Travel Report: Casablanca Cathedral, Morocco.
October 2008. You would never guess it just from gazing up from the outside, but things are not quite as they seem at Casablanca Cathedral. This impressive Neo-gothic building, peppered with Art Deco and Muslim touches, announced itself to the world in 1930. At that time Casablanca was under French rule and indeed the church’s creator was the celebrated Marseille-born architect Paul Tournon. “Must be gorgeous inside!” I exhaled, admiring its twin towers as we approached.
However, as we closed in something started to feel off. The sweeping, whitewash facade I’d admired so much from afar was starting to look a bit tired. I’m talking peeling paint, rusty railings and a courtyard informed by unswept leaves and general litter.
S and I had just exchanged dubious glances when this opportunistic, creepy warden appeared through the darkness of the open front door. “Is closed” he sneered, in a manner which presented him as some kind of Moroccan Del Boy Trotter. Furthermore, and I’m not even kidding, he actually cackled and said “But you can look, 60 Dirham”.
Finally, having negotiated him down to 45 Dirham, we followed Del Boy inside and… OH… not what we’d been expecting! When he’d said closed…. geez. Basically Casablanca Cathedral fell into disrepair in 1956 due to Morocco’s independence and never really bounced back. Not only that, but they didn’t get round to doing anything with the gutted interior.
I was just about to ask for our money back when Del Boy ushered us towards a side door. “Take stairs up to roof, beautiful view!” he sniggered. “But be careful, many broke stone”. He wasn’t kidding about the state of the stairs. There were scattered feathers, piles of pebbles and some of the larger slabs had come away altogether.
What to see and Do, Casablanca.
Oh, and the whole place stunk of pigeon shit. Climbing higher and higher, we heard what sounded like local voices from back down below. It seemed like Del Boy had found more customers.
To say I had low expectations regarding what awaited us on that roof was an understatement. But, in contrast, we emerged onto an open stone platform and… whoa… the city of Casablanca opened up before us. At long, long last Del Boy had delivered!
It was a clear sunny day and suddenly my mood brightened as we stood there taking in the panoramic from various angles.
It’s also possible to see the top part of Hassan II Mosque‘s minaret sticking out of the skyline. As a house of worship Casablanca Cathedral, also known as Church of the Sacred Heart, had been a disappointment. But luckily getting up onto its roof had really saved the experience.
Today Casablanca Cathedral still stands mostly unused. However, in recent years local authorities have organised cultural events here, such as temporary exhibitions and even the odd concert. A quirky, unique sight in this interesting Moroccan city.
For more on the cathedral, have a read of its Wikipedia page.
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