Friday, September 2, 2011

Top 50 Places I Want To Visit #46: Casablanca, Morocco

Best known as the setting for one of the best movies ever, Casablanca is the heart of the country Morocco. Simply put, it is a city of mixed extremes- it boasts great wealth as home to the world's largest artificial port, yet many parts of the city have high crime rates and poverty due to drought. It is in many ways one of the most westernized, liberal cities in all of Africa- women in bikinis grace the beaches on the coast where young, educated men converse solely in French, yet south of the city strict islamism is predominant. These extremes make this city a mixed bag of cultures, languages, and ideologies that serve  as a microcosm of the clash between east and west.

That it is such a diverse city comes as no surprise, considering the wide array of different civilizations that stretched their influence into the region. Established in the 10th century BCE by fishermen, the city has been home to Phoenicians, Romans, Merenids, Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabs, and was occupied at different times by the French and the Germans during the early 20th century. The Portuguese gave it the name Casa Branca and the name was adapted to Casablanca by the Spanish. The city gained its independence from the French in 1956, and it is now the largest city in Morocco with a population of almost 4 million.

An eclectic range of restaurants, cafés, and bars provide nearly endless entertainment for tourists. Most don't open until around 7 PM and most people don't eat until much later, so one should expect to stay out very, very late. Also, there are a number of Hummam Turkish baths that are part of a program to provide work for single mothers and that can serve as relaxing evening and a nice way to support local social projects.

Hummam Bath
To sum up, this would be an awesome place to spend a week or two... or five.

And, for your viewing pleasure, here's the best scene in all of movies. (My use of this clip may or may not be legal, so if it you can't see it and/or the thought police come pick me up in the middle of the night, click here to see it. And if you didn't catch that reference, go read a few more books. And, just to make this the longest parenthetical insertion in the history of my blog, how about giving me some kudos for figuring out this whole HTML thing so I can get this stupid video on my blog. Seriously. It took me like an hour. I even figured out how to make the play/pause button work. Okay, if you are still reading this then just watch the clip.)

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