Casablanca, Morocco

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Casablanca is Morocco's largest city and its most important port. While Rabat is the country's official capital, Casablanca is its economic and cultural hub, the place where Moroccans go to make it big. There has been a settlement here since before the Romans, and although the Barbary pirates and Portuguese also left their marks, it wasn't until the French colonial period that Casablanca truly came into its own. The modern city was the first in the world to be laid out by aerial survey, and was barely 20 years old when its name was framed forever in the Hollywood classic of the same name.

But Casablanca isn't just a place for movie nostalgia—its tremendous Hassan II Mosque puts Moroccan tradition on a distinctly modern trajectory, while its trams whisk you past Art Deco architecture to Dubai-inspired malls and city beaches.

Casablanca's central location on the Atlantic coast also means that day trips to the historic imperial cities of Marrakech and Rabat are an easy option. We suggest you gulp down a shot of Moroccan espresso at a street café and dive right in.