Morocco :: Casablanca

casablanca mosque Hassan II[trip style = urban + sun]

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to enter our contest for a one-night stay at the OPUS Hotel in Vancouver, it closes TODAY at noon PST.

In mid-December I found myself in the exotic embrace of Morocco's eye-catching escapes. My eight-day jaunt satisfied almost every trip style from spa to surf, starting in Casablanca and veering from the Western Sahara to the Atlas Mountains to the Atlantic shore. The journey was fortuitous given my obsession with North African design, and my September brush with the Morocco pavilion at Epcot, where I wished upon a star I'd get to visit soon. {Careful what you wish for!}

Spoiler alert: Aside from a few travel lifestyle bits, Morocco's going to take center stage on Trip Styler during February.

On December 9th, 2013 my flight landed in Casablanca---the country's hub for most international flights---just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. Given the rise-and-shine hour, I dove into the local time zone with abandon. No dither-dather; my meeting with Morocco's major metro was only a day.

When I stepped out of the airport, the air was crisp. The light chill---similar to a late-September a.m. on the West Coast---woke me up. Coming to, I spotted my name on a signboard in front of a Mercedes van. From this moment on, the trip was guided by in-the-know locals from Heritage Tours who schooled me in Morocco 101.

During the 30-minute commute into the city of five million, the landscape turned from rural to urban. Early on we shared the palm-lined highway with a boy guiding a horse-drawn carriage filled with farming supplies. This was my first clear picture of Morocco's culture: a country where cosmopolitan and classic meet in the middle.

Once inside the concrete-clad port city bordered by a sweeping beach, we hit Monday morning rush hour and inched into the inner plazas where modern Euro-style trains buzzed about, and the time-crunched workforce played human Frogger over eight-lane expanses. I wanted to bottle the enigmatic energy and take it home.

Trip Styler Tip: Casablanca hosts major hotel brands, as well as beautiful boutique properties like Le Doge, a 16-room Relais & Chateaux property, and the smallest hotel in Casablanca {every room is different---I love the Josephine Baker and Earnest Hemingway rooms}.

Casablanca casablanca airport arrival Disembarking the plane at sunrise

mosque hassan II exterior Mosque Hassan II, the most important living and breathing monument in Morocco capable of holding 25,000 worshipers inside and another 80,000 outside. The French-design structure rides the wave of traditional and fantasmic topped by a retractable roof and lit by almost 60 Murano-made chandeliers. Cool-to-the-touch white Carrara marble serves as a foundation throughout, while humidity-absorbing pillars made with limestone, black soap and egg yolk form the interior structure.

interior moque hassan Mosque Hassan II

interior moque hassan Mosque Hassan II

mosque hassan tour guide Mosque Hassan II

casablanca square trip styler Exploring Place Mohammed V

casablanca rooftop view A Casablanca rooftop vista

le dodge hotel casablanca Regal staircase at Le Doge

le doge josephine baker room Josephine Baker room at Le Doge

[photos via @tripstyler---except hotel room via as a guest of Tourism Morocco]