Casablanca and Rabat


For the first time in our walking lives, we had joined a group tour - perhaps we am getting lazy, but Morocco is a destination about which we knew little and we felt more comfortable letting experienced people do the organising. There would be 15 of us in the group, plus our Australian guide and a local Moroccan guide.

We arrived mid-afternoon in Casablanca Airport on a flight from Basel, and were soon joined by our friends, Alan and Marg, flying in from Barcelona. The rest of the group, all Australian (another first for us) had already wended their way to Casablanca from various airports in the world and the four of us were whisked away from the airport by Ibrahim, our driver for the next 4 weeks, to cross the burgeoning megacity of Casablanca to our seaside hotel to join them, just in time for our pre-trip briefing.

Casablanca is the economic powerhouse of Morocco, a city of 5 million and growing rapidly, its fringes a hive of new apartment blocks being built to house the burgeoning population. Whatever mystique it once had seems to have disappeared beneath that growth, though when looking out from our hotel window in the evening light over the white-walled buildings to the beach and Atlantic Ocean beyond, perhaps a touch remains.

Seafront of Casablanca by night

Courtyard of the Hassan II Mosque

Lighthouse at Casablanca

The next morning, we headed off to visit the Hassan II Mosque, only completed in 1983, but the largest mosque in Africa and a truly superb example of Islamic architecture. With its 210m high minaret, rich stonework, mosaics and openable carved timber roof, this building which can hold 25,000 worshippers was a good introduction to Morocco.

210m high minaret

Roof of the cupola

Exterior mosaics of the Hassan II Mosque


Leaving the economic capital of Casablanca, we headed north for an hour to reach the political capital of Rabat. From the amount of building in between the two cities, I suspect that in 20 years time they will form one giant megapolis. Our time in Rabat though was not about politics, but about history, so we continued through to visit the Kasbah des Oudaias, a walled fortress dating from the 11th century, with its narrow alleyways and blue-and-white houses overlooking the mouth of the Bou Regreg River.

Entrance to the Kasbah des Oudaias

Mouth of the Bou Regreg River
Wandering through the blue and white laneways of the Kasbah

Moroccan flags

Our exploration continued with a visit to the 12th century Hasan Tower, set at one end of a courtyard of transplanted Roman pillars (the history of Rabat extends way back) and the 20th century royal mausoleum - an interesting juxtaposition of classical and neo-classical architecture. Late lunch in a courtyard house in the walled medina (old town) of Rabat followed, thus ending our whirlwind visit to this part of Morocco.

Kasbah walls facing the Bou Regreg River

Moroccan Royal Guard

Lighthouse at Rabat

The gardens of the Kasbah

12th century Hasan Tower and Roman pillars