Morocco’s Grand Cafe Culture, Cafe Highlights in the Imperial Cities
Morocco has a history of café culture that extends beyond the ancient, medina city walls in its Imperial Cities. Travelers to Morocco will find their curiosity peaked by the social scene and 19th-century architecture that surrounds them when stopping to sip Arabica or Maghrebi Mint Tea. Cafes in Morocco are steeped in local tradition and history that dates back to the 19th Century. Morocco’s historic cafes are essentially cultural institutions and play a social and economic role in daily life.
Moroccans often joke that “between a cafe, and a cafe, there is another cafe.” These spaces are enjoyed by people-watchers who (spy openly), by friends, cafe dwellers, football fans, students, and workers who use the spaces for meetings. Morocco’s cafe culture while started within the medina walls a century ago has made its way into the Ville Nouvelle (new towns) of each city and regions. Some of Morocco’s oldest Cafe’s once frequented particularly by older men, expats and foreigners only, have today morphed into trend-setting places to be seen and as a hangout spot for both the older and younger generation. Visiting a local Moroccan Cafe that is steeped in history is a must. The Art Deco architecture and 19th Century interiors will lend flavor to your stay.
Tangier Cafe Culture: Morocco’s Most Literary and Intellectual City
Tangier is Morocco’s most literary and intellectual city. During the “international zone period” – from the 1920s until the 1960’s – it was heavily romanticized. William Burroughs wrote his best-selling book, Naked Lunch from El Muniria Hotel’s Room 9. He said, “Tangier is one of the few places left in the world where, so long as you don’t proceed to robbery, violence, or some form of crude, antisocial behavior, you can do exactly what you want.” The Bride of The North, with its booze, rock and roll parties, and drugs was considered a seductress. Legendary visitors like Paul Bowles came and Malcolm Forbes came and took up residence in the Moroccan enclave. Two favorite spots were Café Hafa and Gran Cafe de Paris.
Café Hafa, Former Haunt of Paul Bowles, Writer and Composer
A romantic and relaxed outdoor atmosphere that is perfect for daydreamers, writers, and history lovers. Since it’s opening in 1921, the multi-leveled blue walled café offers the best views of the Bay of Tangier. The café has retained the same style exterior since the Beat Generation writers like Paul Bowles, William Burroughs and musicians like the Beatles and Rolling Stones frequented it’s spaces and drank the famous Northern famous mint tea. The cafe is also the perfect place to light up and enjoy kif overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Address: Place de France, Tangier
Gran Cafe de Paris, a 19th Century Tangier Institution
Considered a long-time institution in Tangier. Beat Generation writers spent a great deal of time inside its 19th Century walls. The interior is marked by brown-leather upholstered booths and a semi-circle of enclosed glass windows. The outside is the perfect place to order breakfast and people watch. Café de Paris has been ranked by The Telegraph as one the 50 best cafes on earth and it has earned a spot alongside other cafés that have withstood the test of time like Café La Habana in Mexico City, Fazil Bey in Istanbul, and Café Olimpico in Montreal. Over the past decade, the Gran Café de Paris has evolved from once being frequented by intellectual male writers and expats to an all-time favorite of locals and travelers.
Address: Place de France, Tanger, Morocco
Cafe Baba, Tangier’s Iconic Spot Frequented by Celebrities like the Rolling Stones and Beatles
Nearly 8 decades old, this coffee shop, with wide views of the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the Tangiers most iconic spots. Celebrities like the Rolling Stones, Beatles, and a list of Beat Generation writers have taken refuge and used Cafe Baba as a meeting point. Hashish, Morocco’s cannabis product is openly smoked inside the cafe. While smoking hashish is illegal in most parts of Morocco, the lucrative farming of the plant in northern Morocco has created some acceptance. Baba’s owner Mr. Abdelghani Aoufi says his main concern is that “clients are comfortable” and he uses discretion with a certain clientele. The cafe is simply decorated and has pictures of famous guests that adorn its walls. Cafe Baba is a gathering place for locals and known for serving Turkish coffee and Morocco’s sweet mint tea. It is perched on a steep hill inside the heart of Tangier’s blue- walled Kasbah.
