A Lilac Maze: Casablanca

A Lilac Maze: Casablanca

evenly placed palm trees we drove through the white city
and into the downtown area. Already I could sense that Casablanca
was unlike other parts of Morocco I had visited; a far cry from the
chaos that lies within Marrakech’s red walls or the boats that bob
in Essaouira’s lively harbour. Casablanca is big and bold, often
left off the tourist trail yet economically the country’s greatest

I found myself there with a couple of days to explore before my
next assignment began. I knew there was a mosque, a grand thing
which stood on the edge of the Atlantic, but beyond that very
little. But by definition the unknown brings the greatest surprises
– and I was not disappointed in Casablanca.

On my first morning I hunted down a traditional Moroccan
breakfast and got my first taste of the city’s café scene. A fresh
pot of mint tea, flaky msemen breads and a bowl of spiced porridge
sat before me as the world rushed by the whitewashed buildings in
the new part of town. Each building held so much character, browned
by traffic pollution which blows through the streets on the salty
sea air. and sea air which permeates the streets each day. I walked
through downtown and past the bustling market streets to find the
Hassan II Mosque.

In the morning, it’s desolate, but by evening it’s brimming with
life, play and laughter. As well as being Casablanca’s centre of
worship, the mosque is also the centre of community in the city.
Families gather here or on the adjoining beaches to watch the
sunset. They pray then play sports or discuss the daily gossip. One
dusky evening I get my hands painted in delicate henna by a bunch
of women sat on one of the outer walls. My unfortunate French
doesn’t quite pass the test to have a decent conversation with
them, despite their gleaming smiles. But we both sit and watch the
sun float into the Atlantic Ocean with nods of appreciation for

The next day I wandered down a street towards a piece of street
art I had spotted, and stumble upon the maze of Casablanca’s old
medina. Unlike the blue walls of Chefchaouen or the golden wash of
Fez, I’d never before heard a thing about the streets of old Casa.
What I found was a mirage of purple alleyways, rainbow washing
lines, white dressed ladies dressed in white carrying shopping bags
and bustling produce markets. I instantly loved every corner of
these streets, and spent the rest of my time in Casablanca
wandering all corners of them, looking to get lost in the maze of

One afternoon, I am spotted by a local woman who covers her
round figure with a frilly apron and an ear-to-ear smile. She pulls
me into her house, feeds and waters me and introduces me to all her
family. It’s a perfect example of the friendliness I experience in
my days in Casablanca. While locals in Marrakech can be somewhat
hostile towards tourists, bored after years of foreigners coming
into the city in inappropriate clothing, and photographers pushing
camera in their faces without permission, in Casablanca they are
open, friendly and curious. Their city doesn’t yet appear on the
front of guidebooks or travel magazines. And in my days exploring
this wonderful, busting city, I feel like it might just be the
country’s best-kept secret.

@annapurnauna | annapurnamellorphotography.com

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Casablanca, Morocco