Steeped in history, traditions and boasting a fascinating cityscape, Casablanca is bursting with tourist flavours and ethnic spices. Millions of people pass through the various entry ports into the city each year, but unfortunately, many tourists seem to bypass this magnificent city for more culturally-renowned towns just outside its borders.
Well, it is safe to suggest that Casablanca is Morocco’s most European or western influenced city. Sure, there are a collection of spectacular, traditional landmarks like the Mosque of King Hassan II and Old Medina Town. But, travellers would be quickly forgiven for thinking they have entered another Paris, Los Angeles or London. Casablanca has an exorbitant amount of modern attractions that will inspire even the most historically-inclined travellers.
Despite the fact that Casablanca isn’t renowned for its shopping avenues like numerous other Moroccan cities, there is still a wide variety of shopping spots for visitors to ‘sink their teeth into’. You won’t find many major shopping malls or department stores. Like most of Morocco, Casablanca offers the more traditional shopping plazas, or bazaars, for tourists and locals.
Travellers haven’t really experienced Casablanca, or Morocco for that matter, without spending time in one of the indoor markets, or souqs. They are located across the city of Casablanca, and are generally open six days a week, from 8:30 in the morning, to 6:30 at night, with a break between noon and mid-afternoon. Regardless of where visitors choose to stay, most Casablanca hotels are located within close proximity to a market place.
When visiting a local souk or street market, it is important to keep calm and not to let the bustling atmosphere overcome you. In most places, items will not show a marked price. This is where the fun begins. Haggling is a way of life of the merchants in Morocco, so expect to be negotiating prices for almost everything, including clothes, accessories, fruit and vegetables. When negotiating or haggling with merchants, tourists need to remember to stay firm. Bargaining is something that takes practice. It also helps if shoppers know at least a couple of Arabic phrases.
Derb Grahleef is a large market neighbourhood that is famous for its bargain priced products. Visitors can find everything from handbags, to sunglasses, to leather shoes within the stalls. Although the market can feel claustrophobic with the never-ending stalls sometimes just two or three feet apart, it is one of the most frequented attractions in Casablanca, and is certainly a worth-while experience.
Getting away from the open markets and street stalls, tourists can find a shopping experience that is more ‘European’ in the Mariif neighbourhood. Here, some of the finest retail outlets in Morocco can be found, including a selection of high-end designer clothes and accessories. Bargaining is still rampant throughout the area, but visitors can use this to their advantage, finding some unbelievable prices on goods.
The Exposition Nationale d’Artisanat is a shopping complex that not only provides guests with wonderful Moroccan arts and crafts, but also at fixed prices. This is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit for shopping without the hustle and bustle of the market place. Alpha 55 is another shopping complex that closely resembles a western department store, boasting a variety of products at set prices.
Quartier Habous is also a much quieter arts and crafts venue, situated a kilometre or two to the south Casablanca’s heart. Unlike most of the other marketplaces in the city, the shop owners at Quartier Habous are less likely to confront passers by. There is a much more relaxed ambiance in Quartier Habous, although bargaining and negotiating is still part and parcel of the neighbourhood’s culture.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Casablanca Hotels content.