Address: Rue Zaitouni, Tanger
Cafe Cinema Rif, at the Top of the Grand Socco
At the top of the Grand Socco, the official entrance to the Tangier medina, sits the Art Deco Cinema Rif Theatre. It has two main screens and plays mainstream and indie films with subtitles. Today the Cinema Rif also serves as a cultural center and café attracting students, writers, and curious travelers with its free WIFI, hot beverages, and art-house coffee talk. On Thursdays and Sundays, the Grand Socco is also the spot to find the farmer’s market. Djebelli villagers come into the city from surrounding regions and bring fresh goat cheeses, organic fruits, vegetables, and farm-fresh eggs.
Mark Twain, in The Innocents Abroad, stated “Tangier is the spot we have been longing for all the time. ….We wanted something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign—foreign from top to bottom—foreign from the center to circumference—foreign inside and outside and all around—nothing anywhere about it to dilute its foreignness—nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun. And lo! In Tangier, we have found it…I am glad to have seen Tangier—the second-oldest town in the world.”
Address: 3 Rue de La Liberte, Tangier
Casablanca Cafe Culture
Casablanca was constructed during the French occupation (1907-1956). As a result, it is one of Africa’s most striking cities with historic Art Deco landmark buildings and sites. Today, Casablanca is also Morocco’s largest cosmopolitan city with Marrakech and just behind. It has the second largest port after Tangier and is home to a multitude of cafés.
Brasserie Le Cigale Coffee and Bar, a Longtime Meeting point for Intellectuals and Musicians
This cafe is over a century old. Opened in 1916, the Casablanca bistro has been a long time meeting point for intellectuals and musicians. Today the Bohemian spot receives musicians, students, and locals who enjoy a canteen atmosphere. On Fridays, the friendly Moroccan neighborhood establishment serves couscous for free. The inside has a simple interior. A sign that says “nothing to remember” hangs on a door. It is the spot for those who want to travel back in time and imagine an old-world Morocco.
Address: 10, bd Brahim Roudani, Sidi Belyout 20000
Cafe de France, in the Art Deco Historic District, Boulevard Mohammed V
Located on the historic 1915 Boulevard Mohammed V, the cafe is the perfect place to start your morning. Sip coffee, enjoy breakfast and observe local life along the wide avenue. The Boulevard is dotted with some of the oldest Art Deco buildings in Casablanca on one side, and the opposite area has an arcade filled with booksellers, coffee roasters, and merchant stalls. Next door to Cafe France is Place des Nations Unies Square, where the main market of Anfa once resided.
Address: Local Road, Coordinates: 2XF7+MH Fes
Cafe Les Fleurs, Casablanca’s Art Deco Diner
This restaurant and outdoor cafe has operated in Casablanca for over 25 years. Its decor conjures up the atmosphere of an Art Deco diner and is open 24/7. Les Fleurs’ friendly down to earth staff and delicious traditional local cuisine make it a perfect place to unwind mid-day. Unlike most Moroccan restaurants that only serve couscous on Fridays, Les Fleurs offers this traditional dish daily. It is situated in the city center, footsteps from the medina and between the Casa Port train station and Derb Ghlef, Casablanca’s top electronic souk. Les Fleurs has an open terrace with sidewalk tables and chairs where diners can catch a glimpse at local life.
Address: 42, avenue des Forces Armées Royale Casablanca, Morocco
Fes Culture Cafe
Fes is Morocco’s spiritual capital and leading historical city. Fes el Bali, the oldest part of the medina is filled with artistic buildings, historical spaces, restaurants, and cafes dating to back to the 17th century.
Le Kasbah (Café Bab Boujloud), Footsteps in front of the Blue Gate of Fes
Located footsteps in front of the Bab Boujloud, the main entrance of the Fes medina. This historic Fes cafe is frequented for its charming terraces with idyllic Blue Gate views. The steps to its two terraces are narrow and steep, however, the panoramic views of the medina are excellent. Le Kasbah is a good choice for early morning breakfast or lunch spot. It has an African, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern menu. Berber omelets, meat skewers, pasta Arabiatta, couscous and Bastilla (pigeon pie) and complimentary traditional bread olives and bean soup are offered daily.
