Hollywood’s most memorable lines (“Here’s looking at you, kid.”), songs (“As Time Goes By”), and lip-locks (“Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.”) are found in one of the most memorable movies of all time: Casablanca. A story about treachery, war, and love, this multi-awarded 1942 film remains a classic today.
It was set in Casablanca, Morocco, a mere stopover for people fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe en route to America. At best, the place was described as “a trifle warm”; at worst, this was where “the scum of Europe… gravitated” to “wait... and wait... and wait” for their visas. Ruled by corrupt officials, here pickpockets preyed on newcomers, merchants cheated their customers, and men gambled all night long.
The Casablanca of today, however, is a modern metropolis and a centre for fishing, manufacturing, and phosphate mining. You’ll find high-end hotels, beach clubs, French-Arab structures, Art Deco houses, and a vast artificial port. Here, temperatures range from 8 degrees Celsius in winter to 25 degrees Celsius during the summer.
Casablanca is probably most recognisable for the Great Hassan II Mosque, the tallest in the world. It was completed in 1993 through the efforts of 2,500 labourers and 10,000 artists, and can hold 100,000 worshippers. Named after the king of Morocco from 1961 to 1999, the mosque stands on the Atlantic Ocean “because,” in the monarch’s words, “God's throne is on the water.” Part of the flooring is made of glass, so it is almost as if one is praying on the ocean itself. There is also a sliding roof which gives the faithful a glimpse of the sky. Carvings, chandeliers, arches, fountains, and baths are found inside, while the outside is dominated by a 200-metre minaret from where laser beams shoot out at night and point to Mecca. The Great Hassan II Mosque is made out of marble, with intricate turquoise mosaics accentuating its splendour.
“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…” Well, we know how this quote ends. The legacy, though, continues in Rick’s Café, opened in 2004, and by an American just like Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart's character in the movie). Created to be similar to the one in the film, patrons come here for the ambience, the food, and of course, the music. You can even ask Issam the pianist to “Play it!” Play “As Time Goes By,” that is.
For more of the Casablanca as it is in the movie, stroll down to Ancienne Medina or the “Old City”, with its shops, plazas, and traditional architecture.