I must admit when Karolina first suggested Morocco as our vacation destination the only thing that came to my mind was Casablanca. Age old Hollywood marketing did it for me and the line “Here’s looking at you, kid” popped right up, for a good reason too as it was voted the 5th most memorable quote in 100 years of cinema by American Film Institute. But our tour guide was quick to point out that not one scene was ever shot in Casablanca, in fact, the entire movie was shot in a Hollywood studio with an exception of two scenes shot in Paris, France. This meant only one thing; Casablanca FAIL.
Casablanca has something else thought, one of two mosques in Morocco open to the public. And what a sight it was.
Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in the country and fifth largest in the world. It does however have the worlds tallest minaret at 210 meters (689 feet). Inspired by the verse of the Qur’an that states “the throne of Allah was built on water”, about half of the mosque is built over the waters of Atlantic. With room for 25,000 worshipers it sports a convertible-like roof that opens up in just a few minutes with a push of a button, same goes for lowering some of the heaviest chandeliers in the world for routine cleaning, it even has heated floors. It took all of sever years to build this mosque with it’s inauguration in 1993 and it is really breathtaking in person. It’s pricey to get it, 14 euros to walk through with a dedicated guide, but this is really the only thing Casablanca has going for it touristwise.
Making a nice round circle back to the movie, since Casablanca was not shot in Casablanca disappointed tourists like myself had nothing to compare the movie to. That is until about seven years ago an American lady came up with a brilliant idea to actually create Rick’s Cafe. We’re told it looks close to the movie on the inside, but because of tourists like us stopping by the establishment now requires reservations in advance to avoid crowds simply strolling trough with their cameras. FAIL, again.
Besides the mosque Casablanca doesn’t really have anything else going for it in my opinion. It’s a busy city with financial centers and modern ZARA type shops all around. I never found the Casablanca magic I was somehow looking for and that was also reflected in our guided tour itinerary; we were first a bit surprised that we only had half a day in Casa but now we know it was more than enough.