Maximizing 10 Phenomenal Days in Africa: A 15-Hour Layover in Casablanca, Morocco

Never did I dream that I’d visit Morocco in 2022. Frankly, I’ve never had anywhere in the country other than Marrakesh that I wanted to tour. Of course, when the opportunity presented itself to have a 15-hour layover in Casablanca, I couldn’t resist. As I mentioned in my Egypt Itinerary, I scheduled my birthday travels with layovers to maximize the ten days in North Africa and East Asia. Not only did this journey allow me to cross another country off my list, but it also provided a chance to practice my French in a native environment. This alone allowed Morocco to cross off two of my 2022 Travel Resolutions.

Enthusiastic, we disembarked with little research under our belt, prepared to make a swift outfit change and freshen up in the airport washroom. After departing the airport to head to the city center, we quickly learned how costly this day trip would be. Not exchanging more than we anticipated spending in a single day, we shortly realized that the cash we had in hand would not be adequate.

We do our best to discover the most suitable option to make our way to Casablanca as the airport is roughly an hour out. We conversed with cab drivers and believed they were attempting to rip us off. It was subsequently made clear that the prices they presented were standard. We ran into our first issue: taxis were pricey and solely accepted cash. Although we intended that this would be a cash payment, our estimates were significantly lower.

Okay, fast forward, we find a taxi driver who accepts card payments. We converse and decide to have him drive us around for the whole layover. He consented to bring us to various locations, hold our belongings safe in the vehicle while we explored, and bring us back to the airport to catch our flight later that evening. I usually work out arrangements like these on unaccompanied travels or in locations where applications such as Uber are not available. Our choices were confined, and we made the best decision we could at the moment. With no time to build rapport, we didn’t have many expectations regarding his behavior throughout this tour he offered.

Let’s preface our day by stating that our taxi-turned-tour guide had an itinerary of his own. He insisted that all attractions would be visited. He communicated in French. And although I tried my best, my pronunciation wasn’t always appreciated.

The first stop: Hassan II Mosque, this stunning structure was most certainly on my list, and I’m pleased that the driver brought us here straight away. It took multiple angles/locations and shouts from the guards to obtain a good photo and video, but we did it. So, check out my view ⇩

The brief video doesn’t do it justice. It was stunning. Much larger than I predicted, and the attention to detail on the exterior was impeccable. After getting pictures, we made our way inside to pay the admission fee and spend some time there. The attitudes we were met with quickly turned the experience sour. It wasn’t our attire, as we dressed to follow the country’s dress code. We waited our turn, and the individual behind the counter had no interest in assisting us. We inquired about tours and were told that there were none, although we ended up seeing a group get one as we left. Trying to pay, we were informed that only cash payments were accepted. Strapped on dirhams for this expensive entrance fee and met with rude staff, we decided to opt out, exiting the same way we entered.

Although we wanted to experience this in its entirety, under the circumstances, we made the right judgment. I suppose I missed out a bit, but I don’t regret my selection. I advise making the most out of the experience by attending a tour if possible. If not, a visit around the site suffices.

Our driver brought us around a few spots in the area. This included an overlook of the water and the mosque from another angle. It mimicked a boardwalk and was incredible. We walked around for a bit, taking it all in before moving on elsewhere.

Next on the itinerary were visits to the markets. We visited many, including Habbous Market, Old Medina Market, and Central Marketplace. The markets were my favorite part of the day, besides the food (of course). It was a terrific introduction to Casablanca’s culture. From the spices, meats, traditional clothing, food, and goods for sale, we quickly consumed ourselves in the environment. I was grateful that we experienced this with a local as he brought us beyond tourist markets. Because of this, we were not expected to dish out more money as we were foreigners. Our visits to multiple markets amplified the experience and allowed the day trip to be successful. Check out our views and some delicious Moroccan snacks. (If you’re on a mobile device, click the videos once as they are on autoplay.)

The constant walking underneath the burning sun revved up our appetites. I was confident in expressing the extent of our hunger in French, and our driver quickly stopped at a restaurant he recommended, though it placed a hold on his itinerary. He brought us to Restaurant Des Fleurs, and it didn’t disappoint. The fresh, thick mango juice alone set the bar. My sister and I opted for chicken tagine served in a traditional Moroccan dish. It was mouthwatering. Dissimilar to other places in the area, the establishment had reasonable prices, allowing us to splurge a little. This restaurant does not pay much attention to its aesthetic or atmosphere but solely to the food, which is most significant. Because of the aforementioned, I was wary of this being the one restaurant where we sat and enjoyed a meal. Nevertheless, they outperformed every expectation. I couldn’t recommend this establishment enough. 

Following our meal, we worked off the itis in the car while sitting in traffic to the next destination. We toured numerous tiny streets, the Casablanca sign, the city center, establishments along the water, and the mall. This consumed a few more hours before heading back to Mohammed V International.

Without our knowledge, our driver began to bring us back to the airport. When I noticed, he confirmed. Though he knew the time of our flight, he dropped us off entirely too early. Perhaps it’s because there wasn’t much left to see. Either way, I was irritated with his poor communication skills and shortening our time without consent. This resulted in us sitting in the airport for hours. We were drained, uncomfortable, and frustrated about the circumstances. But there wasn’t much we could do.

All in all, I appreciated the day trip to Casablanca. We crammed a lot in though we could’ve done more. There were multiple ways to make more of the journey. We underwent hiccups but created the best of the situation. Opting for the tour with the driver wasn’t an error in judgment and had considerable advantages. Yet, it would’ve been more worthwhile to book a tour elsewhere. Of course, details would need to be sorted. But, with the time we had, it could’ve worked. No regrets, just a lesson. I still enjoyed this little city, and if it wasn’t for the layover, it wouldn’t be a place I see myself visiting. I’m thankful that I was able to see the tiniest portion of this beautiful country.

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