Casablanca, Day 06: My Favourite Casablanca Neighborhoods
Casablanca Travel Blog› entry 74 of 92 › view all entries
Today Iâ€™m going to re-visit my favourite tromping grounds in Casablanca, zigzagging up and down the streets so I make sure I donâ€™t miss anythingâ€¦
Discovery 048: A Neighborhood that has it all
From Maarif I continue on through the backstreets on north to my favourite neighbourhood: Bourgogne. Bourgogne has a mix of upper, middle and lower class, all clustered together in a small area, giving it a unique vibe. You can find pricey apartment buildings, and a block farther, a grimy cluster of lower class housesâ€¦ and plenty of â€śin the middleâ€ť as well.
If you look closely, youâ€™ll see some old style French homes clinging to life sandwiched in between new apartment buildings.
And some of the best budget fast food in all of Moroccoâ€¦
The â€śMarket Streetâ€ť is pretty quiet right now.
Discovery 049: Ben Barka Street
This street used to be called â€śAvenue de Cimentiereâ€ť because it leads to an old French cemetery-- which itself would be fun to explore-- but not with a guitar strapped to my shoulder.
This is one of the grittier streets of Bourgogne with a lot of shabby old homesâ€¦ but it also has a distinctive charm to it with itâ€™s noble palm trees and lively atmosphere that keeps going late into the night. The smoke from the street meat grillers mixed with the mist from the ocean give it an eerie, exciting feel at nightâ€¦
050: Casablancaâ€™s best budget eateries
From Ben Barka, I cross Zraktouni once again and into my favourite food strip in all of Casablanca. Here is my favourite roasted chicken joint where you can get a good full meal for 20 dirhamsâ€¦ a bit further is Oriental, my favourite pizzeria, run by a Syrian guyâ€¦ right across the street is Zakariaâ€™s, my favourite juice bar, run by a couple of Berber fellows from Tiznit.
A great spot for a late night snackâ€¦
I head down to a little scruffy park next to an indoor market and play my first set of the dayâ€¦
Music Spot 20: Bourgogne Park, Rating: ***
Pretty dirty, some shadeâ€¦ passableâ€¦
051: Old Goulmima street
I continue on Goulmima as it heads right smack into the Old Medina, and I canâ€™t resist but add another â€śdiscoveryâ€ť here.
I reach the Old Medina walls, and then turn right up yet another side street-- a place where Iâ€™d often come for a cheap haircutâ€¦ I cram into a crowded mnsimmen shop for a stand up bite to eatâ€¦ A few steps later to my favourite 3 dirham made-on-the-spot orange juice standâ€¦
Here I exit onto Boulevard des F.A.R., and spacious little parkâ€¦
Music Spot 21: Boulevard F.A.R. Park, Rating:***
Plenty of benches, but gets crowdedâ€¦ a lot of crazy people and weird stuff going onâ€¦
052: Boulevard Bordeaux
From there I head right back towards Bourgogne againâ€¦ Thereâ€™s so much to see around this area, that Iâ€™m probably going to do a lot of snaking up and down each street.
Bordeaux, Iâ€™m told was a very classy strip back in the day, with itâ€™s long arcades lined with cafĂ©sâ€¦ But now it has a definite gritty ghetto feel. Dirty, unkept, a bit dangerous at nightâ€¦
One of Casablancaâ€™s few cinemas that still clings to life, Cinema Verdun, only shows Indian movies and looks about ready to bite the dustâ€¦
Personally, I like a bit of grit and grime every now and again, so Bordeaux still makes it on my listâ€¦
I come across yet another suitable parkbenching spotâ€¦
Music Spot 22: Bordeaux Park, Rating: ***
Plenty of shade, but dirty and a lot of shady characters hang around hereâ€¦
053: Moulay Youssef Boulevard
After my music session I head up north up beautiful Moulay Youssef Boulevard which is lined with four rows of palms trees, and a well maintained garden in the center.
It has an air of artificiality to it-- kind of like itâ€™s been fixed up so tourist will have get a positive image of the cityâ€¦ But I love this stretch nonethelessâ€¦
I cross Anfa Boulevard to yet another little plaza with park benches in front of the classy American Language Center, where I pull out my guitar and am joined by a lively group of schoolboys.
Music Spot 23: Place de la FraternitĂ©, Rating : ****
Good place to meet people-- but a bit noisy from passing traffic
054: The Gautier Oasis
Tucked in between Moulay Youssef and Zraktouni boulevards, is an oasis of calm-- a little neighbourhood called Gautier.
Here and there you can find little hidden upscale restaurants-- which look interesting, but are not in my budgetâ€¦
I continue on past the beautiful Italian consulate and on south to yet another shady plazaâ€¦
Music Spot 24: Gautier, Rating:****
Shady, quiet, safeâ€¦mostly older people thoughâ€¦
055: Prefacture de Police
I finally exit Gautier and back into the bustle and dinâ€¦ I head on back towards Zraktouni and up past the hulking Prefacture de Policeâ€¦ Quite an impressive structure, so I thought I deserved â€śdiscoveryâ€ť status-- but I figured they probably wouldnâ€™t approve of my taking a picture of itâ€¦
This is where foreigners go to get residency papers.
056: Parc de la Ligue Arabe
A bit farther south is the beginning of a long row of palm tree lined parks the stretches all the way to downtownâ€˘probably the greenest, most pleasant areas of Casablanca.
The largest park is called â€śParc de la Ligue Arabeâ€ť which has a magnificent eight rows of palm trees standing at attention like rows of soldiersâ€¦ itâ€™s my favourite place to come to play music and meet folksâ€¦
Music Spot 25: Parc de la Ligue Arabe, Rating: *****
Peaceful, great spot to meet peopleâ€¦
This is also a popular place in Ramadan for people to come and jog right before break-fast timeâ€¦ Moroccans have two opposite approaches to the Muslim month of fasting: some people stay awake all night and sleep all day, so they basically donâ€™t experience any hunger at allâ€¦ whereas others go jogging in the afternoon, so theyâ€™ll be really hungry and thirsty when break-fast time comes!
057: The American Consulate
After my 6th music session, I decide to call it a day.
Here I decide to add one last â€śdiscoveryâ€ť: the American Consulate.
Iâ€™ve had a lot of mixed feeling about my country in recent years-- especially in its relationship with the rest of the world. I think weâ€™ve made some huge blunders over the last decade. But one thing that has remained consistent has been the USâ€™s welcoming policy to Moroccanâ€™s with one of its most generous â€śgreen card lotteryâ€ť immigration plans.
While I was in the United States I met scores of Moroccan who went from living in poverty to having the chance to live the American dream, thanks to this immigration plan. So when I pass this consulate, I canâ€™t help but think of all those lives that have been so radically transformed.
Hereâ€™s where tens of thousands of dreams have started to come trueâ€¦ and tens of thousands of dreams have been crushedâ€¦
Nowadays, Iâ€™m meeting more and more young folk who say â€śYeah, Iâ€™d like to go visit the US someday-- but frankly, Iâ€™d rather just stay here and work in my own countryâ€¦â€ť This is an inspiring trend as well. But millions of young Moroccans still feel that their only real hope for a better life is to get out of their country. And America, with its â€śanyone-who-works-hard-can-succeedâ€ť culture, is the favorite choiceâ€¦
â€¦And so, on this wistful note, Iâ€™m going to call it a dayâ€¦