Casablanca, Day 11: Finally Reaching Habbous

Casablanca Travel Blog

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South Mers Sultan Park

It’s taken me 11 days to finally reach Casablanca’s 2nd most famous tourist attraction: the “new” old medina of Habbous.


Discovery 090 Hay Chifaa.


I start out my day in a nice park with a little amphitheatre a little ways north of the freeway.


            Music Spot 45: Hay Chifaa West, Rating:*****.

            Nice park with little amphitheatre… pleasant start to the day.


From there I head east down another of them 8 lane boulevards into Hay Chifaa, a sort of  “hardware shop” neighbourhood, with all sorts of little auto parts stores, paint stores, hardware stores… But it doesn’t have the ugly, grundgy feel of many “hardware neighborhoods”, in fact, it seems like a rather pleasant place to live, with  apartment lower middle class apartment buildings rising above the shops, and plenty of snack shops and corner stores as well.

Entering Habbous


I reach Oulid Ziane another of Casablanca’s main north south boulevards that goes from downtown to the outer neighborhoods… I figure I’ll leave exploring the other side of it for another day and today focus on the neighborhoods between Oulid Ziane and Mohammend VI.


So I head down a diagonal Boulevard which happens to be eastern end of  El Fida… and soon find another little park where I can strum a bit more.


            Music spot 46: El Fida East, Rating: ***.

            Shady… but a suspicious character lurking about.


 Here is yet another playground that was recently built… a great idea--  Casablanca has a real shortage of places for kids to play… but unfortunately it looks like it’s already been vandalized and it looks like somebody ran off with the teeter totter.


091: South Mers Sultan Park.


I make almost a complete loop back to where I started, and happen on a very pleasant grassy park with palm trees next to a beautiful mosque--  a little oasis of green in the midst of a concrete jungle.  There a bunch of high school students who ask me to come entertain them… A cheery bunch--  except for one fellow who seems a bit off the deep end who insists that “music is of the devil”, eliciting howls of protest from the others.


They fill me in a bit on the neighbourhood, which is no longer “Hay Chifaa” but rather considered part of Derb Sultan.


            Music Spot 47: South Mers Sultan Park, Rating:*****.

            Green, spacious… great crowd.


092: The Tent Makers.


From there I head back east a little ways to Mohammed VI once again.


This stretch of Mohammed VI is one of the liveliest in the whole city.  On the other side is Derb Sultan Market district, which I explored last week… Towards evening, the market spills over into the boulevard and 2 traffic lanes are taken over by street vendors and pedestrians… The whole area is an anthill of activity.


I’ve hiked this stretch several times when heading home from the bus station in Oulid Ziane and have always found it fascinating.

There are different areas that seem designated for different projects… For example, there’s one section that’s nothing but tent making shops--  tiny little shops with a guy at a sewing machine, sewing enormous tents that are rented for weddings and funerals, with mountains of fabric piled around… I can’t figure out how he can piece it all together in such a small space.


Really fun place… I sit down for a fruit salad in little juice bar and just soak in the vibe.


093 Grand Taxi Central.


Unlike other cities, Casablanca doesn’t have any big collective taxi stations.  Instead it has a neighbourhood with thousands of grand taxis lined up and down its side streets.  The neighbourhood is known as “Garage Allal”.  If you want to go to a particular village or suburb, like say, Boskoura, you ask the nearest driver and he’ll point you in the direction… you’ll probably have to walk several blocks and ask directions 4 or 5 times before you actually find the spot where the “Boskoura” taxis head out from.


These taxis are good for nearby cities like Boskoura, Berrechid, and Settat--  as buses from Oulid Ziane generally skip over these suburb cities…


094 The Royal Palace 


On north a little ways, across the train tracks is the Royal Palace.

  It’s hard to get a good view of the place, and I wasn’t allowed to get close to get a better look--  but I figure it still deserves a mention.


Across from it is a little square…


            Music Spot 48: Across from the Palace, Rating:***

            OK, but not much shade…and a bit dusty from nearby construction…


095 Entrance to Habbous


Between the train tracks and the Royal Palace, there’s a narrow street that leads to one neighbourhood all Casablanca folk are proud of:  Habbous.

  It’s a quite unique neighbourhood--  it’s a sort of “new” Old Medina with traditional Moroccan architecture and a very distinct style to all the buildings, but the layout of the neighbourhood was actually designed by a Frenchman city planner, giving it a Morocco-French fusion feel.


The buildings are all white with brown cut stone archways and beautiful carved gates, and wooden ceilings… most of the shops specialize in either traditional Moroccan dĂ©cor, traditional clothes or paintings--  a very artsey retro sort of feel…


However, I saw very few tourists shopping there--  mainly locals, giving the place more of an authentic feel rather than a tourist trap feel…

096 Habbous plaza  


In the center of Habbous is a cozy little circle with one lane streets radiating out of it’s center through various arched entrances… There’s a beautiful stone mosque and a tree line plaza that invites me…


            Music Spot 49: Habbous Center, Rating: ****

            It would be perfect if all the shady benches weren’t already taken…


I follow one of the tunnel streets which leads to a bridge across the tracks to Derb Sultan Market area--  which, when compared to the calm of Habbous, looks like an entirely different country with it’s grime and bustling chaos…


I follow a winding side alley soon surrounded by crowds of school kids heading home for lunch… and out to the edge of the neighbourhood…


097 Habbous Main Mosque


At the edge of Habbous is a beautiful flowery plaza, a towering stone mosque and a castle like building over to the side--  a beautiful little corner of Casablanca…


            Music Spot 50: Edge of Habbous, Rating: ****

            Beautiful little spot…


From there I continue on west, through a neighbourhood that suddenly looks quite drab compared to beautiful Habbous… I follow parallel with the train tracks all the way to 2 Mars Boulevard once again… it feels like it was ages ago that I explored this stretch…


And I decide to call it a day…

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South Mers Sultan Park
South Mers Sultan Park
Entering Habbous
Entering Habbous
photo by: nathanphil