Casablanca: Day 3: The Wild West

Casablanca Travel Blog

 › entry 71 of 92 › view all entries
Hay Hassani Mosque

The last two days I’ve spent exploring somewhat well known touristy areas--  the Old Medina and the coast.  Well, today I’m heading to an area that is definitely not in any guidebooks: The Westside neighborhoods of Casablanca.

 

Discovery 024: The Hay Hassani Main Mosque

 

From Sidi Abderrahman Village, follow up the coast a little ways and then take a road that goes inland, past a couple of wheatfields and an equestrian park, and up a ridge to the Dar Boazza highway--  a highway that follows the coast all the way to Azemmour. Here I veer east back towards Casa, through a boring upscale neighbourhood, past an enormous junkyard, and finally into the heart of Hay Hassani.

 

Here I come across a long, shady park along the boulevard with an endless supply of available parkbenches.  In the center, is a beautiful elaborately decorated mosque… a very pleasant welcome to the neighbourhood.

  Once I get a bit far from the mosque I pull out my guitar

 

            Music Spot 09: Dar Boazza Highway Park, Rating: ****

            Shady and peaceful--  just a little bit noisy with the nearby highway…

 

Past the mosque, a uniformed policeman comes towards me with a big grin and hand extended.  I’m used to being approached by policemen--  but never in this manner!  It turns out that he’s one of the guys who I’m stopped to chat with, sitting by the side of the road on the way to Dar Boazza two years ago!  I thought he was a labourer, not a policeman!

 

This Casablanca tour is unearthing all kinds of cool surprises…

 

025: Hay Hassani Market and Square

 

From there I dive into “downtown” Hay Hassani, and immediately feel a liking for this neighbourhood--  which feels more like a city of its own with its commercial strip, market, and a park/square with a couple of cafĂ©s in the center.

Hay Hassani Market
  It’s an unpretentious working class community that has everything that its residents need.

 

Rows of mnsimmen and doughnut shops line the streets with folks clustered grabbing a quick breakfast.  The streets are a bit dirty, the houses are a bit shabby, but there’s a cozy, neighbourly feel here…

 

I wander the market a bit then pull out my guitar in the humble but cheery square.

 

            Music Spot 10: Hay Hassani Square, Rating: *****

            Quiet, shady, peaceful--  people seem a little shy here about approaching a guy with a

guitar here though…

 

026: Raja/Wydad Football Teams Graffiti Contest

 

I continue up a Hay Hassani “Main Street” lined with inviting shops and cafes… Then I head south… and come across one of the most impressive pieces of street art I’ve ever seen… Actually, it’s two apartment buildings converted into a graffiti contest, honouring the two rival Casablanca football teams.

Rajaa Football team mural
  I’ll let you be the judge, but I think it’s pretty clear that Raja (the green one) is the winner--  at least in the graffiti war…

 

027: Another Beautiful Mosque

 

When I reach another boulevard, I decide to head west this time to see what else there is to discover out this way.  I come across another market which it seems specializes in piles and piles of used appliances and furniture…

 

On the other side is yet another impressive mosque.

 

028: Oulfa Neighborhood

 

Oulfa is the next neighbourhood to the south of “downtown” Hay Hassani, and Main Stree Oulfa has quite a different feel--  more businesslike with steel and glass office buildings rather than cozy cafes…

 

Here the boulevards are wider, with parkbenches and trees in the center, and there’s a mix of middle and upper class housing.

Hay Hassani Square
  Oulfa has a much more modern, spacious feel--  a sort of “new approach” to urban development, different from most of Casablanca. 

 

It’s a nice break to see all the open space and to see different social levels living together, but at the same time, it feels a bit lonely and sterile--  a bit more like, say, an American suburb…

 

            Music Spot 11: Main Street, Oulfa, Rating**

            Noisy, no shade…not a good place to play music…

 

029: Commercial strip on the Lissasfa Road

 

I continue on north to the edge of Oulfa.

Wydad Football team mural
  Just as I’ve given up on finding Oulfa’s “soul”, I reach a cheery  commercial strip in a little valley with a cozy market and a street lined by the typical neighbourhood shops and trees…

 

Not far beyond, a group of jr. high school girls beg me to play a song for them.  After a quick glance around to see if there were any disapproving stares, I decided to accept… A jolly bunch…

 

030: Lisassfa Market

 

The city seems to be petering out, with vast open fields, still undeveloped and the first shepherds tending to their flock… But I know there’s still more city to explore:  Lisassfa.  Never been there, so I’m eager for a brand new discovery.

 

The road meanders around a bit, and then suddenly, over a ridge, a whole new mini-city appears.

Another Hay Hassani Mosque
 

 

At the edge there’s a large park, so I go ahead and sit down for another session.  While I’m playing, a couple of guys holler out at me… I look over… They’re the same guys who asked me for a song yesterday in Sidi Abderrahman!  This city is feeling smaller by the day!

 

            Music Spot 12: Lisassfa North Park, Rating: ***

            Interesting crowd, lively, neighbourly feel, but not a lot of shade…

 

I continue on into the heart of Lisassfa, into a modern, spacious two story market--  that only seems to be lacking in customers.

Spacious Oulfa
I figure it’s not the most popular place to shop here in Lisassfa.  Sure enough, a little bit further on I come across an open air market with pushcarts and stall covered with plastic sheets in a trash strewn field... I smile at the touch of irony...

 

The street market continues on through the side streets halfway across town, give the whole town more of the feel of a market town in the middle of the plains somewhere, rather than a Casablanca neighbourhood.  The El Jadida highway with trucks and buses rumbling through add to it’s “somewhere out in the boondocks” vibe.

One of my students summed it up nicely, “Lisassfa is the Texas of Casablanca...”

 

And so I decide to wrap up my third day of discovery with this truly unique neighbourhood... Didn’t really take any pictures--  just doesn’t feel like the kind of place where you’d want to whip out your digital camera in the middle of the street... just a picture of the mosque...

 

031: Hassan II University

 

I wander around Lisassfa a bit more, reluctant to bring this day to a close.

The Oulfa-Lisassfa stretch
  After passing through an upscale neighbourhood--  that seems quite out of place in this gritty town, I happen on the famous Hassan II University--  the biggest campus in north Morocco.  I figure I should go inside and take a look.  

 

It’s a mix of fairly nice buildings with well trimmed gardens, and then a section that looks like a cheaply built elementary school surrounded by weeds.  But the lack of architectural glamour is compensated for by the energy you feel in the students.  This place encapsules the dreams, ambitions and future of this country. 

 

Several times I hear someone call out my name--  a lot of my students study here it seems…

 

I come across an outdoor display of pro-Palestinian posters and cartoons--  a lot more graphic and edgy than what I’m used to seeing in Morocco.  It seems that this is a quite a typical campus, where there is freedom to voice opinions a lot more loudly than out in mainstream society…

 

It seems a fitting way to bring my third day of wandering to a close…

 

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Hay Hassani Mosque
Hay Hassani Mosque
Hay Hassani Market
Hay Hassani Market
Rajaa Football team mural
Rajaa Football team mural
Hay Hassani Square
Hay Hassani Square
Wydad Football team mural
Wydad Football team mural
Another Hay Hassani Mosque
Another Hay Hassani Mosque
Spacious Oulfa
Spacious Oulfa
The Oulfa-Lisassfa stretch
The Oulfa-Lisassfa stretch
Lisassfa Mosque
Lisassfa Mosque
university library
university library
Casablanca
photo by: nathanphil