    bonnie in Provence

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    1. @Chezbon; I know the strelizia very will but never realised that they actually grow on ‚trees‘ or at least very high shrubs.
      And our friends in the North of Italy had an ‚Ape Car‘ too – I didn‘t know it was an official name because they only ever called it ‚take the Ape‘…. 😉
      What a double lesson to learn in ONE COMMENT. 🙂 Thank You

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  3. Love seeing the place through your lens. The juxtaposition of palms and urban structures is always striking; yet my eye longs to remain on the palm. They’re so resilient and bend but don’t break…just how I would like to live.

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  4. The name “Casablanca” has always conjured up an exotic place, but based on your photos, I think I can pass on visiting. Other than the Art Deco mosque… I used to deal in European Art Deco pieces and am a sucker for it as well… it holds little appeal for me.

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    1. But you went to Batopilas! Casablanca is probably the least touristy spot in Morocco. I had been to Morroco many times and always skipped it. But we had somebody to visit, and so we went…and were surprised. It was such a mix. So much hope and promise together with so much failure and poverty. I can see that it isn’t going to be on everybody’s list, but I think it’s an incredibly interesting place. Oh, that I were benevolent dictator of the world and could make it a zero-emissions, clean paradise.

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      1. LOL! So right you are! And Morocco’s always been on my list. Perhaps I just need a traveling companion although my friend who went to Baltopillas with me sat out the last half of the journey.

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  5. You gave us a wonderful tour of a place that is surely amongst the most evocative by name for anyone born after 1940 or thereabouts. I’m a sucker for a tram. I love them. I hear what you say about buses (and hail from Oxford where green buses were pioneered long before they became fashionable) but trams just feel so much nicer somehow …. I guess it’s the tickle of something one didn’t grow up with ….

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      1. I’m just spoiled … years of London buses (in the days when they were proper route masters – iconic, beautiful and fun double deckers) and trams are a novelty. I’m pretty simple really 🙂

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    1. Osyth; you should visit Switzerland – we have the most colourful, clean and quite fancy trams you can wish for. However, if you look for ‚drama‘, you‘d go to Lisbon – that‘s what you‘d choose – I did it many times, it‘s delightful 🙂

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      1. My daughter lives in Zug …. many years ago I lived in Nyon on Lac Genève. When she was to move there, I told her the two things I remember about Switzerland most are how clean it is and the point perfect clockwork timing. But trams too? Surely this place is perfection, non?

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        1. Osyth, it is…. that’s why we can’t wait to return to our home country…. But you are right, there are not trams everywhere, there are none in Nyon where my sister in law is from. I would love to return to my Lac Léman but (sadly, sort of) HH’s new job is in Zurich, which is my home town but nowhere close to the Romandie….

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  6. Interesting glimpse into this mythical place. Our ideas of Casablanca and the reality you depict are so different — as is so often the case. I would not have imagined it being so temperate, nor so foggy. Some gorgeous architecture and the odd intensely blue sky. Lovely!

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  7. Love seeing Casablanca thru your eyes. I have been only once and I thought it looked like it had once been beautiful but now looks run down. Your thoughts on the pineapple seller made me stop and think, you are so right, there are so many in this world just struggling to survive and often times we never give it a moments thought. Thank you for the reminder.

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    1. Yes, parts were very rundown, which was sad. So much potential. But maintenance is a huge challenge in poor countries. The people with money move on to new, better things, and those without money can’t afford to keep things in shape.

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