Casablanca, Day 06: My Favourite Casablanca Neighborhoods

Casablanca Travel Blog

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Bourgogne remnants of another era

Today I’m going to re-visit my favourite tromping grounds in Casablanca, zigzagging up and down the streets so I make sure I don’t miss anything…

 

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 houses… and plenty of “in the middle” as well. 

If you look closely, you’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 Morocco…

 

The “Market Street” is pretty quiet right now.

  it used to be teeming with life, but when fights started breaking out between legal shopkeepers and illegal pushcart vendors, the police moved in to clamp down on them… so now the strip is pretty quiet…

 

Discovery 049: Ben Barka Street

 

This street used to be called “Avenue de Cimentiere” 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 homes… but it also has a distinctive charm to it with it’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 night…


050: Casablanca’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 dirhams… a bit further is Oriental, my favourite pizzeria, run by a Syrian guy… right across the street is Zakaria’s, my favourite juice bar, run by a couple of Berber fellows from Tiznit.

Verdun cinema on the Bordeaux strip
..

 

A great spot for a late night snack…

 

I head down to a little scruffy park next to an indoor market and play my first set of the day…

 

            Music Spot 20: Bourgogne Park, Rating: ***

            Pretty dirty, some shade… passable…

 

051: Old Goulmima street

 

I continue on Goulmima as it heads right smack into the Old Medina, and I can’t resist but add another “discovery” here.

Moulay Youssef Blvd
  There’s so much life and excitement, so many sights, sounds and smells bombarding the senses…

 

I reach the Old Medina walls, and then turn right up yet another side street--  a place where I’d often come for a cheap haircut… I cram into a crowded mnsimmen shop for a stand up bite to eat… A few steps later to my favourite 3 dirham made-on-the-spot orange juice stand…

 

Here I exit onto Boulevard des F.A.R., and spacious little park…

            Music Spot 21: Boulevard F.A.R. Park, Rating:***

            Plenty of benches, but gets crowded… a lot of crazy people and weird stuff going on…

 

052: Boulevard Bordeaux

 

From there I head right back towards Bourgogne again… There’s so much to see around this area, that I’m probably going to do a lot of snaking up and down each street.



Bordeaux, I’m told was a very classy strip back in the day, with it’s long arcades lined with cafés… But now it has a definite gritty ghetto feel. Dirty, unkept, a bit dangerous at night…

 

One of Casablanca’s few cinemas that still clings to life, Cinema Verdun, only shows Indian movies and looks about ready to bite the dust…

 

Personally, I like a bit of grit and grime every now and again, so Bordeaux still makes it on my list…

 

I come across yet another suitable parkbenching spot…

 

            Music Spot 22: Bordeaux Park, Rating: ***

            Plenty of shade, but dirty and a lot of shady characters hang around here…

 

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.

Traces of old Casablanca...
  No city buses or collective taxis allowed on this stretch--  just tourist buses taking folks to the Hassan II Mosque…

 

It has an air of artificiality to it--  kind of like it’s been fixed up so tourist will have get a positive image of the city… But I love this stretch nonetheless…


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.

  It has narrow streets--  but they’re all strangely quiet in contrast with all the surrounding neighborhoods. 

 

Here and there you can find little hidden upscale restaurants--  which look interesting, but are not in my budget…

 

I continue on past the beautiful Italian consulate and on south to yet another shady plaza…

 

            Music Spot 24: Gautier, Rating:****

            Shady, quiet, safe…mostly older people though…

 

055: Prefacture de Police

 

I finally exit Gautier  and back into the bustle and din… I head on  back towards Zraktouni and up past the hulking Prefacture de Police… Quite an impressive structure, so I thought I deserved “discovery” status--  but I figured they probably wouldn’t approve of my taking a picture of it…

 

This is where foreigners go to get residency papers.

  Not very impressive from the inside, however…

 

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 downtown•probably the greenest, most pleasant areas of Casablanca. 

 

The largest park is called “Parc de la Ligue Arabe” which has a magnificent eight rows of palm trees standing at attention like rows of soldiers… it’s my favourite place to come to play music and meet folks…

 

            Music Spot 25: Parc de la Ligue Arabe, Rating: *****

            Peaceful, great spot to meet people…

This is also a popular place in Ramadan for people to come and jog right before break-fast time… Moroccans have two opposite approaches to the Muslim month of fasting: some people stay awake all night and sleep all day, so they basically don’t experience any hunger at all… whereas others go jogging in the afternoon, so they’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.

Parc Ligue Arabe
  I haven’t covered much distance, but I have made a lot of discoveries and played a lot of music.  So I head on north once again up beautiful Moulay Youssef.

 

Here I decide to add one last “discovery”:  the American Consulate.  

 

I’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 we’ve made some huge blunders over the last decade.  But one thing that has remained consistent has been the US’s welcoming policy to Moroccan’s with one of its most generous “green card lottery” 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 can’t help but think of all those lives that have been so radically transformed.

 

 

Here’s where tens of thousands of dreams have started to come true… and tens of thousands of dreams have been crushed…

 

Nowadays, I’m meeting more and more young folk who say “Yeah, I’d like to go visit the US someday--  but frankly, I’d rather just stay here and work in my own country…” 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 “anyone-who-works-hard-can-succeed” culture, is the favorite choice…

 

…And so, on this wistful note, I’m going to call it a day…

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Bourgogne remnants of another era
Bourgogne remnants of another era
Verdun cinema on the Bordeaux strip
Verdun cinema on the Bordeaux strip
Moulay Youssef Blvd
Moulay Youssef Blvd
Traces of old Casablanca...
Traces of old Casablanca...
Parc Ligue Arabe
Parc Ligue Arabe
Casablanca
photo by: nathanphil