A bike ride in the streets of the white city. #MoroccanFridays


Original photo by my dearest friend and talented photographer – Lina. (Adapted by Writer’s Caravan)

Salam Aleykoum! This post is part of the Moroccan Fridays series in which I aim to shine a light on the country I grew up in. Here, I strive to explore various topics, swaying between reality and legends, geographical wonders and curious traditions. You can discover previous posts here


Casablanca was originally known under the name of Anfa before the Portuguese took it over in the 15th century AD and renamed it Casa Branca. When the Spanish kingdom annexed Portugal, Casa Branca became Casa…Blanca – “white house”. Surprisingly (in my opinion), the name remained unchanged under the French Protectorate. Perhaps “Maison Blanche” didn’t have a ring to it.

In the 18th century AD, most of the town was destroyed by an earthquake. This led to yet another name change by the sultan who rebuilt it and gave it a meaning in Arabic : A-ddar Al-Baiḍaa (“still white house”). Both names are used today but in the 10 years I spent there, Casa was (and still is) a widespread nickname.

View from Twin Towers, Casablanca – photo by Ben Freeman (CC BY-NC)

That being said… I won’t bore entertain you with any more etymological facts. Instead, let me take you along on a trip down memory lane, a bike ride in the streets of the white city…

The sun is high in the sky, glowing behind a thin veil of haze. Your fingers are drumming on the handlebar, dancing to a melody you’ve been humming all morning. You cycle away into a narrow, one-way street framed by bourgeois villas adorned with bright shades of purple and red bougainvillea. The air is particularly heavy, not even the slightest breeze. You squint and scold yourself for having forgotten your sunglasses.

Boulevard Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Casablanca – Photo by mararie (CC BY-SA)

Upon turning left along Rue Socrates, you catch a glimpse of the stadium’s roof. Already, you can hear the crowd cheering. Wydad vs. Raja – a classic game. You can imagine the players sweltering on this muggy day, beads of sweat running down their brows. The fans are chanting from the top of their lungs. Dima Raja, dima Wydad, dima Raja… You stop at the red light of a deserted intersection. It is as though the whole neighbourhood has fled behind the walls of Stade Mohammed V. A sudden roar takes you by surprise. Sometimes, absence and presence are so close to one another they can easily reach out and hold hands.

Red, orange, green. You turn left and ride along a wider road bordered by tall palm trees. Gradually, the chants fade away and are replaced by the typical hustle and bustle of Maârif – Casablanca’s shopping district par excellence. Two young boys emerge a few feet in front of you; you hit the brakes to let them cross. On your left, a billboard is advertising a local gym – one subscription = a free sheep for the upcoming Aid el-Kebir.

A young boy in Casablanca selling fruits – Photo by UN Photo/Jean Pierre Laffont. (CC BY-NC-ND)

As you make your way past an old man pushing a cart filled with empty 5 gallon water bottles, a street vendor calls you over. You try to resist but the sweet aroma of ripe mangoes pulls you closer. You end up cycling away with a kilogram of tangerines and a handful of honey, melt-in-your-mouth dates. You got a good deal, or so you were told.

Eager to go home and wash your fruits, you take a shortcut and zoom past Massimo Dutti, Prada and various other fashion designer stores with no prices on the shop front. Further ahead, the West Tower rears its head above the neighbourhood. Or maybe it’s the East Tower, they are identical after all.

Casablanca : Twin Center – Photo by Alex Drainville (CC BY-NC)

A minaret echoes nearby . The sun is at its zenith, the Zhur prayer has begun. You take a right and breathe in a blend of scents emanating from a spice stall bursting with colours. Saffron threads, ginger roots, cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds, fennel bulbs… You have no time to focus, another scent steals you away. A small patisserie has opened its doors wide. You salivate at the thought of honey-soaked, spongy baghrir pancakes and flower-shaped, deep-fried sesame pastry, dipped in honey – better known as the indulgently sweet chebakia

You lock your bike around a lamp post and enter a realm of temptation you’ve already yielded to. You can’t help it. The diet shall begin tomorrow.


Thanks for reading.
Hop on my Facebook and Twitter caravans.

37 responses to “A bike ride in the streets of the white city. #MoroccanFridays

  1. Nice ride :) Funny how bike rides always end in the “realm of temptation”.

    Sorry. I missed your tweet in July inviting me to join you on a bike ride. Had I seen it, I may have considered it. I’m always up for an adventure :)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the way you’ve drawn me in with the second person. This ride gives a great sense of what Casablanca is like, and also of your particular pleasures. I love the way you’ve caught the essence of an experience in “Sometimes, absence and presence are so close to one another they can easily reach out and hold hands.” I’ve often reflected on that minuscule space between there and not there, but never expressed it so neatly.


    • Thank you! This is my first attempt at writing in the second person – I’ve always found it awkward to read but I’m quite satisfied with it, I’m very happy to know I succeeded to draw you in.
      Yes, it is an intriguing idea to explore isn’t it? You’ve put it nicely, the ‘there’ and ‘not there’.


  3. Interesting, as ever. I wondered what the tower was in the top right-hand side of the cityscape picture. Do you happen to know? Stores with no prices visible tend to be ones I’m afraid to go in. :D


    • Thank you so much!
      That is the Hassan II mosque with its minaret – the tallest one in the world and also the highest structure in Morocco!
      I know.. Those stores usually lead to disappointment or the wish to rob a bank! 😄

      Liked by 1 person

      • The tallest one in the world! Wow! I’m glad I asked. I looked it up on Google and it said, “The minaret is 60 stories high topped by a laser, the light from which is directed towards Mecca.” It sounds very high-tech. There’s also a beautiful photograph of it in a sunset.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yup! Pretty high-tech indeed! The whole mosque in itself is splendid and I have read that parts of the floor inside is made out of glass so Muslims can pray directly over the ocean (the foundations were built in the water). Unfortunately, I never visited the inside and am now kicking myself!

        Liked by 1 person

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