Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco. Its name translates to “White House” in English. Locals refer to Casablanca as “Casa” (the s is pronounced like a z) or its Arabic name, which is Dar Al Beyda (also “White House).
Casablanca is a great starting and ending point for travel within Morocco, because of its geographic location and because of how easy (and usually cheap!) it is to travel to and from Morocco via this city.
How to Get to Casablanca, Morocco / How to Travel Onward from Casablanca, Morocco
The city is accessible by:
- PRIVATE TRANSPORTATION
- PUBLIC TAXI
- The airport for Casablanca is called Mohammed V International Airport.
- Its airport code is CMN.
- It is actually located in Nouaceur, which is about 22 miles (35 km) from Casablanca.
- Mohammed V International Airport is the largest airport in Morocco and is an international hub for flights to Europe and to other countries in Africa. The only direct flights between the U.S. and Morocco are to/from Casablanca.
- ONCF (Office National des Chemins de Fer) or the “National Office for Railroads” is a state-owned company in charge of trains in Morocco.
- Casablanca is a hub for trains going north, east and south.
- From Casablanca, it is possible to take the “normal” train known as Al Atlas, as well as Morocco’s high-speed train Al Boraq to specific destinations.
Approximate Drive-times from Casablanca to Popular Destinations in Morocco
Below are approximate one-way and direct drive-times from Casablanca to other popular destinations in Morocco. You’ll want to allow more time if you plan to stop along the way, if there is road construction, or in case of inclement weather.
Casablanca -> Chefchaouen: 5-6 hours
Casablanca -> Essaouira: 5.5-6 hours
Casablanca -> Fes: 3.5-4 hours
Casablanca -> Marrakech: 2.5-3 hours
Casablanca -> Rabat: 1.5 hour
Casablanca -> Tangiers: 5 hours
Brief History of Casablanca, Morocco
Compared to other cities in Morocco, Casablanca does not have as rich of a detailed history.
It is said that the area of Casablanca was first established as a small trading post by the Phoenicians. It later became a Berber settlement and regional capital.
The Portuguese claimed this area as a colony in the late 1500s in an effort to control pirating along the nearby sea routes, and this is where Casablanca’s name as “White House” first originated, as “Casa Branca” from the Portuguese. The city continued to grow under Portuguese rule but was abandoned after the Lisbon earthquake whose effects were also felt in Morocco.
Casablanca was not considered so important, despite its location on the Atlantic Coast until trade with Europe picked up and more Europeans started to settle in the area. It is around this time that its name changed to “Casa Blanca” in Spanish. In the early 19th century, it became an important port under the French protectorate rule.
Casablanca and the surrounding areas played important parts in WWII for the Allied partners fight against Germany and Vichy France. In fact, misconstrued intelligence about “The White House” worked in the Allies’ favor, as it was assumed the message meant the U.S. presidential White House and not “Casa Blanca” the city itself.
Main Sights to Visit in Casablanca, Morocco
While Casablanca is well-known as a city in Morocco, its popularity is romanticized, mostly by the film which shares its name. In fact, it is a large city – it is the economic capital of Morocco – and it can be very loud. It is very congested in terms of population and traffic, and apart from the Hassan II mosque, Casablanca doesn’t offer much in terms of traditional tourism. This is why we recommend to spend the least amount of time in here, so you can prioritize spending more time in other places – this is especially true for first-time visitors, or if you don’t have much time during your trip to Morocco.
The number one recommended sight to visit in Casablanca is the Hassan II mosque! If you visit nothing else in this city, visit the Hassan II mosque.
The Hassan II mosque is of the largest mosques in the world and the only operating mosque in Morocco which is open to non-Muslims. It was originally commissioned to honor the former king’s father as well as create “the” landmark in Casablanca. It is a showcase of Moroccan craftsmanship and can accommodate more than 100,000 worshippers.
If you are interested in Moroccan Jewish heritage, you won’t want to miss the Beth-El Temple Synagogue or the Museum of Moroccan Judaism.
Honorable mentions for recommended places to visit in Casablanca are:
- El Hank Lighthouse: Located not far from the Hassan II mosque. If the guardian is available and willing, he may grant access to climb its 51 meter high tower. This was also the location of some military operations during World War II.
- Morocco Mall: the largest shopping center on the African continent!
- “Quartier Habous”: This is the “new” medina of Casablanca, designed by the French to address the expansion of the urban population. If you plan to visit the medinas in Fes and/or Marrakech, we recommend to skip the Habous.
- Rick’s Café: Many travelers choose to enjoy a drink or meal at this piano bar and restaurant; it was built to recreate the ambiance of the movie, Casablanca. While you won’t find Humphrey Bogart, you will quite likely hear “As Time Goes By” being played. Dress code enforced – please inquire with restaurant as to specifics.
Handicrafts and other traditional Moroccan artisanal products made in Casablanca
Casablanca is not known for any traditional Moroccan artisanal products. Instead, you may find items for sale here which originate from Fes or Marrakech.
Suggested Day Trips from Casablanca
As we mentioned, we wouldn’t typically recommend to stay a lot of time in Casablanca. It is a great place to start and/or end tours in Morocco, rather than staying several days in this city and trying to do some day trips.
However, if you happen to find yourself in Casablanca and have some extra days to kill, you could visit El Jadida as a day trip from Casablanca. You could also travel to Rabat as a same day return excursion from Casablanca.
Recommended Private Tours from Casablanca, Morocco
Here are our top 3 recommended private tours starting from Casablanca:
- If you arrive in Casablanca and want to visit the Sahara Desert, check out this 6-day private Casablanca Sahara Desert Tour. We explain exactly what you need to pack for a Sahara Desert trip!
- Not every traveler is interested in the Moroccan Sahara Desert, so this private 8-day Imperial Cities tour which starts from Casablanca is a great way to learn about Morocco’s incredible history by focusing on the Kingdom’s former capitals.
- Are you surprised to learn that Morocco has a rich Jewish heritage? This 12-day private Moroccan Jewish Heritage tour starting from Casablanca highlights all of the Jewish history and culture in Morocco.