CASABLANCA - NEIGHBORHOODS
The Old Medina (Ancienne Medina)
The very first portion of Casablanca to be settled is the Old Medina, which was once the Roman settlement of Anfa (close to the Anfa neighborhood of today). The Old Medina is small by Moroccan standards. It is laid out in a maze of alleyways across 116 acres, smaller than even the area around La Corniche. It is bordered by Boulevard Ziraoui and Boulevard Tahar El Alaoui to the west, Boulevard des Forces Armees Royales (Avenue des FAR) to the south, and Boulevard des Almohades to the east. If you are interested in maximizing your time in the Old Medina, here are the points of interest from north to south.
North of the Old Medina, you will see restaurants Rick`s Cafe and La Sqala, which are two of the most popular restaurants in all of Casablanca. The entrance to the Old Medina is located at Rue de Tanger. You will find hundreds of vendors down this stret as well as Rue d`Azemmour. South of the Old Medina you will run into a synagogue, Ettedgui Synagogue, which is a living memorial to the Jewish community of Casablanca past. The Old Medina`s clock tower is situated all the way to the south, near Avenue des FAR.
Sour Jdid and El Hank
Sour Jdid and El Hank are old neighborhoods that have gotten facelifts in portions. Located west of the Old Medina, east of La Corniche and north of Bourgogne, these neighborhoods revolve around the main arteries, which are Boulevard de la Corniche and Boulevard Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah to the west of Hassan II Mosque, and a continuation of Boulevard Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah east of the Mosque.
In Sour Jdid, the Hassan II Mosque is the centerpiece attraction, located right on the Atlantic Ocean. It is noteworthy in that it is the only mosque in Casablanca open to non-Muslims, and one of the few in the Kingdom of Morocco that allows non-Muslims to visit the sacred grounds. Close by are the International Fair exhibit halls, the Royal Moroccan Naval Academy, and the future site of Aquarium Casablanca, which broke ground in 2015. Tourists will be drawn to the El Hank neighborhood to visit the El Hank Lighthouse, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary guiding ships into the port of Casablanca in 2019.
La Corniche and Ain Diab
La Corniche means `the cliff` in French. The area of approximately 135 acres is perched upon a cliff north of Boulevard de l`Ocean Atlantique. The one-way road which cuts through La Corniche is named after the area, the Boulevard de la Corniche. Walk through the side streets of La Corniche, many of which are named after `colors of the sea` (ex. `mer jaune`, the Yellow Sea, or `mer rouge`, the Red Sea). A lot of nightclubs and restaurants are open for business in La Corniche and the area buzzes with tourists both day and night.
La Corniche is sandwiched in between two beaches, Plage Ain Diab and Plage Lalla Meryem. Plage Ain Diab is the largest and most popular beach in Casablanca, and the sands stretch down over a mile, ending at the Marabout de Sidi Abderrahmane and the Morocco Mall, the largest shopping center in the country and the second-largest in all of Africa. Parc Sindibad is situated close to Plage Ain Diab, across the street from the beach about 0.4 miles from the home of Sidi Abderrahmane.
Bourgogne and Racine are popular and well-heeled neighborhoods in Casablanca, but if it weren`t for Anfa, those neighborhoods wouldn`t exist, in more ways than one! Anfa was the original name the Romans gave to the settlement near Casablanca, founded in the year 15 BCE. Anfa was we know it today is considered the most Westernized neighborhood in Casablanca. The main artery in Anfa is a street named after a past U.S. president, Boulevard Kennedy. The Royal Golf Club and the Royal Equestrian Club surround tree-lined neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs featuring modern houses and all their `mod cons`.
Bourgogne, Racine and Gauthier
Bourgogne and Racine in particular are known as the two toniest neighborhoods in Casablanca. The areas north and east of Boulevard Mohammed Zerktouni and Boulevard Ziraoui are considered the `golden triangle`, so named because the price of real estate is very high there. Lots of restaurants and cafes are located around the Boulevard Al Massira Al Khadra, as is the Maarif shopping district. Between the golden triangle and Place des Nations Unies sits the exclusive Gauthier neighborhood. It is particularly popular with American expatriates as it is very close to the American consulate.
Derb Omar, Liberte and La Gironde
Derb Omar was originally planned nearly 140 years ago, and came into its own by the 1920s as the `new` commercial center of Casablanca. As the city grew and diversified from its roots in the medina, a new commercial center was desperately needed. The three neighborhoods of Derb Omar, Liberte and La Gironde have served as this center of business for nearly a century now. Over 2,300 shops and restaurants are located in these neighborhoods, the largest cluster in the city. The Central Market and Cinema Rialto are located in the northern portion of Derb Omar.
The Place de l`Europe is located at the southern boundary of the Liberte neighborhood, and the Eglise de Notre Dame de Lourdes sits across the Tremie de Dakar from the roundabout. The next roundabout to the east, the Place Le Maigre du Breuil, is home to `L`Immeuble Liberte`, a 17-story skyscraper which was the tallest in Africa when it was built in 1948.
Derb Ghallef and Les Hopitaux
Derb Ghallef is a neighborhood which is home to one of the largest souqs in all of Casablanca. It may very well be the oldest in operation, first leasing spots to 700 retailers beginning in the late 19th century. Now, over 1,200 merchants are licensed spots that are each roughly 350 square feet in area, and the souq is filled with perhaps the largest collection of secondhand items in Morocco.
State-of-the-art hospitals are located in the Les Hopitaux district, roughly bordered by the N1 to the north, Boulevard Moulay Idriss I to the south, Boulevard Abdelmoumen to the west and Avenue 2 Mars to the east. It is home to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Ibn Rochd, the Ibn Rochd children`s hospital, the Hopital 20 Aout, and the Medical and Dental Schools at the Hospitalier Universitaire.
Bordered to the north by Boulevard Omar El Idrissi, to the west by Avenue 2 Mars, and to the east by Rue Sidi Okba and Rue Abi Manssour Taalibi, the Habbous neighborhood is considered one of the most relaxed and beautiful in Casablanca. Many of the houses are built in the Gothic/Arab-Andalusian hybrid style, and as a result you will see many houses with porches and large archways. The Royal Palace, the official residence of the King while in Casablanca, and the Mahkama du Pacha are points of interest located in Habbous.
Bouskoura is a town located about ten miles south of Casablanca, and is best known to tourists as the location of Mohammed V International Airport and the artificial Bouskoura Forest. Bouskoura Forest, opened in 2016, is a green space touted as the new `lung of Casablanca`. Planted primarily with eucalyptus trees, the Bouskoura Forest is situated on nearly 7,400 acres. Three-quarters of the forest is located between the A7 and R315 motorways, with a small portion called `Le Petit Canton` located in a separate quadrant northwest of the `main forest`. Locals travel to this area to run or bike on one of the custom-made trails, and tourists go to enjoy the greenery and the quaint villas facing the forest. Bus routes stop across the A7 from Bouskoura Forest; take a taxi or walk the rest of the way.
Mohammedia is a suburb of Casablanca which has been settled for at least two centuries. It was originally called Fedala, a Berber translation of the Arabic phrase `Fadl Allah`, the `favor of God`. Fedala was planned as a port city by the French, who believed it to be easier to dock there as opposed to Casablanca. In 1960, King Mohammed V laid the foundation stone at the Samir refinery, which is now the largest oil refinery in Morocco. The town was renamed Mohammedia and the quality of life rose dramatically for locals once the refinery opened. Tens of thousands of people rushed to Mohammedia for financial security and today there are over 200,000 people living there. (By comparison, Casablanca is home to 3.3 million people.)