Not that interesting, spend time in other places.
This is generally the advice I got when I told people who've visited Morocco that I was going to Casablanca. But my free (awards mileage) plane ticket landed here after 30 hours of travel and two red-eye flights, and I checked into a hotel to sleep off the road weariness.
My friend Liz would be arriving in Casablanca two days later, so staying in town made sense, even if that town did not get glowing recommendations. But Casa did provide me with a few key experiences: I resolved some practical questions and got a small immersion into city life in a Euro-centric Moroccan city.
Checked off the to-do list:
1. Buy local SIM card and get smartphone online with data and local phone number.
2. Learn taxi system. (Grand Taxis vs Petit Taxis vs random reliable guy with car. I used the latter to get from the airport to downtown, and Mustafa could not have been nicer, and also didn't overcharge me.)
3. Learn public transportation system, take the light rail tram around town.
4. Find the train station and buy train tickets for the next day to Marrakech.
I was feeling accomplished about these tasks, and treated myself to my first cup of sugary mint tea.
From here, I still had all afternoon and I went walking. First to an arts and crafts museum, then through the medina to the Hassan II Mosque. Said to be the third largest mosque in the world, it's built on the edge of the ocean and commands a starkly beautiful open square. From the mosque, I could see a small lighthouse on a spit of land just down the coast, and headed there despite the slightly unwalkable road. The view of the mosque from the rocks was worth it, and the people walking among the striated exposed bedrock in the waves reminded me of the tidepools I'd seen in Santa Barbara just a couple weeks ago on the edge of different ocean.
I walked back to the mosque and north from there on the seawall, ending at sunset in the neighborhood that's home to Rick's Cafe, of Hollywood movie fame. The entrance to Rick's is guarded by valets, with a lot of white people lined up between velvet ropes waiting to get in. I was curious enough to stop, and not nearly curious enough to join them. (I haven't even seen Casablanca, to be honest.)
The highlight of the day, and I'm told of the city, was the mosque by far. The curved and straight lines of the sand-colored building and the bright blues and greens of the tile work were transfixing.
As I looked at my photos later that day, realization dawned that I had been in Morocco only one day, and already I was dozens deep in close-up photos of tile and architectural details. And apparently, I still hadn't even seen the "real" Morocco, yet.