Casablanca, Day 15: Last day in the Southlands

Casablanca Travel Blog

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Unflattering photo if Sidi Moumen

Today I’m at the 3/4s mark of my tour--  15 out of 20 days.  I’ll also finish exploring the “Southeast quarter” of the city, and cross the Autoroute for the last time.


123: Breakfast in Sidi Moumen


It’s 7:30 AM, and Sidi Moumen is alive.  People are lined up along the main drag waiting for transportation to get to work.  The mnsimmen stall is doing brisk business.  Kids and teenagers are lining up in front of the school gate to head in for classes.  There’s a sense of industriousness and diligence to the place.


Sidi Moumen is has a bit of an isolated feel to it.  To the south is a large swath of shanty neighborhoods, and then the cliffs that separate this neighbourhood from Anassi.

Ben M'siq Prefacture Area
  To the south is a swath of industrial land and then the freeway.  Sidi Moumen itself has only one main east-west road which connects it to the rest of the city.


Sidi Moumen is a bit notorious for its sprawling shantytowns which I’m told are quite dangerous.  But then, after Derb Chechen, everything else in Casablanca feels pretty mellow.  This neighbourhood also gained international notoriety a couple years back when there were a couple of suicide terrorist attacks and it was discovered that the attackers were from training cells in this neighbourhood.


I’ve been told. “Folks from the Old Medina would never do something like that… they fight each other, smoke hashish, and don’t allow the police to enter their neighbourhood--  but they’d never think of causing real trouble…” 


Dangerous or not, I certainly feel no unease here as I enjoy my breakfast and gaze about and soak in the vibe of the neighbourhood.

Cafe Torino


124 Sidi Moumen Shantytown


Of course a tour of Sidi Moumen would not be complete without a tour of a shantytown or two.  So when I see an alley that looks like it’s not a dead end, I dive in.


I actually find this slum to be quite homey.  Many of the shanties are recently painted, the alley itself is swept and clean, each home has it’s number in front, and many have little plants and decorations to give them a cheerful feel.  If this were somewhere else in the world, I would think of this as a “nice” neighbourhood. 


But here the problem is contrast.  Right smack in the middle of the shantytown is an island--  a modern apartment block towering over this slum as a constant reminder that this is not the acceptable way to live here in Casablanca… slowly but surely these shantytowns are being eliminated and replaced.

Raja Graffiti outside a market


Afterwards I continue on west until I finally reach a main road and a pleasant indoor market on the other side.  It hasn’t quite woken up yet, but it’s still fun to wander around a little. A little later I come across a little shady corner park.


            Music Spot 63: Sidi Moumen West, Rating: ****

            Shady, a bit trashed… more of a walk through mini square for people heading to work.


125 Modern Strip


Continuing on west, I finally big farewell to Sidi Moumen and am back in Moulay Rachid/Ben M’sik area.

The Autoroute
  I pass through some areas of huge empty lots interspersed with residential neighbourhoods. Finally I reach a very modern boulevard lined with apartments and classy cafes at street level--  giving the illusion of being in the middle of the city… but behind then, there’s not much of anything… It seems this is a neighbourhood still in process.  After Sidi Moumen though, it all feels super upscale here.


126 Ben M’sik Prefacture


I reach a traffic circle with some outstanding structures.  One is the grand Ben M’sik prefecture, a huge building with a high green tiled roof of typical Moroccan architecture.  On the other corner is what seems to be the royal horse grounds with what looks like a palace in the center… a nice little “discovery”.


            Music Spot 64: Ben M’sik Prefacture Park, Rating: ****

            Pleasant clean… limited shade…


127 Main Street Sidi Othman


From here I continue on west.

He wanted his photo taken...
  I missed Sidi Othmane’s “Main Street”, so today I have to explore.  Again, a pleasant neighbourly feel with all your typical snack shops and eateries and a lot of hustle and bustle. 


One experience here really sticks in my mind. A girl, maybe 8 years old with a younger boy came up to me and said “Cut us” making a scissor gesture with her hand.  My first thought was that she wanted money to buy scissors or something… Then it sunk in… that’s right… “cutting” is a Moroccan idiom for “crossing the street”, apparently she wants me to help them cross the busy street.  She took my hand and her brothers hand and headed across… A touching moment… She made my Sidi Othmane tour unforgettable.


I finally reached the point where I couldn’t go further without retracing my steps, so I looked for a side street to head back east again.


            Music Spot 65: Near Main Street, Sidi Othmane, Rating: ****

            Pleasant little neighbourhood plaza where ladies come to chat…


128 Café Torino


I come across an unusual cafĂ©--  the owner used stiffened rags to give the entrance a quirky cavelike feel… It’s nice to see someone having some imagination and doing something completely out of the ordinary.


I continue on back to the main boulevard that leads up to Lalla Meriem and Hay Salaam.  Here I have my last little concert of the Southside Neighborhoods in the parklike strip in the middle of the Boulevard.


            Music Spot 66 Middle of the Boulevard, Rating: ***

            Little shade, noisy, but peaceful.


129 The Autoroute


And with that, I head on north across the autoroute one last time, and I figure it deserves a photo and a mention.  This is after all, Morocco’s oldest autoroute, and only urban one, neatly dividing the city into north and south neighborhoods.  I used to think it marked the edge of the city--  but no, a huge chunk of Casablanca lies south of this freeway, a chunk that I have finally finished exploring once and for all.


The Autoroute runs to far south of the center of town to serve as a commuter  route, but it still plays an important role in speeding up traffic--  especially when you want to get out of the city towards Rabat or Marrakech.


While crossing and taking a picture, a couple of guys on a horsecart speeding by gestured that they wanted their picture taken… or course I was happy to do so.


And here I figure is a good stopping point.  I’ve finished 3/4 s of the city… now I just have the northeast corner left to tackle.

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Unflattering photo if Sidi Moumen
Unflattering photo if Sidi Moumen
Ben Msiq Prefacture Area
Ben M'siq Prefacture Area
Cafe Torino
Cafe Torino
Raja Graffiti outside a market
Raja Graffiti outside a market
The Autoroute
The Autoroute
He wanted his photo taken...
He wanted his photo taken...
photo by: nathanphil