A futuristic-looking tram, in shiny orange, pulls up to a silent stop along the Boulevard Mohammed V. Here, coffee houses along this once-grand street have a decidedly French atmosphere, serving buttery croissants and café au lait. Walk along the Corniche, with its high-rise hotels and fast-food restaurants, and it is hard to believe you are in Morocco. Step into the medina, however, and you will be enveloped in Arab mysticism. It is dominated by the Hassan II Mosque, which has a minaret so gigantic that the arched building seems to struggle to support it. Twinkly-eyed men offer magic potions, local women sell fabrics, and there is an endless flow of sugary mint tea.
Casablanca does have a café called Rick’s like in the film, but it was only built in 2004 to celebrate the anniversary of the film.
In the flea markets, grand pianos and chandeliers – abandoned relics of French occupation – lie gathering dust, the only hint of the black-and-white Casablanca of the movies.