Casablanca, Day 19: More eclectic discoveries on the Eastside

Casablanca Travel Blog

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Ain Sebaa Tower

Today, I could easily finish my tour--  but a “19 Day tour of Casablanca” doesn’t  sound quite as cool as a “20 Day Tour of Casablanca”, so hopefully I’ll find enough interesting discoveries on my way to downtown to be able to milk this project for another 2 days.


Discovery 154: The Ain Sebaa Tower


Nothing all that remarkable about a little tower in the middle of traffic circle, but in a neighbourhood like Ain Sebaa, any decoration is appreciated.  And there’s a little plaza next to it, where I’m joined with a couple of groups of students on their way to school


            Music Spot 79: Ain Sebaa Tower, Rating: ****

            No shade, but a nice place to meet people.

Tearing down an old building


155 Old Medina Style Shantytown


I continue on through a neighbourhood of a mix of middle upper class villas, random stores and workshops and lower class housing.  I reach the coastal highway which has a row of old abandoned French houses on one side and a wall on the other.  Through a gateway in the wall I can see what looks like a shantytown and I debate whether or not I should check it out or not.  A lot of times these shantytowns are walled in for a reason.


Finally I decide to go inside, a discover an intriguing little neighbourhood.  The houses are shantytown style--  although there are a number of 2 storey houses, which is rare in shantytowns, and some of them have traditional village finish on the exterior.  Also, unlike normal shantytowns, the alleys don’t go in straight lines, instead they are squeeze through alleys that zigzag between the houses, always giving you the feeling that you’re about to hit a dead end.

The Roche Noire Cathedral-Mosque


On the far side, is a rocky coast.  If you can ignore the trash scattered about, it’s a pleasant view.  This neighbourhood definitely merited discovering.


156 The Prison


The coastal highway looks pretty boring so I head back into Ain Sebaa through some rather empty industrial areas.  And then there it was in front of me… a “must” on my list of things to discover:  The prison.


Obviously can’t see a whole lot, except in the middle what look like shabby apartment blocs with clothes hanging to dry outside the tiny windows.

  If it weren’t for the big wall, you’d figure it’s just another government project neighbourhood.


I’ve heard horror stories about this place--  but I don’t know what is fact and what is exaggeration.   For now I’ll just settle for imagining what a day in that place must be like.


157 The Cathedral Turned Mosque


I continue on west, wandering through the industrial zone, and occasionally diving back into a colourful shantytown.  Finally, I’m forced to head down to the coastal highway back again, along a short boring spell, and back into town. 


As soon as I can, I head up the side streets to milk this last section I have to explore for all it’s worth.

  Expecting a gritty, ugly hardware district, I’m pleasantly surprised to find a lively neighbourhood with a little central market and… what’s that?  I have to rub my eyes to see if it’s for real… A cathedral?


Now I’ve seen quite a few churches on my tour, but all of them give the impression of having been hastily slapped together as cheaply as possible to give French colonist an illusion of being at “home”.  But this one is different… It’s an honest to goodness cathedral transplanted right out of medieval France!  It’s made out of cut tan stone with a towering gothic steeple and a traditional archway entrance.  Looks like whoever built this one believed that the French colonists were going to be here a long, long time.


I notice that at the top there are three spheres rather than a cross--  typical for a mosque… Could it be?  I ask around, and sure enough, it’s been turned into a mosque--  something I haven’t seen before.  Usually unoccupied churches are turned into culture centers or something like that.

  It seems that the most “Christian” looking building has been turned into a mosque… But then again, it’d be a shame to let such a beautiful building just sit there empty!


158 Roche Noire Park 


Right on the other side of the cathedral… er… mosque is a pleasant little fenced in park.  Here clusters a high school students are cutting up and distributing “cheat sheets” for the exams.  Maybe one or two is actually studying…


A couple guys call me over for some music.  Soon we’re having a rollicking time, singing and talking about all sorts of stuff--  the prison in Ain Sebaa, life in the USA, and crime… I’m told that this neighbourhood is called “Roche Noire”, and it has a bit of a bad reputation as well.


They tell one of the guys is a rapper so I give him a riff and he lets out a speel of Arabic rap… I think we did quite well together and hopefully will try that again sometime.  I asked a guy to take a video clip of us--  but unfortunately the audio is pretty low…


Good bunch of fellows there and a really fun encounter.


            Music Spot 80 : Roche Noire Park, Rating : *****

            Great audience, great place…


159 Back into the Heart of Casablanca


I snake through the streets of Roche Noire and then finally back up across the Rabat Highway and back into the heart of Casablanca.  I start seeing some of those old French buildings again--  including a building that is being demolished in front of my eyes… Back to the high apartment buildings that give you shade anytime of the day… back to the snack shops and eateries every few feet… It feels good to be back.


I head up Zora street, and on up to the plaza in front of the train station where I pause to catch my breath.  I’m tempted to pull out my guitar, but I realize that for this tour to have continuity, I can’t play in any plaza twice… I’ll need to find someplace else to play my last concerts.


160 Mohamed VI Theatre


West of the train station, I can still go a bit farther before I run into Explored Territory, so I head through a rather ugly hardware area at the edge of Derb Omar.  But off to the right, a beautiful building catches my eye, a start contrast to the surrounding grime.  I go to check it out… it’s the Mohammed VI Theater, which looks like it was built recently, and seems really out of place in this part of town.


I continue on east, past another stately, decaying French colonial building… and the run into the Y where Ouled Ziane joins  Mohammed VI Boulevard… Beyond is explored territory… I still have a little chunk up north that I can explore, but I’m going to leave that for Day 20.

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Ain Sebaa Tower
Ain Sebaa Tower
Tearing down an old building
Tearing down an old building
The Roche Noire Cathedral-Mosque
The Roche Noire Cathedral-Mosque
photo by: nathanphil