Casablanca's Old Medina
Enter Casablanca's Old Medina and walk into a quiet, residential neighborhood, where shopkeepers cater to their local customers rather than tourists, and time feels suspended.
The medina has a limited number of entrances. One can be found behind Rick’s Café, a popular spot for tourists to find a drink in an otherwise relatively strict Muslim city. Another is off of Boulevard Félix Houphouët-Boigny, close to the Sofitel and other international hotels.
Less than 100 yards from Casablanca’s working waterfront, the cannon-studded walls of L’ancienne medine, the old medina, rise to protect homes and shops. Here is the entrance to Sqala, also known as Café Maure, a great spot to begin or end a day in Casablanca.
The restaurant is spread across the stone terraces of the old fort. Breakfast begins with coffee or black tea with fresh mint and fresh juice.
Dense, warm semolina bread is served with olives and a sampling of honey and jams. Eggs scambled with fresh herbs and vegetables are accompanied by a tempting trio of harcha, a pan fried semolina cake that looks like an English muffin, sfinj, which looks like a doughnut, but is not sweet, and baghrir, also made from semolina, but light and fluffy like a crepe.
From Medina to Marina
Just steps from the Old Medina is the working waterfront of Casablanca, where fishermen land the catch of the day. I start to work up an appetite. My AirBNB host, Cristina, has invited me to meet her at the Marché Central for a fish lunch. Cristina is the archetype for the original AirBNB host. She loves to share her beautiful home with guests, is delighted to have a meal with her guests, and enthusiastically shares her knowledge and passion for Casablanca.
Tastes and textures in the Habous Quarter
Habous may be the "new" medina in Casablanca, but it is chock full of the traditional tastes and textures that make Morocco such an inviting destination. Get some dinner inspiration from the traditional Moroccan ingredients in the covered food market, learn about the traditional, plant-based beauty products to soften your skin, redden your lips or cheeks, and clean your teeth. Admire the textures of handmade carpets.
Moroccan wellness wisdom
Stroll through the Habous Quarter and you'll learn a lot about how Moroccans take care of body and soul. From the neighborhood hammam, with its soaring dome, to the vendors selling natural cosmetics, or applying henna to hands and feet. Recreate the Moroccan hammam experience in your own home by softening your skin in a warm bath then slathering on the traditional black soap before using the exfoliating mit to keep your skin healthy and soft.
La Galerie de l'Aimance
Check out Galerie de L’Aimance Concept Store to see how young Moroccan artists are capturing their heritage in beautiful, or humorous, products and art work.
Here I learned that the classic Art Deco tea glasses that are a hallmark of Casablanca are no longer produced in Casablanca. A Marrakesh designer is preserving the iconic glass as part of a charming line of hand-blown tea glasses and tea-glass-inspired vases. Stuff them with fresh mint leaves to serve the traditional Moroccan mint tea, or use them as water glasses.