Address: Bab Boujloud, Fes 30030, Morocco
Essaouira Cafe Culture
Patisserie De Driss, Since 1928, Essaouira’s Artistic Coffee and Sweets Shop
Located inside the medina, Patisserie De Driss is a coffee and sweets shop that has been around Essaouira since 1928 and is a must for art and culture lovers. It’s walls, staircases, and corners are lined with inspiring art from local artists around Morocco. Choose to sit indoors, take your breakfast to the outdoor garden, or head upstairs to their terrace with a view of the town and the Atlantic Ocean.
Address:: 10 Rue Hajjali, Essaouira
Marrakech Cafe Culture
Cafe Les Negociants, a 1936 Landmark Cafe from the French Protectorate Era
A Marrakech landmark cafe that opened in 1936 during the French protectorate. Recently restored, this Art Deco Cafe has endlessly high ceilings, is neatly laid out with classy bistro tables and has floor to ceiling windows. The service is quick, polite, and the kitchen serves everything made from scratch. Warm Moroccan porridge, thick slices of freshly made bread, black olives, freshly squeezed juice, and omelets are the menu items that keep locals and travelers from afar coming back. Cafe Les Negociants is located in the center of Gueliz. From the outdoor terrace, you can watch the horse-drawn carriages pass by and experience the French side of Marrakech.
Address: Angle Avenue Mohammed V-Boulevard Mohamed Zerktouni, Gueliz, Marrakech
Grand Café de La Poste, Marrakech’s Colonial, Trendy Restaurant and Cafe with a French Flair
Grand Café de La Poste is steeped in history and is part of the heritage of Marrakech. It boasts historic colonial decor paired with French menu of flavor. Located in Gueliz, the new town of Marrakech, this trendy cafe is packed from morning to night. After being closed for twelve years, it was taken up in 2005 by a French group who also own the Bo zin in Marrakech, and who launched La Cantine du Faubourg in Dubai and Eugène Eugène in Puteaux just outside Paris. The challenge was to revive this mythical place, to give it back the cachet and the allure it had at the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, the Grand Café de la Poste overlooks the Place du 16 November. Grande Cafe La Poste has appeared in several newspapers, magazines, and publications. Vogue Magazine referred to it as the best address in Marrakech and World Travel Magazine credited La Poste’s extraordinary upkeep of an early twentieth-century ambiance. The café is sectioned into an outdoor tree-lined terrace, an inner and outer salon, and an intimate lowlight mezzanine level. La Poste is also a coveted stop for fashion designers, writers, musicians, and other creatives. French Moroccan notes influence the menu. A series of breakfast combinations combining ingredients like orange juice, coffee, avocado toast, croissants, eggs, and gluten-free toast attract many morning risers. Lunch options include a variety of fish and game items. The dinner ambiance is enhanced with jazz.
Address: Marrakech, Marrakesh-Safi, 40000, Morocco
Café France, Marrakech’s Best Place to Watch Snake Charmers and Listen to Gnaoua Music in the Heart of Djemaa el Fna Square
A cafe located at the heart of the UNESCO certified Djemaa el Fna plaza. The multi-story building has layers of terraces perfect for catching the sunset. At night, it is the best place to see watch the snake charmers, listen to the Gnaoua musicians, and observe the lively square from a reserved distance. Café France serves coffees, desserts, and traditional Moroccan fare. It has served as a meeting place for international travelers and locals alike. It was redecorated in 2009 however it has retained its historical ambiance. Spanish born writer Juan Goytisolo once declared that he was “from” Marrakech’s Jemaa el Fna Square.” He called it an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” and said the Moroccan people were his “tribe.” He frequented Café France to draw inspiration from it’s storytellers and performers. Goytisolo is regarded as Spain’s most respected writer after Miguel de Cervantes.
Address: Place Jemaa El Fna, Marrakech 2034 Morocco
Phone: +212 5244-42319