While Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco, it doesn’t get much love. People might fly in and out of the city, but it’s hard to find anyone recommending staying here longer than that. I wanted to find out if there was a good reason for this so I made sure to spend a few days here before flying out at the end of my visit to Morocco.
The truth is, after exploring the city, I can understand why people don’t love it compared to Morocco’s other attractions, but for street photography, I found many reasons that made me happy I gave it a chance.
So here are my first impressions of Casablanca, from my personal Street Photographer perspective…
7 First Impressions of Casablanca, Morocco
(From a Street Photography Perspective)
1. The Name is Prettier than the City
I have a few favorite city names and Casablanca is one of them. Maybe the classic movie adds to it, but there’s something special about the name, Casablanca. It gives me a picture of a beautiful, majestic city. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the real life picture you get once you’re there.
There’s a reason it doesn’t get recommended along with the other cities in Morocco. It’s the biggest city in the country and it feels like it, but without much initial charm or beauty. Much of the architecture isn’t in great shape, the streets are dirty and in many areas there’s an almost depressing feeling.
For a tourist, there aren’t many known attractions, it can feel unsafe and in many areas it can be ugly, sprawling and charmless. Now that I got all that negativity out of the way, did I find any positives or reasons to come to Casablanca? For a street photographer, the answer is a big YES. Street photography doesn’t need pretty and underneath some of that urban ugliness, there’s plenty to find worth capturing with your camera.
2. More of an Urban Medina
Like most Moroccan cities, Casablanca has its own medina, but it feels much different from the others. The big city atmosphere influences the medina here. It doesn’t feel so much like you’re going back in time, but in many ways, I found it just as interesting.
There’s an urban feeling to the medina. The streets aren’t as much of a maze so it’s easier to find your way around like you’re in a city. The people and atmosphere feel more big city too, even though much of the scenery and activity is definitely a medina.
There’s also more open space for good light, which I found very valuable for street photography. Many of the medinas in other cities have narrow alleys and don’t get much light most of the day. But the medina in Casablanca has wider streets and open areas full of sunlight and activity.
3. Waste of an Ocean Front
I love the water, especially the ocean. A city needs some type of water, in my opinion, and an ocean usually adds so much life to a place. Casablanca is right on the Atlantic Ocean, but it doesn’t really feel like it. Most of the seafront has nothing going on. There aren’t many places to enjoy it so people don’t really go there. It really feels like a waste.
I tried finding areas where they took advantage of their coastline, but there really isn’t too much yet. It does look like the city might be doing something about this now, though. There was plenty of construction going on along the oceanfront while I was there. We’ll see how much of that is for properties and hotels, and how much is for the public.
4. Impressive Mosque & Courtyard
Now while the city might not be the most beautiful, you can’t say that about the The Hassan II Mosque. From traveling and living in a city that has over 1,000 mosques, I’ve seen plenty of them, but Casablanca might have the most impressive I’ve seen yet.
First, it’s right on the ocean. Second, its beautiful marble reflects the sun in a way that reminds me of the Taj Mahal. And 3rd, its gigantic courtyard in front is packed with people. It’s a sight to see when you first walk up to the courtyard. For some street photography, it’s not a bad spot to check out too for activity and atmosphere.
You can get some good light and shadow here with the people and the white marble everywhere too, which can really add to the visual effect.
5. Less Conservative than the Rest of Morocco
The clothing and dress code in Casablanca is noticeably different from most of Morocco. While much of the country is more traditionally dressed, especially with women, people here dress much like any other big city around the world. Young men and women dress much more fashionably and trendy.
Another big difference you’ll notice if you’ve already spent time in other parts of Morocco, people here are much less concerned with you. You don’t get near the amount of stares, hassling or push back when it comes to street photography. Outside a couple of areas, people aren’t looking to haggle tourists, partly because the city isn’t centered around tourism. They’re mostly just going about their big city life.
While they don’t love street photography compared to most areas in the world, they’re much less against it than the rest of the country. Many of them even openly welcome it in Casablanca. So after places like Marrakech, it’s nice to not have to worry so much about reactions to street photography.
6. Some Sketchier Areas
There’s not too much information online about different areas of Casablanca, so I spent a lot of my time freely exploring the city myself. I ended up wandering into a few areas that gave off a sketchy vibe, though. You can tell when looks change from genuine curiosity to caution.
Part of the reason people don’t like the city is because of how sketchy it can look too. While the city has some interesting architecture, time hasn’t been kind to it. Much of the city looks like it’s falling apart in areas. I never had anything happen to me, but it is smart to be on guard in Casablanca if you’re going to venture around.
7. I Understand Why it Gets a Bad Rap, But for Street Photography, It’s Worth a Stop
I can see why Casablanca becomes more of an arrival and departure city for many tourists. It doesn’t have all the sites, beauty and tourist industry like much of Morocco. For street photography, it still has plenty to offer, though. It’s the biggest city in a country full of interest. It’s edgy and deteriorating, which provides some character. It’s an urban side of Morocco that you don’t see to this degree in most of the country.
You also don’t get hassled anywhere near to the degree you do elsewhere in Morocco. For the most part, people leave you alone and aren’t concerned with strangers, which can be a nice break. Moroccans, as a whole, aren’t big fans of street photography, but they don’t pay attention or care as much about it here.
The Urban, Non-Touristic Side of Morocco
For all the reasons why people don’t love Casablanca, I found plenty of reasons why they might be missing out. Now for your average tourist, it probably doesn’t have too much of what you’re looking for. But for street photographers or people interested in seeing the less touristic and more urban side of Morocco, then it has plenty.
So if you’re flying in or out of Casablanca for your trip to Morocco, spending a couple of days here checking out the city with your camera might not be a bad idea. I’d recommend it.
If any of you have been to Casablanca before, tell me about your experience and impressions of the city and country in the comments below! And stay tuned for more on Casablanca, including some of the best Street Photography shots I captured while there.