hen I found myself on a layover in Casablanca for a few days in 2011 on my way to meet my friend in Cairo after the Arab Spring, I found myself getting restless. Casablanca is not a city with whom foreigners can easily “build a beautiful friendship,” because it’s not tourist-friendly. Its Old Medina is disappointing compared to Marrakesh’s, the ocean-side Corniche neighborhood is surprisingly ugly, and the nearly all-male crowds in the city’s bars and nightclubs make the nightlife uncomfortable for both sexes. So, after taking a tour of the city’s single, bonafide tourist attraction: the beautiful but controversial (due to its obscene building cost amidst the city’s serious poverty) Hassan II Mosque and watching young Moroccans cliff-dive into the Atlantic Ocean nearby, I didn’t know what to do.
I ended up wandering reluctantly into Rick’s Café, a tourist-marketed restaurant in a courtyard-style mansion designed to be reminiscent of the 1942 film classic, Casablanca. At first, I hated myself for visiting the obvious tourist trap, and, yes, the owners’ sole focus is to exploit tourists who love the classic film. But, they’ve done a good job. The restaurant’s elegant interior makes diners feel like they’ve landed in another era, the pianist plays “As Time Goes By,” on an authentic, 1930s Pleyel piano, and the food is good too. The best part, though, is that every night, Casablanca plays, in its entirety, in a beautiful, wood-paneled room upstairs. After dinner, I grabbed a whiskey, climbed the staircase, and watched Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman fall in love in Casablanca one more time. WB
248 Rue Sour Jdid, Casablanca, Morocco. +212 22274207. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.rickscafe.ma.