After travelling around the world for most of my life, I’ve managed to go to a lot of places. Some were awesome. Others were … less awesome. But none of my individual negative experiences have tarnished a place so much that I’d never want to go back.
Except one: Casablanca.
Moroccan Bliss Tarnished
I spent a hell-ish few days in Casablanca in February last year.
Most of Morocco is gorgeous; there’s interesting scenery, rich history, delicious food and lovely people. I found almost none of that in Casablanca.
In fact, my first two days in the city almost unravelled my entire perception of Morocco.
What Got Me To Casablanca
View this post on Instagram
This week’s #PPWorldFlavors challenge was made fresh just for you! Savory, sweet, spicy…take us as well as guest judges @ananewyork & @rach.bires on an adventure through your palate. Together, we’ll be selecting our favorites to share with our community, so get going! To join: 1. Post a photo or video between today and 12pm EST on Sunday, 06/23 (tagging an older post won’t count). 2. Use your caption to take us into the experience with you (in 3-4 sentences). 3. Tag #PPWorldFlavors and @passionpassport. Looking for some inspiration? Head to the link in our bio for the full rules and details. 📷 @lilyrose 📍Chefchaouen, Morocco 🇲🇦 #passionpassport
I didn’t really mean to end up in Casablanca. I was supposed to go to the now Insta-famous blue city, Chefchaouen. But I’d done no planning two days before my trip and my mom was worried for my safety hiking snowy mountains (one of the reasons I wanted to go there).
So I changed my plans to spend nearly a week in Casablanca, waiting for my flight to Turkey.
I wish I had flown to Turkey straight away.
The Only Beauty I Found in Casablanca
Casablanca is famous for the Hassan II Mosque. It’s a picturesque structure on the sea side. It’s also the only place worth visiting in Casablanca.
I know people will argue with this. Yes, there are museums and malls.
But they’re not as good.
The mosque is beautiful. I spent two mornings (an extra one because the tours of the mosque are not well advertised) exploring the area. It’s packed with people, tourists and locals alike, sitting on the steps outside reading books or lounging in the shade.
The tours inside the mosque are over priced, short and poorly set up. Seeing the ablution room and the main prayer area showed the elegance of the mosque. But the tour was mostly photo breaks.
While the mosque is lovely, it’s not enough of a draw for the entire city.
It also sits rather starkly against the rest of the city. Most of Casablanca is dilapidated apartment buildings with crumbling brown exteriors or sketchy scaffolding barely holding it up. The few more well-built buildings look out of place on the littered streets.
The waterfront does a 180 from the rest of the city. Suddenly, buildings are sleek and modern. Somehow that makes the traditional Hassan II Mosque seem even more out of place than the near-ruins.
Walking to the mosque took me past buildings that looked like they’d been abandoned in an apocalypse.
The Only Place I’ve Ever Felt Unsafe
Casablanca is also the only place I have ever felt truly unsafe in all my travels.
The rest of Morocco was wonderful. Sure, vendors yell at you to buy their wares and my clingy yoga pants drew more eyes that I’d intended. But I never felt scared or like there was real danger.
I was careful and wore baggy clothes (except for one poorly chosen laundry day). I learned the rules of the country and followed them.
That didn’t matter in Casablanca. People yelled at you just for existing. None of my tricks, like wearing headphones or putting on a baggy sweater in the heat mattered. Men leered and followed you. They hung out in intimidating groups.
Every Moroccan I met told me early: don’t go out at night in Casablanca. It wasn’t because I’m a woman; they said the same thing to large groups of men. It just isn’t safe.
You can feel it even during the day.
Emotions or E.coli?
Casablanca was a whirlwind of bad circumstances for me. I was homesick after just seeing my mom. Without my usual research, I was bored and didn’t know what to do. I was uncomfortable leaving the hotel.
All of those things made my anxiety grow.
Or I thought it was my anxiety.
What turned into a panic attack that made me leave the Best Western a night early to go to an airport hotel, was actually brought on by severe food poisoning.
I’d caught a parasite in Casablanca.
It wasn’t a big parasite or anything. I didn’t need to have surgery or go to the ICU.
It was a strain of E.coli from eating contaminated raw food. That was hard for me to believe, because I’d been eating cooked food the entire time I was in Morocco, especially Casablanca.
Except for the green salads at dinner at the Best Western.
After all the “dangers” of Morocco, the thing that got me sick was a salad at a Western chain.
Casablanca Under My Skin
Getting sick isn’t enough to ruin a place for me. I get sick a lot. I’ve thrown up in more countries than most people ever go to. My medicine cabinet has pills in more than 5 languages. I’m basically a walking ad for traveller’s insurance.
(…am I really bragging about how often I get sick? Apparently, yes.)
I didn’t even get sick until the morning I left Morocco. (A 5 hour plane ride with a stomach virus is NOT fun.)
It wasn’t even the lack of things to do.
What really made me hate Casablanca was the way the city made me feel. Everything I did felt wrong or uncomfortable. Finding places to eat or things to do was a mission that left me too drained to try out one of the city’s shopping malls or museums.
The insecurity of the city seeped into my skin and made daily life a waking nightmare. It heightened my anxiety, turned my body against me and made me feel like a hostage while I waited to leave.
It was, by far, the worst place I visited during my 8 month trip. I’d honestly say it was the worst place I’ve ever visited.
The Only Place in the World I’d Never Go Back To
I don’t like to say bad things about a place. I worry that it will tarnish another person’s experience.
But sometimes you have to share.
Casablanca was a truly awful experience for me. While part of that was a result of circumstance (the way I was travelling, my budget, my emotional state), a large issue was the city itself. The negative aspects of Casablanca magnified the issues I was already having.
I am sharing this story not to scare you off Casablanca (though I honestly won’t recommend it), but to talk about my experience there.
Hopefully some people have had fantastic experiences visiting the city. Maybe they found things I didn’t.
But my almost-week in Casablanca is the last time I ever want to go to that city. So far, it is the only place in the world that I’d never go back to.
Is there anywhere in the world you wouldn’t go back to?